Thursday, December 20, 2012

And the Battles, They Are Never-Ending

My family seems to have the worse luck with this holiday month. Seventeen years ago, we lost our grandmother due to complications from her diabetes. Last year, we woke up one morning to discover that we had lost a young cousin due to a shoot-out and two years ago, I landed in California on Christmas Eve to spend my first holiday with A.'s family only to receive the call that my last living grandparent had passed away. Still, we manage to celebrate life, to enjoy the time we have while lifting those who are mourning. Initially, I'll struggle with what's okay to share and what's too personal to release into the world, but ultimately I'll concede to writing because no matter how raw it might still be, this is simply how I've learned to deal with my emotions when they can no longer be contained.

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.


  1. Dorkys: I am not sure what to say except that I am sorry (and sad) that this is happening to you. I can't imagine what you are going through. You are strong and I just know you will get through it. My thoughts are with you.

  2. Dorkys, I'm sorry to hear the news and especially at this time of year. I can't imagine what it must be like or how you are feeling. A sounds like a wonderful person, who is there to love you and support you through these tough times. Writing, like any creative outlet, can be a great outlet and you can use it to help you through the tough times ahead. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, and though it's easier said than done, I do hope you have a wonderful holiday season. I hope you are able to enjoy your time with friends and family and know they are all rooting for you.

  3. When someone loves you, they love all of you regardless of what is going on - and A truly truly loves you. Accept that! You are also braver than you realize and like I've said to you before, you will be well!!!!

  4. from one travel size girl to another, you're a little girl with a big + strong heart. and while people like us may hear that a lot, i know it's hard to keep it all inside/together, but don't feel like you have to. it's a blessed thing to express your raw + honest self through writing, and i am thankful you have such a supportive group surrounding you. my thoughts and prayers go out to you, especially during this season. xoxo

  5. Many, many hugs and lots of love. You are awesome and this won't stop you.

  6. I'm so sorry to hear that you're dealing with this. I hope that you will have a speedy return to health and be able to find some peace and normalcy in the midst of your struggle.

  7. Dorkys, you have the strength to fight and beat this. And from what you've written here at Dry As Toast, it sounds to me like A. loves you and will be there for you. Lean on him, and your family. Lots of healing prayers will be sent your way.

  8. *HUGZ* So sorry you're having to go through this. Prayers of health and peace headed to you from Virginia.

  9. You are in my thoughts and I know you will jump over this bump in life.

    Best Regards,

  10. Oh my dear...
    I'm so sorry.

  11. Oh my goodness, Dorkys. I'm so sorry this is happening to you and you are in my thoughts.

  12. You are such a lovely person, and I love reading your stuff. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. I'm sorry you are going through this. <3

  13. I don't often comment on blogs but felt I needed to respond to your post.

    I know you have been given all the statistics, or perhaps looked them up on the internet, but I want you to know this is just a bump (no pun intended) in the road. Twelve years ago, at the age of 33, my husband was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. We had four little ones under the age of 9. After a long surgery and 8 months of chemo he is a survivor. Your age, your attitude, the amazing medication these days, I have no doubt you will be a survivor as well. I am in my forties now and have had numerous friends that have received that call and all of them are thriving. It wasn't easy I know, but the odds are in your favor.

    Always take someone with you to your appointments so that they will hear what the doctor says because you won't.
    Go in with a positive spirit.
    Pray if that is your belief.
    Fight to be a survivor.

    Prayers to you!

  14. I thought I would stop by your blog on Christmas day to wish you a Merry Christmas and read this post. I am positive that you (and A.) will fight through this like champs. Although I don't know you personally, I do know that you are strong spirited and that is exactly what you need. It's all about your attitude toward it. No, I have not walked in your shoes but I do know that a person's attitude has a huge impact on their healing.....physically and emotionally. Anyway, Merry Christmas!

  15. Dorkys, my thought are with you. Stay strong. Rely on your loved ones for support.

  16. Oh [bleep]. [bleep] [bleep] [bleep]. Oh Dorkys... while there are some silver-linings in this particularly stormy cloud, like "it was spotted early", A. being there to hold you, your family's love and support, and all your friends who will be thinking, praying, and hoping for the absolute best... none of these (and perhaps even all of these in total) take away the loneliness and fear and the horror of the "cure."

    Life truly isn't fair - I hate thinking your beautiful smile being left troubled and your forehead wrinkled in concern and discomfort.

    You have come back, bolder, stronger each time you've had a setback. You have spunk, attitude and courage - and a large (it is much larger than you might think!) support group. These are you best weapons. We are with you each step of the way.

    Hugs -- yours always -- Iggy

  17. I'm new here and found you through Iggy. I recently had a scare and my heart goes out to you that your news wasn't better. I will say a prayer for you today and hope all the best for you in the days ahead.

  18. Oh sweetie, stay strong - and positive. This is a battle you can and will win. It will have been ten years ago this coming December 10th, that I received the same news you just did. It was like the world was closing in on me as I sat at my kitchen table holding a dead phone after the Dr. hung up. It will change you, both physically and mentally, and that is not a bad thing. Nobody deserves to have to travel this road, but now that you are on it, embrace it. And above all else, look for the good and keep a positive outlook. This, and a Dr. you trust and can confide in, is the key to survival. You are in my prayers, and please... let me know if you want to talk to talk to someone who understands. I am here for you.


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