I want to start by saying I’m thankful I’m not spending countless hours receiving chemotherapy in an infusion room or suffering its ill effects. Believe me, I know how lucky I am to have walked away with “only” a bilateral mastectomy with Tamoxifen everyday. I know it easily could have been worse and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s exactly where I find myself one day after all… You know, because of the whole No Cure thing.
Anyway, I’m not complaining. Not by a long shot, but this post is about a new dilemma I’m faced with simply because, like it or not, breast cancer is a big part of my day. Not in the same way those enduring treatment see it, or when I was freshly diagnosed, but it’s there all the same.
I blog about it.
I still see my oncologist and breast surgeon every four months and I kind of like it.
I still attend a support group.
I check in daily with our online breast cancer community and care about the people I’ve virtually met there.
And just a few minutes ago, I found myself on the phone scheduling nipple tattoos, (Who says that?) looking forward to yet another fun time with my plastic surgeon. And by the way, don’t you think calling on a plastic surgeon to tattoo anything is a little beneath them? It seems like something an assistant should do, maybe an intern, leaving the surgeon free to focus on more interesting and challenging work…face lifts, nose jobs, reconstruction. But…I digress.
Saying I’m finished with breast cancer because my expanders are out and my implants in, is quite the understatement. It never ends. I used to think there was a finish line, but I’m no longer sure.
So, with all this cancer stuff in my everyday life, I’m treading carefully on a new friendship with someone who has no idea what happened. How do I tell? Or do I? It almost feels deceitful not to, in a way. As if I’m leaving out a large piece of who I am these days. But, how do you approach the subject with someone who doesn’t have a clue?
And maybe the bigger question is, why is it such a secret?
My story is by no means secret. I’ll discuss it with anyone who’ll listen. I’ll write about it. I’ve even spoken to the occasional reporter and let them write about it, with my last name and town included. So, why is it so hard to own up with someone who’s new to the party?
Perhaps it has to do with protecting my young children from words they may not understand, such as cancer. Not knowing who might say what and having it get to my boys before I’m ready or believe they’re ready to truly understand what it meant for me to have breast cancer. It’s a conversation I’ll have with them one day, but on my terms, when I believe it’s time.
Maybe, it’s fear of the person’s reaction. Having already been spurned by one so-called friend, why risk it again? Although, I know if they can’t deal, the problem is theirs, not mine. I still have to admit there’s a lingering stigma associated with the disease and I’m suffering from it. Otherwise, why would I care what people think? But, if they suddenly see me as a sick person, I have to care. How someone views my health is very personal.
How can something I deal with so publicly, still feel so private?
I keep going over this in my head. I’m not looking to gain support or understanding or anything by telling. I’m not asking for anything. I just want to share something that matters a whole lot to me, an experience I had that changed what I deem valuable in my life.
How do I not share that with a friend, but still…I hesitate.
There’s a great discussion on my Facebook page about this topic. It seems many of us find ourselves in this or similar situations with no clear answer. I guess telling someone new is like a leap of faith. We just let go, jump in and hope for the best.
If the topic doesn’t come up, how do you tell a new friend you have breast cancer or do you?