I stared a long time at that blinking cursor up in the title area of this post. So many things I thought of for a name. Some of the top runners were Dammit, Fighting, Seriously…none fit because they were for the benefit of those reading. There’s this overwhelming feeling, this need I have to care take those around me. To make sure everyone else is OK. And so, for instance, fighting would be a word I use to imply to those around me, “I got this, I’m gonna take cancer down…don’t worry about me!” “Seriously” would imply that I’m annoyed at my diagnosis. “Dammit” feels like I stubbed my toe, but really really hard. None of those really fit for how I’m feeling right now.
Thursday, while on a delightful trip to the Biltmore area of North Carolina with my cousin Dee, I received a call from the radiologist. Having had my biopsy on Monday (not a ton of fun I might add) they told me I would hear something by the end of the week either way. Truthfully I was enjoying myself so much and so happily destracted by the tours, food and wonderful time I was having with Dee laughing and sharing stories and memories, I literally forgot that call was coming. I can’t begin to say enough how much I value those few days of suspension. But the call did come.
I have ductal carcinoma insitu – microinvasive. That’s a mouthful. Basically, I have early stage breast cancer (in my left breast becasue I know at least one of you are sitting there thinking, “which breast?”) that is mostly located in the duct but a small portion of it has broken through the duct (that’s the microinvasive piece).
One of the first things they tell you after they deliver the news and share next steps is to stay off the internet, or at least go to a reputable source (www.cancer.org) because as with most things, the internet, upon typing all those words in, will fade to a black screen and start playing taps — if you want the worst case scenario, hit the ‘net. It’s funny because I almost wanted to yell when I was on the phone. It’s like the third time I’ve been told through this process to stay off the internet. I don’t want to be anywhere near the internet. I have no desire. Because the stage I’m in is called “pause.”
It could also be called “take a breath” or “hold the phone”. I have cancer. I need a minute to let that sink in. I have a very wise and loving friend who I spoke with yesterday that directed me to rephrase that. From “I have cancer” to “I’m fighting cancer”. I’ve chewed on that the last 1/2 day since we spoke and I will rephrase that to “fighting”…but first I have to acknowledge what I’m dealing with. Because it hasn’t really sunk in yet.
When I am faced with crisis I tend to go into a very calm, very methodical mode. Let’s work the problem, find the solution, move forward, get this behind us. I’m always assessing for the lesson in the experience along the way. I am so busy working the problem and absorbing the lesson that I often miss an important step. Feeling. I tend to have delayed grief.
When my mother was fighting cancer I can tell you exactly what happened; from diagnosis to death you want to know how we handled each stage, I got you. I can rattle off everything the doctors told us, everything we did, every treatment she had. I can tell you what was important to making my mother’s days continue on as normally as possible, from cleaning the house to taking her to the mall. What I cannot tell you is how I felt in those moments. I have no idea. I don’t remember being sad, angry, confused, ticked off. I don’t remember feeling. And when the end of that season came, I was pregnant with Kenzie, I was 29, and I planned a lovely funeral just the way she would have wanted it. I consoled all those who came to grieve. But I don’t remember shedding a tear during the process. But about 15 months later, I was a mess. In a ball, in the fetal position, not safe to be taking care of my then small children. I don’t remember that phase lasting long. I sought help, got on some meds, assessed what I had learned the last two years and moved along. That’s how I cope, or don’t cope I suppose.
I am an owner. I believe often as children we may be victims to our circumstances, but as adults we make choices. I did not choose to have cancer, to an extent, other than chosing to fight or refrain (which is not even on that table) I don’t have a huge choice in how we’ll approach and treat this; there are surgeons and doctors to guide my decisions there. What I do have is a choice of how I experience this season in my life. I think I’ll try something new. I think I will pause for a moment. I think I will spend a little time getting acquainted with my nemisis. See what it is I’m fighting, what I’m up against, how I FEEL about it for once. Don’t get me wrong. I will fight. Fight hard. Not look back. Once I begin. But for these days in between, for these few days before I start meeting with docs and learning everything I need to know to equipt myself and Frank for what we’re about to walk through, I’m going to sit in this for a minute. I’m going to say the word cancer a few times. Let it sink in. I’m going to give myself permission to feel something. I’m going to trust I will not curl up in a ball, not become a victim, not stop leaning on God in these moments. That I can just feel for a moment and that somehow, on the other side of this experience, this moment will become an important part of the lesson at hand, and one I’m glad I didn’t overlook, rush through, dismiss.
I’m sorry to anyone who’s reading this and receiving the news of my diagnosis this way. I’ll be honest, I don’t have the wear-withall to contact everyone individually and retell the state of affairs over and over, answering the questions to which I have no answers yet. It certainly doesn’t mean those around me aren’t important to me or don’t deserve the call. I just feel the need to conserve my energy and emotions at the moment. As always I’ll be writing here, working thoughts and decisions out here. Writing is how I process so feel free to check in here from time to time if you’re curious or can’t reach me. Like with everything, I’m pretty much an open book. I’m sure this journey will be no different.