I’m not embarrassed to admit it. I’ve had a couple of rough months. I’ve been dealing with and talking to women with breast cancer long enough to realize my plight is nothing special. Having said that, in the past few months I’ve also realized there are some lessons we seem to be faced with over and over whether we feel we’ve already learned what we need to know or not.
In a previous post I mentioned I’ve been diagnosed with DCIS and plan to start a clinical trial in Philadelphia in late March. Even with this new diagnosis and the decisions I will be making about whether or not to have a bilateral mastectomy, etc., my life felt pretty much like rainbows and roses, because everyone kept assuring me that DCIS is not life threatening.
And then, just a couple of days before Christmas while I was taking a shower, I discovered a lump under the scar tissue beneath where I’d had 21 lymph nodes removed 18 years ago during my first breast cancer surgery. Here is how that moment felt – it was as though time had stopped (along with my heart, brain, well, pretty much everything except those parts of my body that REALLY wanted to purge)! At this point I want to once again say, why is it we seem to always find a lump on a weekend or holiday so there’s nothing we can do but feel it over and over again – and worry?
I don’t want to draw this out so here’s what happened: Over the Christmas break I had a doctor examine the lump, I had an ultrasound to see the lump, and I had a biopsy to remove and evaluate the lump. Thank God for family, friends – and my new favorite drink: Saint Germain with pink grapefruit juice, a whisper of gin, a splash of grenadine and lots of ice – I somehow survived the over two weeks it took to get the results. Whatever it was under my armpit was benign. (And I am not going to apologize for drinking alcohol, although I fully appreciate it is not good for me – but if anyone ever needed a bit of liquid courage, I did!)
Throughout this most recent drama I once again tried to prepare myself for bad news, and I realized something. I’m really, really, really tired of bad news. Not just for myself but for all of us. And I’m also feeling what I assume is survivor’s remorse because I know exactly how fortunate I am – I also know not everyone gets the phone call I was lucky enough to receive.
Before I learned the biopsy results, I realized that sometime during those stressful weeks I had started talking to myself out loud, and it wasn’t because I was drinking. I was so sick of worrying, and so tired of feeling like Debbie Downer (really, just how much does a friend or loved one want to hear?) that I would catch myself saying things to the only audience on hand (that would be me) like “There’s no use worrying about it, you big goofball. Whatever is going to happen, is going to happen.” Luckily, at least up until this point, I was not answering myself.
I sang songs like Whenever I Feel Afraid. I recited Psalms. I looked at myself in the mirror and said “It’s okay, it’s okay.” I wondered if I was suffering from PTSD. Then I pretty much accepted that if I wasn’t there was definitely something wrong with me! Along with my new favorite drink, I think I’ve earned being a tad neurotic and anxious.
And throughout this whole process I acquired just a smidgen of wisdom about learning how to accept what is whether we want to or not. I am now actively working on ways to learn how to stop worrying so much and to let go of fear (again, there is no alcohol involved!) That is probably not an easy thing for most of us – but I think it’s particularly difficult for anyone who keeps butting heads with a potentially deadly unknown.
I promise next month I will share something uplifting – something funny – something interesting. I promise. I am also determined that for the time being, the most ominous thing I will look for during my showers is a bar of soap.
So, you can take this bit of relieved rambling for what it is – just that – or you can cut to probably the very most important thing I shared. The recipe for a really, really good drink!