Nancy’s Point today is remembering her bilateral mastectomy. She’s also wondering if a day can go by without thoughts of cancer. I’ve been pondering that myself lately, as the three year anniversary of my diagnosis on May 1, has come and gone.
My head is still very much in the cancer world. The anniversary of my own bilateral mastectomy is June 22nd. I can’t imagine now, how I was a functioning human being in the days between those two events. I just don’t know where I found the ability to get out of bed each day, but I know I did it.
In those days my oldest son was playing in the local T-ball league and I took him to games. I remember standing on the sideline in the early evening light with my secret while he played. He was also finishing up preschool then and I sat among parents watching their little ones dressed in cap and gown claim their diplomas, dreaming of a future, while I held my secret close wondering what was still to come. What was yet to be.
Somehow, it’s three years later and the other day I was driving to my breast surgeon for a routine visit. My son’s spring concert was later that evening and I had a concern to discuss. Things seemed eerily familiar. What turned out to be a scar from one of the mastectomy drains, had me in a near panic. Until I knew for sure what that ridge in the skin that I somehow never noticed before, turned out to be, I imagined the worst.
I saw no possible way this visit would turn out well. I thought for sure I’d be scheduling an MRI or worse, a biopsy, as soon as possible. And I wondered, as I drove in the rain, as I did the day I got my diagnosis, how would I handle it?
How could I sit there and hear those words, “scans,” “biopsy,” “cancer,” all over again? I didn’t believe I could. There in the car, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it. The last three years were such a struggle to climb out of the hole cancer dropped me in, there was no strength left to do it again.
In the midst of planning a good summer with my boys, my mind no longer envisions warm, sunny days, road trips, movies. I no longer go there. How could I make plans…what if its come again? Everything goes out the window, life comes to a screeching halt…again.
I was driving alone. Who would pick my crumbled heap off the floor when he said the word?
Where was the bravery so many talk about?
Certainly not riding along with me on this day. I felt like a sissy. Thinking I couldn’t handle what might come my way. How could I not? What choice would I have?
My surgeon knew immediately what it was. Drain scars? As soon as he said it I knew in my bones, he was right. The one scenario I never imagined, of course, the innocuous one. He spent the next five minutes reassuring me, reiterating how positive he was, without a shadow of a doubt… But I still didn’t breathe until he left the room.
I knew then, I could never truly live my life without thoughts of cancer. It’s stronger than my will. Its very nature sucking me in like a black hole time and time again, with every symptom, every run of my imagination. It’s exhausting. And sad.
Even when the news is good, when it’s the best possible news, as on this day. The emotional roller coaster is draining. It’s just not that easy to go from panic with entire visions of cancer playing out in my head to… All’s fine. Go home. Live your life.
I’m grateful for the good news that day. I know some people never get such a reprieve.
I wish I knew how to put cancer in a place where it couldn’t haunt me. Maybe the answer is more time. Three years is not long enough to get a day free of cancer thoughts.