[10 days. 6.5 miles because I’ve been looking over my shoulder all week wondering what is going to catch up to me.] October 9, 2015
The ground beneath me was getting shakier.
What was everyone so worried about? I didn’t understand. The surgeon said a lumpectomy was as good as a mastectomy and a tumor in one breast had little bearing on the other breast. ALL SURVIVAL RATES WERE THE SAME. The doctors all agreed that they weren’t worried about the cancer coming back in the other breast. So, what in the hell were they so worried about then?? How was chemo going to reduce my chances of recurrence from 25% to 8%? I thought they weren’t worried about a recurrence! It just didn’t make sense to me. Why if I cut off both of my breasts did I still have to go through chemo?! I thought my lymph nodes were all negative!
Because the 4 stages of cancer are not exactly linear. The gradient isn’t evenly spread between the 4 numbers and you don’t get to move along from one to the next like a right of passage. The 25% that we were trying to reduce as much as possible was the chance of the cancer coming back in the form of Stage 4 metastases in other parts of my body. I could go from Stage 1 to Stage 4 in one single leap. This is the cancer that has no cure. Bones. Brain. Lungs. Certain death. That is when everyone weeps for the young mother and her soon-to-be-orphaned children. I pictured Will in a black suit.
NOW I GET IT.
You know I’ve been on this roller coaster before – the cancer roller coaster. The one that goes up and down wildly through a dark tunnel. It gave me anxiety attacks the first time. Sleepless nights. Nightmares. FOR YEARS. 8 1/2 to be exact. I had convinced myself that this was not that. But now it felt just like THAT. The same pounding heart. The same queasy stomach. The same shaky limbs. A total loss of control.
THIS WAS FEAR.
And yet again, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t reason my way out of it and the same old things weren’t working. So I pulled out my oncologist’s phone number. Surely he didn’t mean to call him about just anything. Certainly not anxiety. I thought about how I was going to spin this to make it seem like a medically-necessary conversation.
In the end, I texted him (he prefers that) saying that the 8% was nagging me (how’s that for playing it cool) and I didn’t know what to do about it. He called me immediately and sighed at first, as if to acknowledge what I was feeling and suggest that there was nothing he could really do about it. Like he knew I would figure it out sooner or later and come a callin’. He then explained how most patients felt the same anxiety at first and how it would lessen with time. He was careful to reassure me that these things needed to be discussed numerous times. How I was not expected to understand everything the first time it was explained. How he was there to talk about it as many times as it took. How my odds were probably less than 8% due to my health, lifestyle, and other risk factors. He made the 8% seem less scary, but neither of us could deny its presence.
This realization of mine and this conversation were pivotal in my emotional progress. I see that now. Realizing my vulnerability to my mortality and coming to terms with it was the most difficult thing I have done. Now, every once in a while, I peak in on the 8% in the back of my mind. It’s no longer nagging me. I like to think it’s sleeping. I know it’s there and that’s ok. It is a part of me.
Once I made peace with its presence, everything got quiet again.
#fearcanbefuel #friendsdontletfriendshide #operationgetitoutdeja2