No, not that kind of marathon. Those of you who know me well can now pick yourself up off the floor. Today marks 6 months from the date that I showed up to my mammogram, unsuspecting of any serious problem, and left being told by the radiologist there is a 90% chance that I have breast cancer. The next day at my biopsy it was amended to 95%, and the following Monday it was confirmed. 6 long months. Despite everything, it still feels so surreal. Me? A cancer patient? That can’t be right. But it is.
You hear many adjectives used for people walking this path. Brave. Strong. Resilient. Most days I don’t feel like I’m any of those things. Before this, I lived in fear of something horrific happening, because I felt like I wasn’t made of the kind of cloth that could withstand much horror. With my longstanding depression and anxiety, I felt like sometimes even normal life tipped me over. But the truth is, all of us are brave, strong, and resilient when we have to be. We adapt, even to realities that we don’t want to accept. We can do so much more than we think we can.
I can’t say that now I don’t have fear. I do. I know in an intimate way how close we all are to getting that piece of news that will change our lives forever. But I’m really trying to make an effort to take one day at a time, in all areas of life. My lovely friend, Jen, told me about a quote that helps her immensely:
“Don’t spend a lot of time imagining the worst-case scenario. It rarely goes down as you imagine it will, and if by some fluke it does, you will have lived it twice.” Michael J. Fox
That is far easier to live than it is to say. I’ve got decades of experience in imagining terrible things happening. The really big and bad things are rarely things we worry about happening, and far more likely to come out of left field and demolish our sense of control and invincibility. I can safely say that had I spent time fearing I would get cancer, it wouldn’t have saved me from the diagnosis, or made it any easier to take. “Oh, it’s cancer? Yeah I figured. No biggie, I’ve already logged long mental miles about this.”
I’ve spoken before about having to learn to go back to my normal life at some point. Which is a misnomer, because I can’t do that. This has forever changed me, and not in a, “cancer was a gift, I appreciate every moment of life now” way, though I do attempt to appreciate life and my good prognosis. But what it HAS changed is that I do believe in myself more now. That I CAN handle shitty things thrown my way. I’m doing it. I don’t believe in my body, though. That sucker tried to kill me.
You cannot possibly imagine all the things that go into this diagnosis and treatment. I know I couldn’t before this. It’s relentless. There are many appointments, treatments, many more side effects, radiation, surgeries, hormone therapy, physical therapy, medications….and on and on. All in all, if everything goes according to schedule (which I pretty much illustrated that I have little control over bad things happening so we’ll see about that) this whole thing will take up about an 18 month slot in my life, from diagnosis to my final planned surgery. And not just my life, but Sean’s and Quentin’s, and our families. We all deserve to put this behind us and not waste a moment worrying about what this means for my future, our future. I won’t be able to do that, but I wish I could, and need to make it happen as much as I can. I don’t want to live any of this twice if I can help it. I want to walk out of this chemo room (where I sit currently), in 6 weeks, and never see the inside walls again. But, if I ever do need to again….I know I will be able to do it. Because I have to. And I know that I AM brave, strong, and resilient. And so are all of you reading this who may be thinking, “thank god that’s not me, I couldn’t do it”. You could.
I now can count on one hand how many chemo infusions I have left. One. Hand. I finish at the end of June, then get a nice 5 week break before starting daily radiation for 5.5 weeks. When THAT is over, I wait approximately 6 months to heal and for my body to recover and be in a good place for another surgery, to have the tissue expanders replaced with implants. And then…..finito. Finito with a big, fat, beautiful period at the end of it.
Love love love you all. Thank you for your unending support to me and our family. You’re my favorite people.