Reality Hits

You never know when you’ll get hit with reality.  You can read, study, research, and live it.  But then comes that moment when you stand on the beach, you face down the wave of the tsunami, and you lose.

While I was forced to face my diagnosis of IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) in July, someone else was being forced to face her diagnosis of DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ) just the day before.  We were only recently acquainted over the last year through a mutual friend and shared similar viewpoints on politics and favorite pastimes on Facebook.

My heart sank when I was told of her diagnosis and we quickly started to communicate via email.  I wasn’t sure what DCIS was, really.  Why was I, with an established invasive tumor, facing a possible lumpectomy, hormonal, and chemotherapy when she was facing a bilateral mastectomy?  That seemed so harsh.  It wasn’t cancer yet, right?  I didn’t understand.

As I would learn, DCIS is breast cancer; it just hasn’t left the gate.  Cancer is staged based on the location of cancer cells: in situ (0), invaded local areas/tumor size (I-III), invaded bodily systems (IV).  And that mastectomy for DCIS is often chosen because it prevents the inevitability of cancer cells multiplying, invading local tissue, and becoming more aggressive.  Granted, this is highly simplified, but with that laid out before me I started to understand that it doesn’t matter the stage on which you play out this drama, breast cancer is breast cancer; it’s the long term outcome that is statistically improved—not the short term emotional and physical pain for both the individuals, their family, and their friends.

Knowing that my new breast friend would be having her mastectomy this week, I wanted to visit to lend some support and give her some presents to make her smile.  She was going to be going through a lot of hell  in the coming days, weeks, and months. And, faced with my own mishegoss, I didn’t know when I’d be able to visit her again.  So, together with our mutual friend, I boarded the bus and headed out to enjoy a beautiful fall day.

We had a wonderful day and I hated to see it end.  I was increasingly annoyed at how I started to feel less energy as they day progressed. My back hurt and my knees and left hip were such that I remained mostly sedentary . Someone dropped by with a gift of a lovely coneflower for my friend and this devoted gardener couldn’t even get up to dig a hole and feel the earth in my hands.  It hurt too much.  I was tired.  I knew it would be useless to try.  I didn’t help with dinner.  I couldn’t.  And deep inside I was pissed, but I took it in stride.  Or at least I thought I did.

It wasn’t until my friend was driving us to the bus stop that the gravity of what cancer was doing to my friend and to me crashed into me like a wave.  In the dark of the car the tears wouldn’t stop coming.  I sobbed inwardly, able to pull myself together in short bursts to carry on with the conversation of our shared nightmare.  I was mourning the loss of her breasts and how her life will change in profound ways that we probably can’t even imagine right now.

This wave of intense reality tussled me for the next hour as I sat in that dark bus and cried most of the way home.  I was so sad for my friend, and I was also sad for me.

In many respects, this tsunami of grief has pulled me way out to sea and deposited me on an uninhabited island.  I grieve for my friends who have breast cancer and I’m jealous of those who will be cured.  Fuck it; I can be jealous of a cure.  I love all of the friends and colleagues who give me stalwart support and welcome it for however long you want to give it; I promise you I will never turn it away, though I don’t know how I could ever begin to return it.  I’m glad that I have my mom and my sister.

But in the end I face this wave alone.  We all do.  No matter how strong you are, that reality is a hard one to accept.

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6 Responses to Reality Hits

  1. Crystal says:

    Scorchy, as I said to Francie, your visit was one of the two best days of the summer. The other was when you came a few weeks ago with the Michaels and Francie. It was wonderful to laugh and cry and be normal about things for a few hours. I was so happy to just look through all my Prairie Schooler patterns and the knitting. I haven’t had the leisure to do this since this damned diagnosis to do anything but get biopsies, lymph node surgery, doctors appointments for results and waiting for test results.. After our chat about even DCIS eventually having the ability of turning into mets, I did some research, realized there is always that possibility, so none of us are ever “cured.”

    I am sorry you were so fatigued but glad you could enjoy the sunshine and cool breeze on the deck. I truly loved having even a small burst of energy to make dinner. It made me feel good to do something for you. The gifts were fab! Most are going to the hospital with me Thursday. The Axillary web cording is slightly better today, but it pisses me off that I am the 20% after SLNB that got it. Fucktard….

