Decisions I’ve made, ignoring unsolicited advice to the contrary:
I did get a divorce before my kids left for college.
I did not take my kids to Disneyland (at least once).
I did tell my daughter, then a kindergartner, how babies are made.
I did not buy my dog a barkless collar.
But I’ll take unsolicited advice from my friend Sam, who lives 3,000 miles away in Talahassee, any day. Why? Because she’s brilliant, because her advice comes from a good place in her heart, and because her counsel has never failed to improve my life in some radical way (read Lucky Stars)
Sam’s best piece of unsolicited advice? “Do It Afraid,” she told me on the phone one day when the adrenaline was pinballing through my veins.
Do It Afraid. It’s like Nike’s Just Do It. Both require that you act, regardless of what you’re feeling. Only, Do It Afraid requires that you act in the face of fear. Sometimes paralyzing fear.
In all honesty, I did not have to Do It Afraid to check out the lump in my breast. Or to check out the post-mastectomy lump (scar tissue). Or to check out the post-menopausal bleeding I had last week. I go in for a biopsy mid-July. In no way whatsoever am I afraid to check out unusual signs and symptoms.
What does scare me is the waiting. And that’s where the advice to Do It Afraid comes in. These days, it’s easy to jump off the ledge; it’s the falling that’s so frightening.
When I went through surgery, chemo and radiation, people would say, “You are so brave.” And I felt like a bit of an imposter. I wasn’t brave. In fact, I wasn’t really anything. My feelings were pale and muted. The therapists call it terror management.
It wasn’t until after my reconstruction that fear hit me, announcing itself as depression.
I was talking to my sister on the phone yesterday about this upcoming biopsy “Are you afraid?” she asked? I told her that I wasn’t afraid when I was going through treatment but that the thought of going through it again scares me witless.
I would like to get on with my life. I’d like to not have to think about cancer again. But, of course, having had cancer, I now realize that’s not an option. I’ll always be thinking about cancer. In the way that Jen was talking about it in her It’s All Relative post this week. Not only is there fear of recurrence, there are the very real residual issues that we all have to deal with. Every day.
It’s only now that I realize how truly hard that was to start a new full-time job, be a single mom, enter into a new relationship, and go through breast cancer treatment without skipping a beat. And I don’t recount this boastfully. It simply is what it is. Or, it was what it was.
But now? I’m tired. In fact, I’m beyond exhausted. And I don’t know if I could do it again without falling apart or quitting my job or exhausting my savings or being a bad parent or pushing Ocho away or getting really sick. Or (horror) all of those things.
Still. I’ll call my oncologist each and every time I notice something unusual in my body because Sam’s advice to do it afraid is still the most sensible option I have.
In closing, the divorce turned out to be a healing thing, my kids did not actually want to go to Disneyland (praise God), my daughter exhibited great maturity as a kindergartner and did not tell the other kids how babies are made, and the dog is happy—but the neighbors are pissed. I may have to rethink that one.
To Andrea at Punk Rock Mommy: peace to you