Thursday, December 20, 2012
And the Battles, They Are Never-Ending
Two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Getting that phone call after a week of questions, lab visits, a biopsy, and "it's highly unlikely" was devastating and surreal. I took down the surgeon's info, shaking and fighting back tears, to then fall apart on A.'s lap as soon as the call was over. I kicked, I screamed, and cried into my hands, wondering what the hell did I do to deserve cancer at 30 years old. I clung to his neck afraid to let go and face that this was real. In the days that followed I let myself believe that perhaps I'd heard wrong, that maybe there was simply a possibility that needed to be vanquished with a few more tests. A visit with my gynecologist days later dashed that delusion and since then, the waves have kept coming and going, sometimes suddenly, leaving a jumbled pile of hope, helplessness, determination, ambivalence, and fear strewn upon my days. One night I'm twirling around the room with complete abandon and the following morning I'm being handed my bib for a race I never even knew I'd entered.
Dealing with cancer has become a whole new full-time job and I haven't even begun treatment yet. Between back-to-back trips to the hospital, MRIs, mammograms, PET scans, and giving out more vials of blood in two days than I have in years combined, my veins and I are exhausted. Maintaining an actual full-time in between all these visits has been a struggle, but I refuse to let this become my whole life. While I welcome the distractions of work and social outings, I can't deny that I also wish I could allow myself time to grieve and come to terms with what could happen down the line, but the silence of being alone and what lurks in those quiet hours scares me.
The cancer is in stage 1, which is "good," they say. I can think of better things to have. Two whole boobs for instance. The final step is discovering if the cancer is genetic, which will determine whether a lumpectomy or a more aggressive double mastectomy will be the surgery of choice for my "pea-sized" lump. Produce: good for juicing and indicating tumor size. I can't fathom losing my breasts over such a tiny thing. Then again, I think I've already begun losing my mind. Being handed my options as if I'm simply deciding between soup or salad isn't exactly comforting either.
What other little lumps could be hiding in my gut? If I beat it this time around, will I someday go in for an annual and receive news that it's returned? What about the increased risk my mother, sister, and my future children will now face? And once I go on drugs for treatment, when could I finally have a baby?
"I love you," A. says to me.
"I'm sorry," I reply.
I'm sorry that this has now become his fight, too. That after years of pulling through one issue after another, petty fights, personality differences, multiple lay-offs, and dwindling finances that nearly had us moving to Los Angeles, we now have to weather through this, too. He, along with my family and friends, has been amazing through this ordeal, my mood swings, and the questions that still have us all in limbo. The not knowing is prime recipe for panic attacks as my overeager mind will swoop in and fill in the missing parts. Staying in the present has proven to be difficult when all I can think is "What if? What if?"
I'm terrified, I'm sad. I'm still slightly detached because that's what's helping me to take on each day and joke about this absurdly ridiculous and shitty thing that I have to deal with now. I have to look at my films and laugh at the odd grey blobs on the sheets. Otherwise it's just too unbearable and the crying won't ever stop. I'll be fine one moment and the next I'm bawling into A.'s chest or my father's shoulder, blubbering on about wanting to hold it together, but being so tired of pretending that I'm strong. I never asked for this fight, I never wanted to be the face of anything, wave banners, or be anyone's inspiration. I don't want to have to pull through anything, but now everyone's expecting me to do so. The walks, the pink, the "survivor" title, I don't want any part of it. I just want my life to go back to how it used to be, mine and unconsumed by fighting for a healthy future.