I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. Never, have I ever thought it would happen to me.
I’ve worried about a whole heap of stuff in my life, but this curve ball never in a million years occurred to me. There is no history of cancer in my family, zero! I’m fit and healthy and my second child was just one-and-a-half when I was diagnosed at age 39. I’ve never had a lump, just a bit of a wonky boob after the birth of my son. And then one day, I was told I had cancer.
Trauma is a frightening thing. I believed the doctors made a mistake and they were talking about someone else altogether. I was out of my body, watching everything unfold from up above the room, looking down on all these people talking about MY LIFE. My brain was listening, talking to itself and answering medical questions at the same time.
‘Stage 3 Lobular Cancer’ WTF?! Those plastic leather couches are manky, a little side table with a cup of tea; do you think they mean for this room to look like a fake sitting room? Maybe they think it softens the blow. Look, there’s my brother, it’s heartbreaking to see him cry. Ronan holds my hand to say ‘it’s going to be alright’. What’s he even talking about, why wouldn’t things be ok, what’s even happening here! That friendly breast nurse is taking notes. As I pull my view back out and look at the room again, I realise we’re in a trained situation. This is Cancer News Delivery 101.
Maybe I could slip out of the room, make my excuse for leaving the party early and we could pretend this never happened and we need never speak of it again. I don’t want this world to have anything to do with me.
I didn’t know anything about cancer, but I knew some people lived and some people died, did the oncologist know which one I was? Having asked the question a few times, I learned that I would never ever get an answer to this question. Cancer is tricky and sneaky. My oncologist said I will never hear I’m cured. But it’s not too progressed? So I meant to ask on a scale of one to 10 where am I, but my mouth said on a scale of one to dead, where am I? The oncologist said, “OK so, nobody is dying around here!” and I was thinking that would be the most assurance I was ever going to get. Do what you need, I just can’t die, I have small babies that need me. So take over my life for the next year or so, and just make sure I don’t die.
As things progressed from mastectomy to chemo I found myself unable to answer the phone or door. I want to apologise now to my friends and family. I didn’t go “queer” I just couldn’t keep reliving this nightmare, over and over again with different people. I didn’t want to see or hear your petty. I knew it was horrible, but I just couldn’t see it in faces or voices every day. The only way I could get through this was to try and keep the things I could control as normal as possible.
So instead, I put my head down and lived life hour by hour, day by day and kept my world very small. I pulled up the drawbridge and let few people in. I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow, or next week or next month. I had no way of having conversations about anything other than cancer, and I didn’t want to talk about cancer. So I didn’t answer the phone or the door.
So what did I do? By god did I gave Forrest Gump a run for his money cause I walked miles and miles everyday. I needed to get out to see that the world was still turning, it hadn’t ended yet. During my five months of chemo I walked 700km. Walking became my saving grace, one of the most important things in my day – my new job, so to speak. I had good days walking, bad days walking but without it, I would have gone head first down that rabbit hole.
Feels like, Drowning,
It’s in my head, always