Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cancer Club

When you get cancer you join a club you never wanted to be in. I'm in the official Breast Cancer Survivor Club. Breast cancer survivors are fantastic women - and I'm not just saying that because I am one now. The crazy part? If I think about all I've been through too hard, I still get upset. This happened Saturday. We took the kids out to eat and I noticed our waitress didn't have much hair. She noticed I was wearing my lovely new hat and asked me if I had cancer. I said yes. She is a 5 year survivor (and still didn't have hair! Yeah, that messed with me!)

After dinner, Tom and the kids ran off to a museum, but left me sitting to wait for them (I'm still very tired and can only do so much walking around.) Sitting there reminded me of how hard I used to try to NOT think about having cancer after I was diagnosed. Not thinking about having cancer is impossible. I never wrote about this story when it happened, because I was going through so much at the time. But Saturday I found myself sitting - waiting on my family - and getting more and more upset. Memories flooded back to me. Here's one:

I had decided that life was going to go on as normal while I waited for my surgeon to return from her trip to Africa. Between the time I was diagnosed and the time of my mastectomy all I wanted to do was crawl in bed - stay there and cry. There was no way I was going to allow my children to suffer along with me. We did as much as we could to keep busy and keep our minds off the nightmare that had begun. One of the things we did was take the kids to their school carnival. Man, that was a bad idea!

Thinking back, I'm not sure what it was that did me in that day; maybe it wasn't one specific thing. Here I was new in town and at a new school. I suddenly was missing my children's old school; I used to volunteer at their old school. At that school, I knew the layout, the teachers, the parents and the students. I missed the feeling of comfort at that school.

The kids right away ran off to be with their friends, Tom agreed to stay with Jacob, but Allison was too old to have her mom following her around. I was left alone, but I was quickly saved by one of Allison's classmates' moms. Thankfully, she knew I had cancer, but wasn't asking me to talk about it. She and I walked around the school looking in on the different booths that were set up - I was fighting the tears all day. I confided in her that I was an emotional mess and thought maybe I just needed to go home. That's when she did something very, very stupid...she left me alone. She had gone off to find Tom.

I stood alone in a hallway of an elementary school with children and their parents walking all around me - when I looked up I saw a booth that was set up to warn children about the horrors of smoking and lung cancer. That was it. That was the straw that broke my emotional back. I didn't start the delicate little crying either...oh no! I lost it. Crazy woman hysterically crying in hallway B. Clean-up, please!

The husband of the woman I had been walking with saw me almost instantly and raced off to find his wife. She came back to me and pulled me into an empty classroom. She hugged me and let me cry then told me she was going to get someone who was more suited to talk to me. Within minutes, my new friend returned and brought with her a beautiful woman who grabbed me and hugged me tightly to her for what seemed like forever. I remember thinking "wow, friendly!" She was a cancer survivor. After I pulled myself together, I was coherent enough to be properly humiliated and voiced this to her. I was told what I just did was perfectly normal. She had done it, too, but hers was at the grocery store in the dairy section.
I was able to get Tom and the kids and race outta the school. I'm actually glad now that I didn't know anyone. The idea that I might have done that at my kids' old school where their friends knew me was was not pleasant.

But here I was all these months later - breastless and hairless - and close to another meltdown. Seeing the waitress and hearing her excitement about hitting her five year mark, depressed me. Chances of a reoccurrance diminish greatly after five years. Five years suddenly seemed a lifetime away.
I'm taking this one day at a time. Unfortunately, that one day at a time finds me daily in front of the mirror checking for lump and bumps. Only four and a half years to go.


  1. That is a very pretty picture of you.

    Live each and every day to it's fullest and celebrate life.

    Try not to waste too much time worrying. I know how difficult that is but no one really knows what the future holds.

    All the best to you Sheri ...

  2. Your post opened up my eyes where my sister is concerned. She is fighting Non-hodgkins Lymphoma and Hep C. Unfortunately, her Hep C levels won't allow her to start the much needed chemo, so we are fighting that challenge first. She is so very brave to all of us but I know her emotional meter gets checked at the door, and it may happen at the most inopportune moment. I just hope she has a caring group around her as you did during your moment.

