It was the night before. July 26, 2006.
I was a wreck. My surgical biopsy was one week earlier. I was told I could call for results. When I began to feel like I was being blown off by the office staff, my suspicious mind took over.
It would later turn out I was correct. I saw the date of the pathology report and the time that it was released electronically to the surgeon. She knew on July 25. I wouldn't find out until today. Ten years ago, on this date.
My mom was adamant about being there, even if I had her remain in the waiting room. Who could do that to their mother? I was fully prepared to do exactly that. In a typical mother/daughter dance, I was protecting her and she was blaming herself for my cancer diagnosis.
I hear her through her tears, "Is this the legacy I'm leaving to my daughters?" My heart was shattered and my brain was trying to process the shock all in the same moment.
My spouse had no intention of being there. He thought I was having a bandage removed and a surgical wound checked. He was firmly living in the land of denial. He believed, statistically, I would be ok. "Nine times out of ten, these things are nothing." I'm here to tell you it sucks to fall on the short side of the statistic. Can I ever fall on the short side of a good statistic, like, oh, I don't know, hitting lotto?
Even when you know you are getting bad news, or so you think, until the words are uttered, I tend to reside on the other side of the line in the sand. There is still a piece of me that, while I may know deep in my heart what is coming, can't grasp anything until it's crammed down my throat.
Nothing quite crams down one's throat like the words, "You have cancer."
Because I had a group of wonderful women surrounding me, women I began to engage with in 2003 in an online forum, I have what amounts to a full journal of everything that went on, beginning in April of 2006 when my mammogram findings were deemed to be suspicious.
There are entries along every step of the way. I found myself in a funk as I began to read some of them the other night. In that space, we have shared joy, triumph, tragedy, brainstormed, looked at issues from seven diverse points of view, we held each other up, we performed essential slap therapy when necessary, we virtually hugged and we still maintain contact today. We were social before "social" was what it is today. Trailblazers. And friends with whom I share a bond that will never be broken. We've been part of each others' lives for thirteen years.
In reading some of the things I'd rather have forgotten, it helps me today. I'm struggling with many different things and seeing some of those very same issues in play ten years ago, when I was at one of the lowest moments in my life? It forces me to pause. It forces me to take a long hard look at many things and be the change that I wish to see by making the changes in my life, albeit a decade later than I should have.
Cancer may be a team sport, but it is a solo journey. I have relied upon myself throughout this entire process. I have proof that I was empowered and asking good questions. Date stamped proof. I have what I need to realize how I agonized over my decisions. And I did. I haven't a single regret.
And I live with the words of my beloved grandmother, words she wrote in my 8th grade "autograph book" when I graduated from Catholic School.
Love many, trust few, learn to paddle your own canoe.
To which I say.
I do. Love, that is. Not only many, but deeply.
Trust? Yes, few. In fact, very few. For many reasons not the least of which is the fact that I was betrayed by my own body.
And I am. Paddling. Furiously. And it can be exhausting at times.
I hope to have a moment to pull some snippets of what I wrote back as this was happening in 2006. Who knew I was giving myself the greatest gift of all by writing to my friends.
I've spent a few days with a lump in my throat, at times with tears spilling. This doesn't go away. The pain lingers. There are moments. And I'm here to validate the moments of every single one of you who are on this page with me.
How long ago matters little. It can be in your face, bringing up the feelings of terror, in a single instant.
This isn't going away any time soon. Likely never. The fallout lives on. Likely forEVER. To be clear, I don't live in the land of misery but I don't ignore those feelings when them come. I process. I feel. And I move forward. Pain is a part of life. How we choose to incorporate it into our being is the only thing we can control.
Sadly, the deaths continue across all cancer types.
I'm here to say be gentle with yourself, be kind to others whose views of their experience may differ from yours. It's time to start listening more, it's time to feel the urgency of those whose needs are greatest, it's time to stop sitting in judgement. It's just time.
Because at the end of the day, I'll never stop repeating my mantra.
There is no right way to do cancer, there's just the way that works for you.
And I support you. In whatever form that takes. Unconditionally.
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