Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Breast cancer: "So what, then I just have a meat breast and a vegan one"

"Goodbye, dear breast.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Breast cancer: "So what, then I just have a meat breast and a vegan one"

"Goodbye, dear breast. You have experienced more in your short life than most breasts," wrote Jenny Kallenbrunnen via Instagram before the mastectomy on her left breast. "You traveled around the world, swam over coral reefs in the Bahamas and naked in the Elbe, you were drawn by Otto and you made many people laugh on stage. I'm sorry that your last few months were so exhausting strange men constantly pressing on you. Thank you for everything. RIP *2001–†2023".Jenny Kallenbrunnen doesn't take her breast surgery lightly, does she? Although she is the author of Otto Waalkes, her life does not only consist of Ottifants. Certainly not in 2023. The star spoke to the 35-year-old about what it felt like when a drop of blood suddenly turned into breast cancer.

When did you first notice that something was wrong? January 11, 2023. That was a Wednesday evening. I was home alone and instead of inviting people over and partying, I watched movies because I'm over 30 and very boring. I saw an extremely exciting film that one could now very pathetically say saved my life - because I clutched my chest as a skip action. And then blood came out of the nipple. Just a drop, but I thought: I don't think that should be the case. Then the film suddenly didn't matter and I went to my gynecologist the next day, who fortunately took me in without an appointment.

Your first operation was in April? Exactly. Everyone was convinced that they were papillomas (point 1 in the box), but definitely not cancer. They're completely harmless at first, you just take them out, a spoonful, and then you're good. I came to a women's cancer clinic and felt like a total hypochondriac next to all the bald women. In contrast to the other women, who were significantly weakened by their treatments, I was back home after 20 hours. It wasn't until the third operation that it became clear that I did have invasive cancer.

What was that about? No one assumed I had cancer - at my age and my weight. In addition, nothing was visible during the mammogram. So I'm not an exemplary case. I was bleeding and my gynecologist sent me for a mammogram. The health insurance company only pays for preventative care from the age of 50 - and then it makes total sense because the breast tissue is no longer so dense. But my tissue is still very dense, I was 34 years old when I had my first mammogram - and I have a cup size AA, so even smaller than A. But there is still room for cancer! That's a disgrace. During the mammogram, the doctor squeezes the breast so flat as if it had to fit into a sandwich toaster, as if she was about to use it for her lunch. Unfortunately, with dense tissue, you can see next to nothing. That's how it was with me - also because the tumor was still tiny. That's why the doctors assumed that they were papillomas in the milk duct. It was only after spooning it out that it was realized: Yikes! Unfortunately, this is DCIS (2), a precursor to breast cancer. These are real cancer cells, but they were only in the milk duct. As long as they are there, it is not yet invasive breast cancer.

Because the metastases cannot leave the milk duct? There can be no metastases at all. The cancer only becomes invasive once it moves out of the duct. So DCIS sucks, but it's still treatable. Nevertheless, it was of course a shock at first. Especially since after the first operation it became clear: There's more in there that still has to come out. Then, after the second operation, my case was discussed at the tumor conference and it was advised that the breast be removed completely, as a precaution. As a 34-year-old, you naturally think: Wait a minute, many women with invasive cancer can have breast-conserving surgery The tumor is simply taken out and I have to give my breast straight away? How unfair! I only had my breasts for 22 years! We still had so much to do! But that was a very good decision because after the third operation in July, the tumor was found in the breast that had been removed. What annoys me the most is that I was still crying after this breast when it was already fighting me! That's why my sentinel lymph node (3) had to be removed to determine whether the cancer had already spread.

That's why you needed a fourth operation. Exactly, but it's not typical to have an operation so often. I think most women with tumors only have one operation: the tumor comes out and the sentinel lymph node comes out with it.

What is the function of the sentinel lymph node? This is the next post office where the cancer takes its packages to be sent. If there are no packages there yet, you can assume that none have been sent yet. And my branch was completely empty. This is usually done in surgery and you're through. Then you get further treatment, either chemotherapy, immunotherapy or hormone therapy, depending on what tumor biology (4) you have. That depends on what your tumor ate: Was it vegan? Meat eater? Pescatarian?

