Silence is Not Golden

After my GYN voiced her concern over my boob, I waited in the room while she made some appointments.  I took the moment to call my friend and tell her what I knew so far: I didn’t know much, but it didn’t look good.  Boy, a friendly voice sure sounded great just then.  I wasn’t alone.  It grounded me and gave me a little bump as I walked four blocks to the radiologist.

And as I waited for the subsequent mammogram and ultrasound that day I found myself alone.  Alone with time to think.  When you are a single adult woman living alone in New York City (or any metropolis), you get very used to doing things on your own.  When you’re sick you drag your sorry butt out of the apartment, hail a cab, and shuffle off to the docs by yourself.  You learn how to maneuver a shopping cart on concrete sidewalks loaded with groceries, dry goods, a cat carrier, and the slice of pizza you grabbed for lunch.  If you’re smart, you learn how to ask people for their help and to offer your help.  Being self-reliant isn’t enough when you’re facing a life-changing event alone.

So as I waited I texted my friend, Leslie, and told her I found a lump and I was waiting for tests to be done.  She immediately responded with surprise, of course, but offered much needed support.  We joked back and forth.  I told her that I wanted to turn over a car because I was so mad.  She warned that if I did that I’d better get on video and upload it to YouBoob.  We exchanged barbs and had a good laugh.  It was just what I needed at that moment.

The next day, after I visited with the surgeon, I sent another text:  “Fuck me.  Looks like it’s a carcinoma, Les.”   She replied right away, told me it was a damned shame, and then said her first thought it taking care of me.  What am I going to need?  Who’s going to be there with me?  What could she do for me?

When I began to share the news with my friends, their response was the same.  First, they shared their disappointment and then they voiced their concern and support.  I needed to tell my friends because that helped me deal.

My colleagues have been overwhelmingly supportive.  They’ve offered assistance, stopped in the hall to ask how I am, referred me to other colleagues who were similarly challenged, and offered to pitch in going forward.  One of my colleagues, with whom I’ve had some intense fights on the battlefield and no love lost in the bargain, came to me and said that she was sorry to hear about the diagnosis and wanted to pitch in and help in whatever way she could.  It was genuine and I was touched.  We will undoubtedly go to blows again, but that day we both signed on to a truce.  Amicably and with no judgments.

I finally had the opportunity to tell my mom last week.  I wanted to tell her and my sister together.  But my brother-in-law was dying (lung cancer) and it was looking unlikely that I’d be able to bring them together.  So I told mom alone.  “Mom, I have breast cancer.”  Well, she cried and cried, as you might expect.  She worried about me living alone.  Who would take care of me?  How would I take care of everyday things with surgery and possible chemotherapy in my future?  How would I get back and forth from the doctors and treatments?   Why couldn’t she be a little younger so she could come to New York and take care of me?  Why couldn’t she be the one who got this instead of her youngest child?

It took a bit for the news to sink in.  But when it did she was okay.  It was okay for her to be angry, to feel remorse, to be concerned.  It was okay to cry.  She still has my back and I know it.

My brother-in-law subsequently died and I got the only chance to tell my sister, over the telephone.  She was taken aback, wished that she lived closer, but immediately reassured me that I would be okay.  I was not to worry about this.  I would see her later that evening, as everyone was gathered for a BBQ and decompressed.

When I visited with everyone that evening, I knew that this was a time to mourn the passing of a husband, father, and grandfather and I had no desire to intrude on that.   Heck, truth be told he was neither my favorite person nor was he smarter than a box of hair, but I empathized with their loss and wanted to express that to them.  I hugged each of my nephews and their wives, my grand-nephews, and I expressed my sincere condolences.

I decided that before I left, I was going to tell my niece and one of my nephews about the boob.  But before I did, I checked with my sister to see if she had said anything.  “Oh, they all know.”

Oh.  I had no idea.  Not one word had been spoken.

Not one word for the few hours we chatted about work, and milestones, and food, and music, and cars, and trips, and beer, and houses, and kids, and jobs, and neighbors, and iPads, and . . .

Silence.

As I said my goodbyes, my youngest nephew, with whom I’ve always shared a special relationship, hugged me and told me that I would be okay and that we would talk.  No drama, no occasion, nothing grandiose.  Just a hug.  That’s all you need.  My niece said nary a word, but as she walked by my chair earlier she touched my shoulder and gave it a squeeze.  That was all I needed.

