I’m the type of person who works things out in writing. I make notes of my thoughts. I make lists. Facebook is the best, I swear status updates are like a combination of therapy and a vehicle for my need to feel like I’m entertaining people. If I didn’t write it down, or put it into font, did it happen? Maybe not.
Recently, though, I’ve been struggling with something that I haven’t shared online, for which I’ve taken no notes, for which I’ve just today started my first list of things to do. It’s been going on since September, really, and I’m just making my first list. Pretty easy to look back at the last few months and realize that I didn’t want it to be happening, but it turns out that I totally have cancer.
I did tell just a few people, family and some friends. My mother I told in person, because, you know, she’s my mom. My husband made some phone calls. I did send a few text messages. In regular life, I don’t do phone calls unless it’s an emergency. Texting is my favorite, but this time I would have rather not been communicating at all. I only told these people because I felt the need to explain why I’ve been avoiding everything and everyone.
The thing is, if you ask me how I’m doing, I will cry. If you ask me if my kids know (they don’t), I will cry. If you tell me that you care about me and will help out with whatever I need (I don’t know what I need), I will cry. I don’t want to cry in public.
I can talk about kids, the crummy school system, our new kitten, this hot and dry winter, the new Netflix series (or The Walking Dead, or GOT), TED talks, and podcasts, but not politics (not this year), and not cancer.
Initially, when we told a few people, it was a relief to not have to pretend anymore that everything is swell and that my new business isn’t quite taking off because I’m just moving slowly (I am moving slowly but I’m not taking my time, it’s totally cancer’s fault and apparently I’m also super anemic). Then I started to have to field phone calls and explain things that I don’t yet understand. I started to have to talk about treatments that I haven’t decided on, and listen to people cry as they tried to deal with things themselves. Opinions are beginning to arrive as well. I imagine that will only increase, and dramatically.
So, maybe this is as good a way as any, or even the best way for me, to share this with people. Hopefully they won’t call me crying, or ask me what I need (seriously, I don’t know. I could use a stiff drink but I read that it’s a no-no.) Hopefully they will still invite me out for stuff, and maybe won’t give me “the face” too much (the one that says: “I’m totally thinking sad thoughts about your cancer right now, I wish you would tell me how I can help.”) If you need to make the face, maybe make it toward my back as I walk to the bathroom.
If you want to know how I’m doing, physically, I have invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast. It is stage 2 at 2.1 centimeters, though the cut off for stage 1 is 2 centimeters and my doctor initially was referring to it as “stage one, but kind of stage 2.” There is apparently no stage 1.5. The cancer is estrogen and progesterone positive, but HER2 negative. I hear that you really want to be HER2 negative, but when I met with an oncologist and made a joke about having “the good breast cancer” he did not laugh. I guess it’s not that good.
If you want to continue to know how I’m doing, physically or otherwise, you can check back here. I’ll need to keep working out my thoughts, and if you feel like you need to cry about it, you can get it over with before we hang out. Ha! (I do want to hang out, it turns out that people who close themselves off socially when they discover they have cancer tend to have a greater risk of death. My kids need me to live, so text me when you have time for tea. Hey! Maybe that’s what I need.)