From the moment my doctor said I needed a biopsy I became detached. I felt like an observer. I noted the information and scheduled for the procedure later that day. I watched the screen, saw the needle inserted into the mass and specimens taken. It was very interesting, the technology was amazing, I could see the mass, and the needle, but it was happening to someone else.
I went home, no worries, the biopsy would be negative, but it wasn’t, and I tucked the information away.
“Why tell anyone until after Christmas,” I thought. “ What good would it do to upset everyone, I don’t want this to be the focus of the Holidays. My doctor said she didn’t think it was aggressive, and until I see the other specialists I won’t exactly know what will happen, so I’ll just wait until I have more information.”
My husband had been out of town during my diagnosis, and I didn’t want to share with him over the phone. He said I didn’t need to go through this alone, I should have called, we were in this together.
“It’s no big deal,” I said with icy calm. “It could wait to tell you in person.”
Inside I thought I was gong to be ill, my head was spinning, I had said it outloud, now it was real, now I would have to acknowledge it to myself…after Christmas.
During the next week I celebrated the holidays as usual, parties, family, I prepared Christmas brunch, life went on as usual.
I later realized it was a blur. The appointment dates were looming, I felt icy cold inside and detached, silently wishing everyone would go away and I could curl up into a ball and block out the world.
The flurry of doctor visits began just after the new year. Each had their own specialty but would be working as a team. It seemed there were countless options regarding surgery and treatment, all interdependent.
My mind needed a chart, or a venn diagram to process: If this then this, and possibly this, or if we choose this path, then this, and either this or that depending on… there was so much information, so many options, choices, and dependencies. I was overwhelmed.
I heard everything the doctors said, I acknowledged that I understood, but all of it was just “bouncing off” my brain. I looked at my husband as the last doctor and his staff left the room, I wanted to cry, or scream, but I just felt numb.
During the next few weeks, decisions were made and surgery scheduled and I went about my life as usual. I concentrated on tasks that needed to be completed, I fantasized about the time I would have to read and craft, and watch movies. This would be my excuse for checking out for awhile.
I soon found out it wasn’t going to be as simple as planned, whatever is? There were complications, an additional surgery, brain fog, and I was just so tired.
I had to learn to slow down and give myself time to heal both physically and mentally; this wasn’t going to be a quick and easy business.
It has been nine months since my first office visit, and this month I was told I am “cancer free!”
The outcome could have been different if I had waited, or had less access to state-of-the-art medical care.
I had the less aggressive form, and due to innovations in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer the tumor was found early while it was very small and contained. I do not require extensive follow-up treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy, just some medication to prevent its spread or return.
There is so much more to my story I would like to share some day, but it is too soon. There are so many emotions one goes through, and it takes time to be able to look back with perspective.
In closing I would just like to share that whatever your response to a diagnosis of breast cancer, or any cancer, it is all about you, there is no right or wrong way to feel. It is not an experience one chooses, but one that you and your family and friends are abruptly thrown into, and you will be forever changed.
My philosophy, to quote Kurt Vonnegut, “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.”
Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. She lives in Meigs County, Ohio.