What was yours? Hormone eater. And that's why I'm taking hormone therapy now.

How did you spend the time in between? Were you able to work or were you at home all the time? I actually always have to work - half for the rent and half for my head. I am self-employed. My doctor said it so well: "If I were you, I would take a break for three months." I laughed then because I thought it was a joke. I replied, "No, if I take a three-month break, I won't be able to afford the tombstone I'll need afterward because I'll be starving."That being said, my head needs to be fed other things than my illness. After major surgery, mastectomy and reconstruction, you obviously need time to recover because you have a huge scar that needs to heal. But even if I had been employed, I wouldn't have taken a half-year break. Simply because I would have been alone at home with my thoughts and no Sudoku in the world is difficult enough to keep you from Googling for so long.

But now: Your cancer likes hormones, what is the therapy for it? Has it started yet? I have to take tablets for five years now, Tamoxifen (5). I produce estrogen and my tumor feeds on estrogen. So what do we do? We cut off his food. That means I continue to produce it naturally, it's not like during menopause, but to put it simply - I hope my doctor doesn't read this - my menopause is artificially induced, not factually. I'll get hot flashes, my joints will hurt, my mucous membranes will dry, my hair will fall out and, in the worst case scenario, my eyes will also get worse - irreversibly. But: I will still continue to menstruate. Great. I have the worst of both worlds. Exactly my sense of humor. It's a drug that helps me get older than 40. Then I also feel older than 40. But it's not at all certain that I'll get all the side effects. There are supposed to be women who don't notice anything negative - but they don't express themselves on the Internet. I wrote on Twitter: "On Halloween I'm going as a tamoxifen package insert," that was just supposed to be a gag. People immediately flocked to me and wrote to me in DMs: "Tamoxifen has destroyed my life! My quality of life is gone!" It probably won't be that hot, I'm aware of that. But it doesn't have to be hell, I'll just let myself be surprised.

Menopause is different for all women. Yes, but the hot flashes are already starting. Still: What would be the alternative? Anything is better than cancer. And I think it's a good thing that I'm starting it in the winter. Then I can wear my nice summer dresses until Christmas while you freeze your asses off.

I hope that's exactly how it turns out! Thank you. In addition, there are check-ups with all kinds of doctors every three months. To the gynecologist because this drug causes cervical cancer. So my cancer drug is carcinogenic. Very funny. (What isn't carcinogenic? In the big city, even inhaling is carcinogenic!) And I have to go to the ophthalmologist because one of the side effects of tamoxifen therapy (6) can be that you almost go blind.

Do you get presbyopia? No, it's not reversible and glasses don't help. I also have to have a mammogram twice a year. I wanted to ask my doctor if I was dying of cancer. So at some point, in ten, 20 or 40 years. But I didn't because I know exactly what his answer would have been: No, you can get hit by the bus beforehand.

But what I know as a layperson is: If nothing has been detected for five years, that's the first checkpoint, right? That's definitely a good sign. But since I have hormone-eating cancer, it can always do something as long as I produce hormones. My risk is now forever higher than anyone else's. But: one in eight women will develop breast cancer in the course of their life. I can no longer stand at the bus stop or walk through the city without counting once. When I saw seven women, I also thought: You're welcome, I've done this for you, you're now saved. Statistically, it's just scary. But if you tell it - and I think you should tell it because it's so present - I've seen women say: "Yes, I had that too 20 years ago! My left breast is completely made of plastic." And these are people I've known for ten years, some of whom I never knew about! That in turn reassured me because it shows how little it still bothers her. I’m now in the acute phase and newly diagnosed – it’s still the same year! – but it won’t be a permanent presence.

You talk about it very openly on social media. Because it's been on my mind a lot this year and I don't think social media should be a pink marshmallow rainbow pony farm, but rather reflect reality. Even if I'm forever "the one with cancer," I think it needs to be talked about.

