One of the hardest things about being a breast cancer patient is, in my case, that I don’t feel sick.
Not at all.
I can’t even feel this tumor in my boob.
Not at all.
I can see it on all of the scans, just like everyone else can. But I don’t feel it. It makes accepting the needles in the nipple thing for my latest biopsy so emotionally difficult. (I’m so sorry, but there’s no easy way to write around that one. Besides, what’s a shared grimace between friends?) Makes me question if the cure inflicts more damage than the disease? Maybe so, since I don’t feel sick.
I’m going over my surgery instructions and check-in the other day. The girl on the phone sounds young, and serious. Slightly Evil Jake raises her head because that level of serious just won’t do.
“Okay, Mrs. Finch. I’m going to ask you about your medical history. Any heart problems?” (And she goes down a long list of related heart conditions.)
“Okay, problems with strokes?” (Again, a long list of related stroke issues.)
“Okay. That’s good. Anything with your digestive system? Ulcers, stomach problems or other things?”
“Great. Okay, any artificial devices in your body: implants, dentures, hearing aids or more?”
“Good. Any other health issues we should know about?”
“You mean besides my breast cancer? Nope. I’m perfectly healthy.”
“That’s a joke. It’s okay to laugh, Sweetie.”
“Oh, good,” she says. “I wasn’t sure…”
And as I try always to look on the bright side of things, one of my Besties texts me the other night and wants to know if I want her to bring me matzo ball soup, chicken cheese soup, beef vegetable soup, spinach sausage soup, or her piece de resistance, GUMBO (this Bestie hails from Louisiana and makes The. Best. Gumbo. EVER!)?
Well, I still harbor delusions of thinness, even with all of this crap going on.
“OMG, Woman! I want to lose weight, not gain!” I text her.
“Okay, then, minestrone,” she taps back.
I then share with her my new adapted favorite quote, based on my all-time favorite line from the Best Chick Flick In The World.
“Darling. I’m only one cancer treatment away from my goal weight.”
(Anybody guess the movie? Anyone? Bueller?)
Do you know that this Bestie has never SEEN this movie? Not acceptable. Our friendship will not survive this absence of Girl Knowledge.
We negotiate and I end up getting her to agree to visit while I’m laid up next week so we can watch this one together. Much better than sedentary calorie ingestion, at least as far as my scale is concerned. But I’ll probably still woof down some popcorn. With real butter.
But not all moments lately are lighthearted. Can someone please tell me why it is that people feel inclined to say stupid, cruel things rather than just say, “I’m sorry for what you’re going through.”?
I don’t think these people mean to be mean. And mostly I’m not speaking about myself. Almost everyone I’ve encountered has been incredibly kind and considerate to our current conditions. But both Stephen and Samantha have had “friends” say a version of the following in the last week:
“I know someone who had that and they died.”
WTF? In what culture is that ever an acceptable form of verbal comfort?
On my end, I have had a couple of people look at me like I was already dead, my version of Jacob Marley standing before them, chains and bandages waving eerily. I find myself reassuring THEM that no, I’m not going to die from this, as long as I get treated as planned. And they still look at me like I’m a ghost. Sometimes I even catch them looking at my boobs like they just vanished before their eyes.
I just don’t get it. Yep, I have cancer. I’m still alive, and will be because I’m blessed to live in a time where medicine can remove all of this cancer from my being. Most days, I worry more about dying ironically in a car accident or bathroom fall and Stephen being left to decide on the epitaph for my tombstone:
“Her boobs couldn’t get the job done, so her car took over.”
A boob and a duck walk into a bar and the bartender says….