Obon for Mrs. Edwards

December 8, 2010

 

I’m sitting here in my cubicle, watching the cars drive by; watching our IT manager brave the rain in a noble attempt to get some winter exercise.

 And I marvel at the ordinariness of their driving and walking. I wonder how, knowing that Elizabeth Edwards died from breast cancer yesterday and that millions of women will die from the same disease, they can drive and walk with what seems like naive oblivion.

 I wondered the same thing, when as a mom who had just returned to full-time work two months prior, I listened to my radiologist gently tell me on the phone at work that my ultrasound/biopsy revealed the fact that I had 10 lumps in my right breast. “Infiltrating lobular cancer,” she said. Not, “Infiltrating lobular carcinoma.”  I listened as I stood in the corner of the stairwell by the elevator. I listened as I watched someone drop a pat of butter on the carpeted floor as they walked back to their cubicle with their lunch. I listened as I watched the receptionist answer the phone and route calls. I listened as I heard my own terrified voice ask Dr. Borofsky questions.

 When I walked back to my desk, I wondered how everyone else could go on with their lives with this devastating news hanging in the air.

 Two months later, I had a bi-lateral mastectomy, followed by chemo and radiation.

 It is now almost five years since my surgery.

 What I’ve discovered in that time is that there are people feeling with the same depth of concern, compassion and sadness that I am feeling. The world may look normal, even oblivious, but there is a community of women who have experienced what I have experienced; who know what it feels like to have had and to live with cancer; who understand that terror management and practicality and faith is what keeps us looking normal while we learn a new job in a swingy brunette wig with a chest as flat as a prairie under our prosthetic breasts; who understand that every new milestone of our children’s lives (the braces coming off, the first day of college) fills us with inexplicable joy and gratitude.

As I drove in the rain to work today, I listened to the radio with a heavy heart as Elizabeth Edwards’ voice filled my 2000 Toyota Sienna. It was an interview in which she talked about the lasting impression of seeing an Obon ritual in Japan, where little boats with lighted candles in them float down a river, symbolizing the souls of the dead finding their way to “the other side of the river.” It was a stunningly beautiful image. Tears welled in my eyes. And no one in the cars around me noticed. I wiped my eyes and smiled. Because I knew there were people on I-280 south who were listening to the same radio interview, who had a mother or a sister or a daughter or a wife who had had breast cancer. Who themselves had or have breast cancer. And I knew, as they drove looking straight ahead, that they were feeling what I was feeling.


A mother with cancer

December 8, 2010

Even though I don’t live in the USA – the news of Elizabeth Edwards saddened me. 

With living in New Zealand, who John Edwards was – what his politics or personal problems were, didnt really interest me at all.  But when I heard his wife had recurrent breast cancer that is who I took notice of.  

I didn’t know Elizabeth other through what I read on the internet and through magazine articles but  whenever you hear of another mother with cancer it resonates within you on  a very deep level.  We all love our children and fear leaving them. I have already had one recurrence, since initial diagnosis in August 2008, and although I am back in remission as one of the other MWC mums so eloquently put it there is an elephant in the room.  At 47 I still want to live long enough to see my children married and my grandchildren but both my children and I know its a possibility that I might not.

Everytime we hear of someone making the decision to end treatment we know it could so easily be us in the future and the fact is most of us have already contemplated how and when we would make this decision.  Only another mother with cancer understands.

Elizabeth Edwards used her time left to educate with grace and strength what it is like to be a mother with cancer and for that all of us other mothers thank her. 

Rest in Peace


missed milestones (by Laurie)

December 3, 2009

This  year, two dates -  November 24th (the anniversary of my diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer) and December 2nd (the anniversary of the night I found the first lump) – came and went without causing me the anxiety of previous years. I noted both events in passing, took the time to breathe deeply and be grateful, and then got on with my day.

It’s been four years since I found the lump. It’s been three since the cancer spread to my liver. And it’s been two and a half years since my first clean scan.

I had an appointment with my oncologist yesterday. I had nothing to tell him. He said, “Shall we keep dragging you in here every few months just to say ‘hi’?”

I readily agreed.

I have chemo next week. They’ve been building a new treatment centre for what seems like years. I have often jokingly pointed in the direction of the new building and said, “They’re building that for me.”

Yesterday, I discovered that the new building is open and the chemo room has been moved. No more listening to the sounds of construction during treatment. No more listening to the intimate details of the constitutional issues of the patient beside me. There will be a little more light and a little more room and hopefully, a little less noise.

I’m kind of excited.

And yes, that is somewhat ironic. I have lived long enough to be excited about getting chemo in the new building.


aware of the irony

November 9, 2009

Life is funny.

This morning was perfect weather for a bike ride. The sun was out and the temperature climbed to 17C (that’s 62.6 in American). It was my first time on the bike in more than a week – since before the plague toppled my family, like a series of dominoes.

It was a fun ride, and I didn’t even mind the big hill I have to climb on my way to the hospital. I arrived twenty minutes after I set out, a little sweaty and with my heart pumping. As I locked up and headed into the cancer centre, I noted with pleasure that I hadn’t been coughing.

“It feels good to be healthy.”

I very nearly said it out loud.

I was suddenly struck by the absurdity of my situation. Here I was, going to get my bloodwork done the day before chemo and thinking about how healthy I am.

Three years ago, at almost exactly this time of year, I learned that my cancer had become metastatic. I don’t think I could have imagined this day, when I’d be riding my bike up Smythe Rd. and thinking about how healthy I am.

So, as I was saying at the beginning of this post – life really is pretty funny.

Cross-posted to Not Just About Cancer.


routine anxiety

September 8, 2009

In less than 48 hours, I made a total of three trips to the General Hospital last week for tests and an appointment with my oncologist (I toyed with the idea of staying at the hospital all day one day but, with 4 and half hours between appointments, I chose to come home. This meant an extra bike ride up the really big hill that is Smythe Rd but I chose that as the lesser of two evils. Also, it’s reassures me enormously that I can meet that kind of physical challenge).

These appointments will probably never stop making me anxious but I this week they really stressed me out, perhaps because the timing was so compressed.

On Thursday morning, I had an echo-cardiogram.

That afternoon, I saw the oncologist (My appointment was set a week earlier than it usually is in the cycle and his nurse insisted that I come in for the appointment, as opposed to calling in. I had no evidence to back this up, but I became irrationally convinced that I was being called in to hear bad news of some kind – perhaps that my oncologist was breaking up with me or quitting medicine. Or moving to Florida. Or something).

And Friday morning, I had a CT scan.

All of these things are just a routine part of my life. But I don’t think they will ever feel routine to me.

Cross-posted (sort of) from Not Just About Cancer.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 777 other followers