    Hopefully, as each day passes behind you it will lend you less worry and concern of reaching that five-year mark and joy from the Lord, whom will give strength!

    Very lovely photo of you, love the hat. God Bless!

  3. the one day at a time plan has kept me sober for over 20 years...I know it's not cancer, but for me alcoholism was a slow death sentence. Between God and people I am still here living life, and you will too!! xox

  4. what a beautiful picture ..
    you know sheri, I have been following your entries almost from the start.. your strength and your courage have helped me. Although, I do not have cancer .. I lost my sister to breast cancer on December 27, 2007, your entries held so many similarities..she was an amazing fighter too.. losing her was has been and will be a hard..long journey through my life without her... Reading your entries.. have held me strong..I thought here is someone who is fighting for her life and is staying soooo positive...I need to stop feeling sorry for myself.. you are an amazing person...I wish you all the best in your journey..and pray with all my heart that you will make it.. thank you.. my prayers go out to you and yours..just take it one day at a time..

  5. Hi Sheri, you look beautiful (and peaceful). I'm hoping once I'm done treatment that I can slip back into denial and not worry until that first milestone (which I think is 2 or 3 years for triple negative, not 5 years).

    Take care,

  6. Darling Sheri
    you are so beautiful inside and out
    I could totally relate to your story
    on many levels.. man dear people in my family have had cancer and my stepmother is a survivor like you ,, and very beautiful like you as well

  7. I just read a book called the "Middle Place," which is a true story about a gal who is a breast cancer survivor. It was so funny, sweet, and a great eye-opener to me. I think you are entitled to be a "cray, hysterical" woman whenever you want! And it's smart for the rest of us to realize that we all have those days and moments, and we all need to recognize them for what they are.

  8. Why do I always look at the world so differently? All I can think is I would have never left you in the hall alone, or in the classroom to get someone else. You would have my shoulder as long as you need it.

    I'm glad you're getting out, it will get easier and you will think about it less. It will never be completely gone from your mind but will get further away.

    See I have a list of places I've broken down. At the camera store after my mom died I yelled the f word at the checker. He lost him mom too so he gave me free film.

    In walmart after my miscarriage. Crying down the isles.

    There are whole cities I really can't go back into. lol hugs

  9. the only thing I remotely miss about chemo is my absolutely flawless complexion. Your face looks don't even need hair! I think it's really rare to not get hair back so stay positive!

  10. I love your honesty. And your wit, even in this.
    I wish I had some effective and pertinent platitudes for your edification.
    WAIT... I DO!
    A watched pot never boils.
    The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
    A rolling stone gathers no moss.
    Hope that helps. =)

  11. Oh sweetie I just want to crawl through this stinking slow ass PC and hug you too.. were nobody can see us. I haven't been by in a while but you haven't been far from my thoughts. Don't stop living by counting the days. I realise how easy that is for me to say. But I'm a hypocondriac (and a lousy speller) and after cervical cancer I lived freaked out all the time. That every 60 day pap was grossly what I lived for. Now nearly 10 years out I get so pissed off at myself for doing that. In the end we are all helpless to stop it if it wants to come back. What we can to is tell it to F the heck off, we're gonna live anyway. BIG BIG BIG hugs

  12. You are very pretty... And the courage is in your eyes. I know its a tough time, I know that sometimes it seems you cannot do it anymore... but have faith my friend.

  13. Sherri you are so pretty,inside and out and I can feel it in your words. Truly take it one day at a time and reach for tomorrow. My Sis Mary Ann has had breast cancer twice in the last 10 years and her latest check-up shows she's doing well. Same for my mother-in-law we were blessed to have her 24 years after her diagnosis and fortunately they have such wonderful treatments today that they didn't have then. My Sis-in-law Judy going thru this right now and she's doing well for being Stage 4. Keep a positive attitude and reach for each new day, amazing what it can do for you health wise. Bless you.