Three days. I was thinking last night that I have three more days with this body, these breasts. And yet I feel no sense of loss, no sense of sadness. It’s time. And I’m ready.
Thursday night my incredibly tall and wonderfully sweet 13-year-old son went with me to pick up my mom at JFK. As we stood in baggage claim waiting for her flight to arrive from LA, I remembered all the times this amazing boy and I had been the ones to arrive. Mid-August, flying home after another endless summer in California.
Last night, lingering over the dinner table with friends, we talked about the summer to come. The boys — my son and his two best friends — begging for more West Coast adventures, my mom insisting our friends join us this summer as they did last summer, me silently thinking how chemotherapy (which is still a question mark) could easily get in the way of all of it.
I had my pre-op appointments with both surgeons yesterday. When I asked Dr. P if she thought I would need chemo, she wasn’t entirely ready to commit. “We don’t have all the information yet,” she said. “When we get the pathology results post-surgery, we’ll make those decisions.”
“But do you have a gut feeling?” I asked.
Dr. P is incredibly kind. She looked through my chart again, flipped through some pages, and then looked up at me. The hospital is calling one of my tumors “poorly differentiated” and this, according to Dr. P is a marker of sorts. “It means we have to stay open-minded about chemo.”
Deep down, I feel like I’ve always known. I told Dr. P that it’s better for me to expect it, to prepare for it, and then if I don’t need chemo, well, it will feel like a gift. “I think that’s a smart way to think about it,” she said. My acceptance, my ability to process all this, comes in stages. And it’s nothing like the seven stages of grief. It’s more like stage one: this is all a mistake. Stage two: ok, let’s do this. Stage three: this is all a mistake… and so on.
My friend asked last night, “How do people who have full-time jobs manage this?” I have no answers. The timing of my diagnosis has coincided with a slow, quiet time in my freelance work, I haven’t had to juggle deadlines and editors and clients so I can’t imagine what it would be like to have had to schedule all the tests and procedures and doctors appointments while managing a job. I’ve had the luxury of quietly bowing out, of not sending queries, or checking in with editors. I’ve been able to sit this one out. I worry a little about how I’ll find my way back in, but I can’t think about that now. All I can think about is the cancer.
My husband worries about how we’ll get to the hospital at 5 am Tuesday morning if the weather is bad. January in NY. It’s a crapshoot. This morning I begged everyone to stop talking about the forecast. It makes me crazy. I think if I had to walk to the hospital I would. That’s how ready I am.
It’s time. I’ve made my peace with it. And I’m not afraid. Not anymore.