It’s day six.
The operation is done and it will be a few days before the results come back. Diagnosed only a few days ago and I am waiting, again. First, for the initial result, which didn’t yield the results I was hoping for. What would the next ones show? Anyway, I am not worried anymore, as I found out there’s really no point if I can’t control the outcome. So, I will get on with what I need to do and deal with it when it happens. Worrying won’t change the outcome but please tell me I’ll live.
I am having a sense of deja vu. Back in the doctor’s office again, waiting once again, but not for the results this time, as he said they would be a week. Anyway, this time I am not alone. I have a girlfriend to keep me company (distract me) while I wait for him. We chat and really it’s just like it always is, like nothing’s actually wrong. I love those moments when I am just me again, not the “cancer patient”.
My name gets called and we go in, together. My friend sits quietly in the back and I sit down calmly, making a joke with the doctor until he lets me know the results are back. Oh, somehow I don’t like the sound of this. Why is it back so quickly? He said it would be at least a week. Okay, so what’s the verdict? How bad is this thing and what am I really dealing with?
I had done my homework. I had spent hours in the library (before the internet was so popular) researching, looking at all the protocols, treatments, understanding the language. I knew everything I could possibly know about breast cancer that was known at the time and that I could get my hands on.
Then, he calmly reads the pathology report. The lymph nodes, high involvement. The grading was three, not good. As he went on reading the pathology report, I turned to my girlfriend who had no idea of what he was talking about to fill her in, “I’m fxcked!” I said. I watched as tears rolled down her face and I went back to focus on what he was saying. I would need chemo, radiation, an oncologist appointment. It went on and on…. as I silently repeated “please tell me I’ll live’.
Before this appointment, I had decided not to tell anyone what was happening, outside of my family and a couple of close friends, until I got the pathology results back. After all, if it was nothing, why alarm everyone? I wanted to wait and tell them when I knew something concrete. This dose of reality was like getting hit with a sledgehammer. Now, I would have to choose how and what to tell people. I knew they would be shocked. “Shocked” turned out to be a dramatic understatement.
One by one, I made the calls. It took every ounce of energy I had left. But, I spoke to them all and was able to explain the what, why, how and when of it all. At least now, I could have one informed conversation, rather than having to go back and forth as I got more information. This was my choice and I am glad I did it my way, but my choice wasn’t welcomed by everyone.
You can never imagine how people will react. While you’re managing through the fog and shock of your news and choosing how to deal with it so that you feel empowered, some people in your life will surprise you with their reactions. Some people will disappear completely, or challenge how you deal it, or ask why you didn’t tell them and told others. Their baggage, not yours.
Again, this isn’t about you, this is about them. It’s about their issues, their fears. It’s about their pain and them being uncomfortable. Supporting you at this time is not what they can do. Seeing you unwell makes it even harder for them to relate. If it can happen to you, then it can happen to them and that’s very real for them at the moment. So shutting you out makes it easier for them to deal with your illness. It doesn’t sound logical, but it just is. In time, you will choose how you deal with this in your own way, but for now, focus on the people who are there to support you.
A breast cancer diagnosis can be a very confusing time. How you choose to do things is absolutely your choice; it’s the right way for you and everyone is different. People will react how they react, so focus on what you can control. Other people’s reactions are not something that you can control and it will only distract you if you try. Even if you try and ask them, you will get a superficial answer, which will only leave you more confused. So, put it aside for now and focus on the most important task at hand – your health and trusting that your pray’s will be answered “please tell me I’ll live”.