Last week I started following The Breast Cancer Site on FB, lured by the promise of “uplifting stories of survival.” This morning, I am banning anything related to breast cancer from my life — unless, of course, it’s about me. But seriously, the truth is, none of these stories help and many of them fuel my fear and anxiety. Too many of these women are dealing with recurrence, or secondary cancers, and there’s nothing uplifting about that.
A friend I’ve lost touch with sent a beautiful card and said, “I can help you. I’ve been there.” Others send emails and private messages, “I have a friend/sister/wife/cousin/co-worker you should talk to, she’s been there.” The truth is, I just can’t. I know it’s all meant to be reassuring and helpful, to put my mind at ease, but for reasons I don’t really understand, it doesn’t work that way.
I have a friend here in town who went through it four years ago, we met for lunch and I peppered her with questions, I wanted her story. I don’t know why it’s different, but it is. Maybe it’s because I see her kids around town and her husband here and there, and we have so many people and things in common that I feel more comfortable, more reassured by her experience? It’s weird. Some things defy explanation.
Yesterday my son confessed that he is so worried about me and my surgery that he can’t concentrate at school. He pulled his hoodie over his head, put his face in his hands and poured his heart out into the room. I rubbed his back and let him talk, and then I told him that cancer totally sucks. “When this is over we are going to have one big Cancer-Can-Suck-It party,” I said. Cursing makes him smile. It’s forbidden fruit.
We are just about a week out from my rescheduled surgery. The waiting has been hard, but I’m ready now to make plans and get organized and to finally do this thing, to put this piece of it behind me. Again, we are back to that place where dusting and vacuuming, grocery shopping, and laundry are priorities. Getting the house in order, creating lists, figuring out logistics — all the things that make me feel as if I am putting checkmarks in a column, moving forward, finding my way to the other side.
I am thinking again about what to bring to the hospital. The fleece-lined sparkly Minnie Mouse slippers that arrived via FedEx yesterday are a given. (Thank you, Tracey!) And to wear home: the black hoodie with the hidden pockets to hold my drains on loan from my friend in town. “Everyone who has worn this is okay now,” she said. “It’s a good luck charm.”
I haven’t been keeping up with the phone calls and the emails and the thank you notes, but please know that I am forever grateful for all the love and support. There are days I just can’t talk to anyone, days I need to feel normal and push cancer aside, and then there are the days I feel low, in need of comfort and there you are — ready to make me smile or laugh or hand me a box of tissues.
I told my mother yesterday that there are still times when I feel like this must be some kind of mistake. “It’s not,” she said. But when I tell you none of this feels real, trust me. It doesn’t feel real. And then, suddenly, it does.
One more week. I’m more ready today than I was yesterday. Maybe each day brings me closer. Maybe I need to look in and not out, focus on me and no one else — no survivor stories, no Breast Cancer Site, no friend of a friend.
I don’t know if it’s the right thing, but it feels like the best thing. I need to get to Tuesday, and then we can talk.