    We are on one big roller coaster that never stops, like it’s broken. Sometimes we are at the top of that hill looking over the precipice, and other times we are on that downward drop. It does really suck. I talked so much in the car on the way to the bus stop, because if I didn’t all I would’ve done is cry. And I appreciate you answering all my mets questions, the lack of lymph node involvement, etc. The more we learn about each other’s journey, the better we can support each other.

    Keep me posted on your second opinions and new oncologist. I will keep you abreast of my surgery and get in touch when I am lucid. I am scared shitless to loose my breasts, but the more I read about my particular situation (grade 3, multifocal, ER+, PR+, HER2+ with comedonecrosis) I know I am a walking timebomb. I am making the right decision, despite what I may hear from others.

    Love and hugs. We’ll be in touch soon.

    • Scorchy says:

      You may be a walking time bomb. But you’re a hot walking time bomb. Fucktard cancer can’t take that away!!

      I’ll be in your pocket on Thursday! We’ll chat when you’re feeling better.

      • Crystal says:

        Thanks, Scorchy! And the new tatas and hopefully more weight loss will lead to more hotness.. Hell, in a few months maybe I’ll turn a few heads! I’ll be thinking of you, too on Thursday.

  2. Knot Telling, I am so sorry that you are in such a shitty spot. I hope you know this is why so many of us have thrown our support behind you…..

    S-Raw, Excellent, BEAUTIFUL, poignant and SO TRUE…

    Hugs all the way around…

    With Love,
    AnneMarie

  3. Knot Telling says:

    Brilliant post. Thank you for sharing yourself so openly.

    I have been shattered by how easily I tire and how incapacitating the pain can be. Recently my best friend, who lives in a city a couple of hours away, came to spend the day with me. She and I both like to walk, so I excitedly decided to meet her at the tram stop so we could walk around the city (and incidentally run some errands). We walked for two hours or so, with breaks. We strolled at a gentle pace.

    Even so, I tired more and more in the second hour. By the time we were on the way back to my place, I was limping, leaning on light posts, taking her arm for slight inclines in the sidewalk. I was in very bad pain. I had defrosted a nice piece of meat for our lunch, but I was too wiped out to get off my bed to cook it; we ordered in. She ended up going back early because all I could do was just lie there.

    I was diagnosed at Stage III, and went through an intense grieving process at that time. But I can’t say I’ve finished with it. Now in Stage IV, I find myself going through it again each time I discover that the disease has progressed. My last progression was just a couple of months ago, and now the grief and anger and frustration all the rest of it is mixed with a growing sense of my mortality. It *is* Stage IV and I *will* die sooner, not later.

    Scorchy, I’m sorry for hijacking your excellent post. You touch places in me that I need to share. I suppose I could write these things over on my own blog (and maybe I will), but I really feel that this time it is in the context of your post… so here I am.

    Spill it out, and if you ever want to talk with our voices or IM or email, you know how to reach me to let me know so I can tell you how to get me on Skype or Viber or whatever.

    • Scorchy says:

      In no way did you hijack my post, friend. You enriched it.

      Each time I read a post on a discussion board, a comment on my blog, or find humor or information on the web I am struck with the realization that millions of women before us never had this unique opportunity. That we have the ability to reach across the globe to support on another is quite a privilege. So while we have to deal with this shit we all have our collective backs. My friend said that this diagnosis showed her who in her world of family and friends really cared about her and who were fair weather acquaintances. I am amazed at how many people who profess that they cared about me in the past never even check in to say “Hey, how’s it going?” They may ask “through” others, but they never directly reach out to me.

      Until I was diagnosed with cancer, I was still reeling from having pneumonia just about two years ago. That was so debilitating and it took weeks and weeks before I felt like myself again. I had no idea, you know? I knew pneumonia was serious, but unless you were in the hospital it must be like the flu, right? Boy, what a reality check! About two months after I was sitting at my desk and I thought “Hey, I feel like myself again. Awesome.” I’m glad I remember it because I don’t think I’ll have that epiphany again. I’m sure there will be many days where I feel great, but it will all be relative. I won’t feel like March 2011 again.

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