Reading the Past

Recently many people Tweeted, blogged, and FB statused (!) reflections on two dear friends they lost to metastatic breast cancer a year ago in February.  I knew neither woman; they were, in a sense, before my time.  Before my time with blogging.  Before my time with breast cancer social media.  Well, before my time with breast cancer.

So many have spoken so highly of these women, I decided it would be worth my time to get to know one–albeit posthumously–through her blog.  So I turned my browser to The Cancer Culture Chronicles and met Rachel.  I’m not a patient reader so I started at the beginning and skipped around quite a bit.  Funny, smart, and engaging.  But I couldn’t read it all.

The way I have been able to deal with a cancer diagnosis has been through my ability to write about my experiences, be open and honest about them, and cut through the fear of most situations with a sarcastic wit.  I have had a great response to hormonal therapy, pain management has been nothing short of miraculous, and I am back at the office.  But what will the future hold?

CaptureAfter I read Sue Handler’s book Dying in Public: Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer, I was shaken.  That median prognosis became a little more palpable for me.  And I found the same unease as I read through Rachel’s blog.  I am annoyed that I was not able to read it in a relaxed way.  Absent was the linear fashion of getting to know a blogger, rising and falling with their triumphs and challenges.  That serendipitous and virtual friendship was instead replaced with the desire to know what the next door revealed.  What were the symptoms of the next stage?  Would it happen fast?  How would it affect those around me?  Will I not survive past the median?  Will I be different?

I have learned that reading the experiences of those who have seen this disease to its end is not a good choice for me.  It interrupts my sense of time, urges me to anticipate, and encourages a state of anxiety I would rather not experience.   On a level as intimate as this is, I cannot read the words of the past.   Dag Hammerskjöld once wrote that feeling uneasiness is a sign that you still have life left in you.   This is an ironic statement for individuals with stage iv disease, for our unease is about how much life that may be left.


My condolences to Rachel’s family and her many friends.

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24 Responses to Reading the Past

  1. Reading others life stories, struggles, successes, losses, have given me a sense of comaradderie. So much so, that then feeling the loss of their lives is very painful and sobering. I was reading through your posts, and in one of them you say how cancer can be put up on a shelf for only a brief time until something comes along and shakes it right off again. So true. When I am feeling grief from the loss of a blogfriend I try to step back and away from everything…. I have to shutdown and recover. I put cancer on the shelf. But it haunts me, watches me, and snickers at me. Such a little fucker! ~Cin~

  2. Deborah says:

    Yes, yes. Write your own story. You need not take on any more burdens. You are perfect exactly as you are. I come here to hear YOUR story. Big Love to you always, Deborah

  3. The Accidental Amazon says:

    It’s far too painful to read such a true and tragic story from the beginning when you know how and when it ends. I can’t do it either, Scorchy. Not now. Not anymore. Much love to you just for making the attempt.

  4. Tracy says:

    Resonates for me Scorchy. I had to stop reading the HER2 support group because I found too many posts that wrenched my heart (and made me cry even though I didn’t know the women concerned or their families). I guess I’m just not equipped to deal with so many unhappy endings and needed to see a few rays of hope, if not for my sake then for the sake of women in general. It’s bizarre because I’ve lived with unhappy endings my whole life through given family history but just cannot face reading about them on a daily basis any more.

  5. Acacia says:

    I really have problems reading about The women who die from MBC. It hits too close it home.

  6. dear scorchy,

    sometimes we just need to live our own stories. thankfully, your gut works well to give you direction, and you followed it. what matters is that you cared enough to want to explore how rachel impacted so many lives; and it was so kind and thoughtful of you to express your sympathy to those who mourn her. i’m sure that rachel would be the first to say that this post, written with such candor and insightfulness was right on.

    you are helping me, scorch, to be better tuned into my crazy and jumbled head and gut and to go with what’s best for me; living your own story and writing it is a beautiful thing.


    karen, TC

    • Scorchy says:

      Karen, you always (ALWAYS!) write the most heartfelt and kind comments. They always make me smile and remind of how fortunate I am to have connected with you. 🙂

  7. Susan says:

    I get it Scorchy. Of course reading and looking for the progression of disease is disturbing for you. You need to experience this journey on your own terms, your way. Your wonderful sarcastic wit, and way of seeing things allows you to be in your moments and by trying to predict how you will feel when and how by others takes away from you being yourself on your terms. You are so endearing with your own style. Speaking of meteors (your note to Greg), that Russian meteor was crazy! Great Post! Hugs and XoXoXo – Susan

  8. I agree with Greg. Also, I’m absolutely thrilled to hear that you are feeling so much better.

  9. Knot Telling says:

    I completely get this, Scorchy, and you put it so well. Thank you.

  10. gregsmithmd says:

    Beautiful post.
    Now that you have this insight, celebrate your own life.
    CELEBRATE the fact that you are alive NOW.
    That’s all any of us, cancer survivors or not, are given.
    I’m thankful that you and your writing are part of my life today.


  11. Beautifully written. Thank you.

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