Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cancer can suck it

Last night the floodgates opened. I cried torrents. I sobbed til it was hard to breathe. I huddled as tightly as I could against Andy, saying over and over "I'm scared. I'm just so scared." He asked whether I was rethinking the surgery, whether I'd changed my mind. I told him I didn't know. I said that it didn't matter what I chose, all my options sucked. I read recently that there are no shitty choices, just shitty options. Because at the heart of it all, as the bracelet I wear says, "CANCER CAN SUCK IT."

I couldn't sleep, so I got up and went out into the kitchen to think. In the dark, wee hours of the night, I realized that it wasn't about whether my choice of treatment was in question, but about grief. I'd been told that at some point I'd grieve the loss of my breasts, but it hadn't happened yet, so I had set it aside, thinking that if it did happen, it would be after surgery and I would deal with it then. I chose to have immediate reconstruction, knowing I could never look in the mirror if I didn't, I really thought that I'd be ok. My breasts are already scarred from my reduction over 20 years ago, so that wouldn't be too different.

But last night, Andy's arm brushed against the side of my breast and suddenly I heard a thunderclap inside my head as the realization hit me that I will probably never feel that again once I have surgery. I'll never have normal reactions to cold, to arousal. Despite knowing I'm nearing 45 and am perimenopausal, the knowledge that even if we were to somehow have another child, I will never nurse another baby, shrieks in my heart.

I try to think about how lucky I am. My cancer was caught early. Because of the treatment path I've chosen, I won't need radiation or Tamoxifen. As long as nothing microinvasive is found on my final pathology, I most likely won't need chemo, either. I'll recover from surgery, and be largely done. I don't let my mind wander to the things that cancer is taking from me, but rather I spend my days thinking about what cancer has to teach me. I try to present a positive face to the world, to draw on the well of inner strength I've discovered this past shitty year. People are always telling me to think positive, to be strong, and I do, and I am. But I think maybe that's done me a disservice.

I chose last week to start my time off work early. I hate my job, and continuing to work and to go about my life as normally as possible kept me choked off from my deepest, darkest fears. I wasn't truly processing what's happening to me, what I'm about to go through, how it's already affecting me. I paid it great lip service, letting those around me think that I was some kind of superwoman, figuring it would help me not give into the depression. But once I decided to stop working, to spend the time til I leave for the hospital actually taking care of my emotional health for a change, all that changed. Cancer's lessons began in earnest, and not all of them are positive. Don't get me wrong, some are amazing: there is the realization that I do not want to remain stuck at this job I hate, that I deserve to find something that allows me to fulfill my financial obligations in a way that gives me satisfaction. The continuing discovery of my seemingly neverending well of inner strength. The blossoming of my creativity. The joy that opening up to my friends, learning to trust people with my feelings, brings. The understanding that pain is pain, it's not a relative thing. That hating my job and wanting to find another way to earn money doesn't make me a horrible human being because there are people who would do anything to have a job at all. That yes, I can be angry and frustrated with people who tell me they're jealous that I get a tummy tuck out of this whole thing.

The price that cancer extracts is so high. I've spent so much of the past 4 months terrified, anxious, depressed. Finally having all the information on what I'm facing, then choosing a treatment path and having a surgery date, helped immensely. But still... in just over a week I'm going to have the biggest, riskiest operation of my life, trusting that the people taking care of me when I'm under anesthesia do their jobs to the best of their ability, honor their oaths, and that my body cooperates. I don't want this surgery. I don't care what my body may look like later, how much better my clothes may fit. I don't care what the lessons I learn do for me, because right now, they are doing things TO me. Tomorrow I hope I can pull myself back up and face the world again, but at this moment, I am in the tight grip of terror, of nebulous fear, of paralyzing grief. I want the world as it was in the seconds before I heard the life-changing words "you have cancer." I want a magic wand that's not broken, a fairy godmother who will come and take it all back.

I just want to not have cancer. This is the single worst, most terrifying thing I have ever faced, and while I understand how the world sees me facing it, that is not my truth, or at least it isn't all the time. Right now my big-girl panties are in the wash, and I feel small, vulnerable, and more afraid than I have ever been.


wintermoon said...

Once in a while I wonder just how many times in the past few months I have typed *hugs* or MOJO or "so many hugs for you" or any other variation on that in my posts and chats with you. I don't know what that number is, but I know that EVERY. TIME. I type any of them... it's not enough. Those words and virtual gestures aren't enough to explain, they aren't enough to really communicate how much love I have pouring out to you, and how much I wish I had a magic wand that would take it away for you.

That said, I'm still sending hugs and mojo, and I feel the need to tell you (though I'm sure you know this already on an intellectual level) that it's okay and even necessary for you to let out that fear and vulnerability. It's okay to feel small and let those around you be the big strong protectors for a little while, even if it's just for a couple hours once in a while. It's okay to be scared and have worries even when you know inside that you've made the best choices you could and you don't want to change them. It's all okay. Every feeling, emotion, worry, and errant thought is Yours, and it's Real, and that makes it Valid and it Deserves your attention and most importantly YOU Deserve to have the safe space Andy and your other loved ones provide for you to Express ALL those feelings as much as you Need to.

love and hugs to you

Melissa said...

Thank you, Cindy. I have no words to tell you how much it means that you and Heather and the rest of The Pants have me no matter what. And I promise, every typed hug comes across. Having hugged you in person, I know.

Heather said...


I get the freaking out and the realization that things are going to change the fundamental way that you experience your body. Having something alter the landscape of your body is pretty radical and is rough to deal with if you want it to happen. Just know that there are people who may not share the details but certainly the fundamental experience you are going through. Be safe.

madonnaearth said...

I agree 1000 percent. Cancer can suck it.

This is sa major change. and I know you don't need me to validate your choices or give you permission on anything, but I am so sorry that you have had to go through any of this.

I know it is scary as all hell right now, but I hope after a little while, the further away you can get from these months, the good will start to outweigh the bad.

In any case, as scary as it is, I am glad you're waking up to how strong you actually are. You may be terrified, not wanting to go through any of this, hating every second of the changes this is making in your life. But you're here and you're going to be here. To me, that counts most of all.

F cancer.

Jennie Libby said...

Don't ever forget even in your weakest moments you are so much stronger than even you see. You are an inspiration to me even in those weak moments. If you need anything, please don't hesitate and I am with you 100 percent "cancer can suck it!"

Shimmer418 said...

I went through the same feelings and i didnt go through what you will be going through. You just want a day without breast cancer hanging over your head, a day when it doesn't exist in your immediate life. I still wish for that, but now i have my own scars, different from yours, but scars still the same. I cant take off my shirt without doing a self exam daily and think how lucky i am in all ways. Today a fellow breast cancer blogger passed away from metastic breast cancer. I didnt know her, just her writings but it hit me just the same as if i did know her personally. Loss of her for her family and loved ones, loss of another woman to breast cancer, and the loss of every woman with breast cancer's innocence in life. It hangs over me and with me everyday like luggage you cant get rid of. It breaks me down, but shows me my personal strength. Im so grateful for everyday i have and that i can plan for my future, plan on my kids someday having their own kids and being a grandmother to them. Your not alone and please anytime you want to talk im here for you.