I was scared enough when diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. Although there was an end date to the madness and prognosis was excellent, I was mute with fear. Surgery left my right breast dimpled and staring off in the far distance, disconnected from the rest of my body. Chemo and radiation therapy had their own set of challenges and side effects.
Writing It Out
I used journal writing to quietly rant and rage and let my “what-ifs” items air themselves. I preferred not having a cancer discussion out loud so that I did not have to hear or speak the words. The written words helped fake my façade of resolve and control. I was also blessed with an incredible community of family and friends. They respected my need to keep cancer out of the conversations by communicating through emails. The encouragement I received helped me maintain my calm and my focus. I could re-read their kindness whenever I needed a boost. I came to believe I would fare through that year of cancer with little damage and be able to live a long cancer-free life. Faking it was not only an effective strategy for me, but it was better for everyone around me.
Once the date, November 9th, and my appointment schedule cleared, I picked myself up and re-set my detoured life. I bought new bras and got a stronger eye glass prescription. Eventually, the chemo fog lifted. Life continued on its merry way. My journal was buried into an abyss of stuff.
The Beast Is Back
Cancer, however, had other plans. I was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer just shy of the five-year post-treatment milestone. It is a fact that no one dies from cancer of the breast. The breast is not a vital organ. One can live quite well without it, like wisdom teeth or an appendix. Metastatic Breast Cancer cells wreak havoc in the bones and vital organs causing debilitating health issues and eventually death. It is the cause of over forty thousand deaths per year in America. There is no cure. There is no end date. It would be hard to fake not being dead.
The familiar fear and anxiety came back threatening my fragile calm. Initially, I let my imagination take the dark road. I envisioned my daughters and sweet grand-babies navigating life without me. Imagining leaving behind my parents, sisters, brother and friends, but most of all my husband was a painful mind exercise. I decided that these ramblings were not an option. I resurrected the old journal and reams of emails. I remembered that I really was brave and had the community to help me bear this all over again.
Faking It My Way
Fortunately, and so gratefully, I am not “sick”. I believe that, for me, this a chronic condition like diabetes or high cholesterol. It is a condition that needs attention but does not dictate my life or my family’s. I do not own cancer and cancer does not own me. I continue to journal but cancer does not have a journal of its own. Yes, there are times when I am gripped by uncertainty and fear. Anxiety is especially high when I need a treatment and tests. I can’t let it linger. Journaling and writing the stories that fill my head helps. Walking a beach and spending an afternoon with people I love is cathartic. Visiting and playing with my granddaughter is the best medicine. I fake the anxiety into submission so I do not miss out on anything life offers.
Every day is a gift. Hug everyone you know.
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