What was the worst time for you? I was never that attached to my breasts, I did comedy sets about how ridiculous they were. But then you realize that you are just as attached to them as they are to you. You notice that when you have to say goodbye at 34. For me, the worst time wasn't the minutes after "By the way, you have cancer," but the period from June - when I found out the breast had to come off - until the mastectomy at the end of July. That was two days after my birthday, so there was a breast farewell party that day that my wonderful husband organized for me. As always, I dealt with everything with humor, but that also overwhelmed many people. When I made jokes about it, the others reacted with "Oh God," because they had a lot less time to process it. All they hear is “cancer” and they start thinking about what funeral outfit they have to wear. It's important to me that these people who see me again in five, ten or 20 years have hope until then.

For your own psychological hygiene, it's probably better to deal with it openly. I can't help but deal with it with humor and thought: Well, then I'll have a meat breast and a vegan alternative. It's modern. This way I can open up a whole new market. And no one used the milk aisle anyway, we have milk in the fridge. So get rid of that thing if it kills me. It's the same with estrogen: I had a good time with it, but then at some point it turned against me and now it has to go.

That's probably the only good thing: If I remember correctly, you never wanted children, right? Yes, that's a very good thing, because people never believe women that they don't want children. They then say: Aaach, that’s coming! And now I can say: Nothing, I have no estrogen at all, haha! I have cancer! Of course, it's still different whether I decide not to want a child or whether my body says: tough luck.

But there are also mothers who have children after having cancer. Yes, of course that is possible. If I had wanted to have children, we would have had to and could have come up with something else. But this is now the most convenient option for everyone.

You followed your illness quite intensively and openly on Instagram and Twitter. You used cancer to educate about this.I did an "Ask me a question" post for the first and only time in my life. I had the feeling that there were two camps of people in my life: those who don't even talk to me anymore because they put the topic of cancer far away from themselves, and the others who have a lot of questions for me because they are interested in their own lives. I understand that too, you want to know how you can protect your own life. In any case, there were a few questions about the offer I made with a picture of myself in a compression garment. Of course I'm not a doctor, but "just" affected.

How did the scar heal? Do you want to see it? Pay attention: The scar is on the outside left side of the chest. I would have expected them to cut in the middle. So I asked the doctor if it was easier to access it from the side and he said: No, it's on the outside so that you can still wear a deep neckline later.

Seriously?Yes! The scar is about ten centimeters long and I now moisturize it twice a day. And then there's the scar up to the Sentinel. The first cut where they took out a spoon was under the nipple, you can't even see the scar anymore. Unfortunately, the tumor was somewhere else entirely.

How did you endure the humiliating mammograms, the injection through the nipple into the milk duct and all the operations? Totally normal: I whined and cried! But I always dealt with it with humor. I told it on the comedy stage before I told my family. That was good! It was fun and I got a lot of positive feedback - because it has such a high impact and affects so many people. You don't know if you're the eighth or your mom or your best friend. The performance was so brutal that people laughed a lot and thanked me afterwards. I think I've made a few preventive appointments clear with this...

Now you're turning the topic into a book. I'm a comedy writer and have noticed that there are a lot of funny moments in this whole tragedy that provide a comic relief (literary stylistic device that, similar to gallows humor, is funny uses dialogues for serious topics). For example, before the first operation I was terrified of the anesthesia.

Before losing control? Yes, of course. I was already lying on the stretcher and the operating room nurse said to me: Ms. Kallenbrunnen, you don't have to be afraid of the anesthesia at all! This is the remedy that Michael Jackson always took. And I thought: And as you know, he's doing great! And the second thought was: Hopefully I'll remember this after the operation, that's so funny, I have to write it down! And so many things of this quality happened. I took it with humor because I can't help it. And that also works for a longer piece. When the cancer was found, the doctor said it was 4.5 millimeters in size - and I thought: Wow, that's almost half a carat! But if the tumor had been half a millimeter larger, I would have needed chemo because it was so aggressive. Early detection is the shit!