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.