Turns out when people care it comes through all the time.  Even a text message from a good friend feels like the bear hug of a lifetime.  That back and forth texting silliness in a moment of uncertainty and fear was like a basket of freshly baked rolls.

But silence is, indeed, just what it is.  Nothing.

And when you’re faced with a life altering event, I sure as hell don’t need an empty basket.  But I sure know where to get a basket of warm rolls should I need them.

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16 Responses to Silence is Not Golden

  1. Niccola says:

    Hi there Scorchy, I’m so glad to have found your blog after you I kindly dropped by mine. It is so good to hear your feisty, sassy voice ringing out amongst all the dreaded pink! I’m with you 100% on hating the ribbons but loving the close true friends and supporters. And having just been through the dreaded bilateral I’m plotting my nipple tattoos daily… x

    • Scorchy says:

      I’m so glad you stopped by The Boob, but balls! I’m angry that two more boobs have been lost to cancer. It’s keeping tattoo artists in business. Maybe you can go with little pink ribbons instead of nips. Of, better yet, little pick ribbons around the nips. AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! If we don’t scream, then laugh, then scream again we’ll never survive this crap! Keep checking in (I love Venice in the rain).

      • Niccola says:

        Ha ha, I just realised that you must have clicked through to my pre-BC blog – I’m also the author of kitandkabooble! Must update my wordpress details, but glad you enjoyed the old blog nonetheless… x

      • Scorchy says:

        Very much so! And now I’ll check out the newer one. : )

  2. Abby says:

    Health crises, unfortunately, show you who you can and can’t rely on. Virtual hug from me.

  3. Well, I am here for you when you need a friend. It’s hard for people to know what to say so they stay quiet which isn’t easier..I’m a good listener and have been there, done that, so to speak. xo

  4. Crystal says:

    Oh, and it goes without saying that Francie, Michael and Mike have been wonderful. They check in every few days as well. I don’t know what I would do without them!

  5. Janet Golden says:

    One way to keep everyone who wants to help in the loop and signed up is via this website: https://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/
    If you set up a (what is the word, page?) then people can sign up to help out with things you list–rides, meals, cleaning cat box, etc. (I don’t think you’ll have much luck with the cat box). At any rate, it works pretty well from what I’ve seen.

  6. Crystal says:

    I know how you feel… I told my cousin via email last month. We have always been very close. My daughter is in her wedding next month and I am doing a reading so I wanted her to know. I was too emotional to call yet another person and cry about it. The response was… nothing. I saw her at a family event this weekend, and again…. nothing. I asked her if she received my message and she said yes. Then… nothing. Not, “we”ll talk” or I’m sorry” or “is there anything I can do?” I was so hurt.

    It is times like this when you find out who your real friends and champions are. Most of my work friends sent an initial message or phone call, but only one has consistently checked in with me every few days. Her text messages are like a little ray of sunshine. Another friend of mine calls me nearly every day on her lunch hour just to see how i feel that day. These small gestures of kindness keep you going.

    Folks, if you know anyone going through what we are going through, all that is necessary is “I’m thinking of you.” Silence is not golden. Silence is deafening…

    • Scorchy says:

      It’s crazy, isn’t it? Don’t give me that old tired line, “Well, people don’t know what to say.” I never knew what to say, either, but I tried and said something because I cared. If my arch enemy who doesn’t have to care at all can voice concern, you think your “family” would be capable of it. My niece had a miscarriage some twenty years ago. I didn’t know what to say, so I said “I’m really sorry about . . . you know.” I felt like an idiot, but I said something. I acknowledged her trial. Fuck ’em. We have one another.

    • renee1b says:

      I believe that silence also means not being able to handle the truth ~ It’s an upfront, in your face mortality check. that’s why I stayed silent for so long….

      • Scorchy says:

        Yes, Renee, you are right. It is a smack-in the-face mortality moment. At one point we were all joking about tattoos. Since my sister told me that everyone knew, I decided to lob one on to the court knowing that everyone was conspicuously silent: “Yeah. Maybe after all of this I’ll tattoo my boob.” You would have thought that I rolled the old man’s dead body into the room. Silence. People stopped and look back and forth from one to another. Just pathetic.

      • renee1b says:

        I realize more than ever now of the shock value when you tell people the truth and facing my mortality I dish it out in shovels and when it gets right down to it, what is truth? “It’s the tellers perception”. And about that tatto, I’ll do the nipple after reconstruction….

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