My son is a creature of habit. And yesterday all his typical after school activities were turned upside down, something I have no doubt will happen over and over again in the next few months. But he doesn’t really know why — he thinks I was out Christmas shopping with a girlfriend yesterday, not sitting for three hours in the office of a breast surgeon. Maybe he’s beginning to sense the strangeness of the last couple weeks, or maybe something is going on at school that I’m not entirely on top of, or maybe he’s just 13 and this is how it goes.
I have much to say about yesterday’s appointment, information to process, decisions — and more appointments — to make, but this morning I am preoccupied with my son. I have to find a way to help him help himself, to help him keep his footing without doing all the hard work for him. This is not a new challenge, but one that takes on more importance as I move forward with my treatment and recovery.
Because my appointment was in the late afternoon, I arranged for him to be picked up with a friend. When I texted to see how the boys were doing, I was told he had no homework and since there are only three more days of school before Christmas break, it seemed reasonable to me that his teachers would lighten the load. But here’s the thing: He did have homework. A social studies assignment and two quizzes to study for. And now it’s 7:00 am and he’s tired and cranky and leaving for school in 30 minutes completely unprepared.
It’s such a minor thing, but I know that being unprepared makes him anxious. He’s not the kid who can blow off the work and say whatever. He’s the kid who beats himself up for not doing his best, for making mistakes and bad choices. Is this how he will learn? Will he remember how bad he feels this morning and do everything in his power not to feel this bad again? What happens in January, when I’m having surgery, spending four days in the hospital and maybe eight weeks recovering at home? What happens when I can’t drive for two weeks?
I know there are people who will step in, who will be there for me — for us — and I know all of this is temporary. But when you are the caregiver, the one who does all the little things to help everyone else get through their day, how do you figure it out? How do you put yourself first?
In some ways all of this worries me more than the cancer. The fragile balance of how we manage our lives. Everything is going to shift. My husband and my son may find themselves adrift, they will both be worried about me, about my outcome, but they will also be a little undone by the things I will not be able to do for them. I truly hate that I think about this, that this weighs heavy on my mind, but it does.
I still have so much to consider. I absolutely loved the breast surgeon I met with yesterday. She made me feel safe and cared for. When she said I would be her patient for life, I believed her and I was glad. I’m not sure I want to seek a second opinion, I’m not sure I even need to. When I put together my history, my diagnosis, my lifestyle, and factor in how my mind works, it only makes sense to be as aggressive as I can be about my surgical options. And while that’s the harder, more difficult choice up front, the one that will leave me with the most difficult recovery, I believe it will also get the job done.
I’m not going to write more about that now, about my specific treatment options and what it all means. I’m going to sit with it for a bit, wait for the MRI results, talk about it more with my husband, our family, and figure out a way to get us all through the next few days without letting this take over.
And then I’ll write more about it.