I was walking through the lobby in my place of work the other day and saying hello and waving to colleagues coming and going in the busy lunchtime intersection. As I approached a colleague waiting for her lunch companions, she stopped me and asked me what had happened. I was walking with a cane.
I thought about it for the three seconds it took me to walk over. Should I just communicate the symptom? “My back is sore.” Should I attach it to injuries of old? “Old back injury is all.” Should I manufacture something? And there, two feet from her, I said, “Well, to be honest, I have breast cancer and it’s in my bones.”
I was kind of shocked that I said it in such a matter of fact way. Why lie? I mean, it isn’t like I’m ashamed of it. I’ve not kept it a secret from anyone and have, in fact, told colleagues with whom I work closely. It was actually a nice surprise that it hadn’t completed its course through the collegial news network.
“Oh, Scorchy,” she said with real sincerity. “What does this mean?” And I told her. It means that there is no cure. And if I am fortunate I will be bitching about this for the next ten or twenty years.
Our conversation shifted gears quickly as she checked her Blackberry and wondered where her colleague was with the donors they were taking to lunch. That was fitting, as far as I was concerned. This is a place of business, after all, and I have learned to truncate the breast cancer story so I don’t have to dwell on it. I’d rather talk about donors and lunch dates any way; life does go on.
I wanted to get back to my office to grab a small bite of lunch and I told her that I would look for our colleague, who I was sure was herding donors to coats and to elevators. As I walked away she looked up from her Blackberry and said, “Scorchy. Please take care.”
That was a lot to dump on someone who probably thought I had just sprained an ankle or strained a hip. And it was a lot to carry through the remainder of the day.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month indeed.