There has been a lot cancer related going on in my life.
Following my third relapse, my multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) has been pretty stubborn. I’m now taking a newly FDA approved drug for myeloma, pomalidomide (Pomalyst). It’s an analogue (next generation) drug like the previous one I was using successfully, Revlimid.
I have a number of drugs to try if this one doesn’t do the trick. And so far it is only managing to keep my cancer stable. That means new lesions (tumors) in my bones are continuing to grow, although I hope more slowly.
I start radiation next week for two of the largest and most painful lesions, one in both hips. You would think having a hip replaced would end that possibility on one side, but the lesion is above the belt line in bone left following surgery. Lucky me!
I share this update (I post daily about me and multiple myeloma at www.MultipleMyelomaBlog.com) as a lead in to a fascinating article I just read in U.S. News and World Report, Cancer: Men Are From Mars, Women From Venus. Although the stereotype they discuss doesn’t apply much to me–I’m a willing sharer of all things myeloma–I know enough patients and caregivers to affirm that what the writer, Christine Crane, rings true. Here’s an excerpt:
The Gender Divide in Disease
The Susralskis’ reactions to Ed’s diagnosis are fairly representative of an age-old gender divide that was classically coined in John Gray’s 1992 book “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” The book captures men’s and women’s different emotional lives and communication styles. Women tend to talk to others about problems, whereas men crawl into a cave and try to solve them solo.
The stereotypes persist in the disease world as well. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America conducted a recent survey called “The Cancer Survey: A National Study of Patients and Caregivers,” in which gendered reactions to a cancer diagnosis emerged. More than half of the women surveyed were more motivated by family goals to get better, whereas men were motivated by resuming daily activities. Women were also more likely to use the Internet to research their disease, and they rated nutritional and psychological counseling as more important than men did.
For Maurie Markman, a physician and CTCA president of medicine and science, the most surprising finding was that women do more research on the Internet, compared with their tech-savvy male counterparts. However, Markman added that even though we perceive men to have more tech skills (whether this is true or not), the very notion of seeking out information is still more in line with women’s nature.
“Women are less focused on ‘I know the answer,’” and more likely to “gather around,” Markman says. “Women see the Internet as an extension of their worldview.”
If the Internet is the metaphorical hearth, then food, too, still falls within a women’s domain. So naturally, women tend to be more interested in nutrition. “They are the ones who prepare and think about food. That’s what their life has been outside the cancer experience,” Markman says…
But not everyone’s personality, of course, fits into their gender stereotype. When Pam Cromwell, 37, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer just six months before her 30th birthday, the business analyst in New York leaned on her logical instincts. “That trumped my emotional side,” she says. “I think that was a good thing. It kept me sane.”
Especially since the doctor who diagnosed Cromwell was crying as he told her, giving her six months to live. Cromwell consulted her brother, a nurse and her best friend, who then worked for the American Cancer Society. “They said, ‘We need to go elsewhere because he gave up on you,’” Cromwell says. “That kind of began my journey.”
More in sync with the stereotypical male personality, Cromwell calls herself “a fixer.” She did research on the Internet about therapies, but not for emotional support, and she didn’t attend support groups. “Support groups tend to make me more depressed,” she says, because she can’t necessarily “do” anything immediately to fix people’s sorrows.
Instead, Cromwell stratified her friends and family members according to what type of support each could give and sought them out accordingly.
Always career focused, Cromwell says cancer made her feminine traits, or preoccupations, emerge. “You don’t realize how much vanity you have until things are taken away from you,” she says. “As an African-American woman, our hair is our glory,” she adds – and the prospect of losing it upset her more than the treatments. “With cancer, the MAC counter and I became best friends,” she continues, adding that part of her drive to recreate lost eyebrows and lashes was to keep up a corporate image, since she’s never stopped working – even while undergoing treatment.
“Part of the therapy for me was feeling like cancer hasn’t changed me to the extreme,” she says…
My chiropractor cried when he told me that I had “bone cancer,” too.
The most common patient/caregiver stereotype I run into when speaking to or attending cancer support groups? Like the first example, the men (patient) let the women (wives and caregivers) do a lot of the heavy lifting; research, keeping track of appointments and meds, etc.
Give the article a look; it’s a quick read:
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat