stating the obvious

Cancer saddens me.

No, not like that. Not like, “Wow, cancer is really sad.” Like an in-your-bones, deep-within-the- psyche-sad, a sad that burrows itself deep into your heart and never quite goes away, not even in the happiest of moments, a sad that becomes an integral part of you, really. A sad that means that tears are always near the surface, even if I don’t know it. Some little thing could bring the tears forth, a reminder of my and others’ mortality.

I had maintenance chemo yesterday, and the first person I met at chemo, B., was there. I’ve looked up to her, thought of her as kind of a breast cancer mentor. She’s strong, she’s a survivor, she has a great wit and sense of strength about her. She was doing her second round with breast cancer when I met her. Just a few months after we met, she went into remission. I was so very happy for her. Yesterday, just yesterday, she said, “I’ve had a huge setback,” and told me a story of her forgetting simple things like driving places that she’s known how to drive to for years, of seeing dead people. A brain MRI confirmed that she has tumors in her brain.

I’m scared for her, yet hopeful that she’ll beat this one too.

Susan of Toddler Planet writes eloquently of how difficult some things are in the everyday world when you’re a woman with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Yes, how very difficult they are. As I stood in the boutique yesterday getting fitted for mastectomy bras and a prosthesis, I saw myself in a full-length mirror, one full breast and one area with a little bit of breast tissue, a red scar crossing the entire length of it, trying to fit the breast and find a prosthesis for Notatata. I call it a funny name to reduce the seriousness of what it really is.

When I tell friends that I actually wish I had asked the surgeon about taking both of them off, if that had been an option, most people give me a horrified, “WHY?!!” response. I tell them because that way, I’d be done with all of this. I could just be flat the rest of my life and not have to worry about the rest of this. I wouldn’t have to get a mastectomy bra or a prosthesis. I wouldn’t have to think about reconstructive surgery and wonder if I’ll do it, then decide when and figure out the risks of having it versus my comfort in having it done. I could just be DONE with all of this. Maybe I’m simplifying things. Maybe I’d still be grieving the loss of my breasts. Maybe grieving is a part of having a body part/body parts cut off. The loss of the breast seems to bring up all the memories associated with this cancer, from the day of diagnosis to today. It brings up the fears, the worries, the sadness.

There are several people who have told me that they think I’ll beat this. And I may; I hope so. Sometimes I have that confidence too; other times it’s harder to hold onto that. It’s just the way things go.

No matter what, cancer . . . . well, it just sucks. It robs people of so many things. And while I know that in so many ways I’m blessed, there are times when I just feel the heaviness in my heart. I can’t help but wonder if that heaviness will always be there. I can’t help but think that I’ll always be changed, always be a bit more saddened by the knowledge of how fleeting life is, how some of us truly know our mortality and live with it everyday.

I’m sad and scared for B. I’m embarking on a new treatment for myself — radiation — for I haven’t yet had a treatment. They’ve been tweaking and moving me around, finally made a mold for me to lie in and taken umpteen photographs, but it’s all good because Dr. Radiation Oncologist is a perfectionist and I’m glad about that. Today I finally have my first radiation treatment. I’ll be getting a prosthesis when the boutique orders some new, my-size mastectomy bras in for me (the ones I tried on didn’t quite work for me).

But I digress.

Sad, sad, sad.

Cancer just makes me bloody sad.

(If you pray, say a prayer for my friend B., would you?)

Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


5 Responses to stating the obvious

  1. Great post. I am not just sad for myself, but for my kids (our kids). Sad that they have to think of our mortality when should not have to think of such things. Sad that they have to deal with so much anxiety and fear. Sad that none of our lives will ever be the same. I agree – cancer is sad, sad, sad.

  2. jkaymartin says:

    justenjoyhim –

    Cancer *is* saddening, for those of us who are going through it, for our friends and family who can only try to be there for us, and for those who have passed through it to survive.

    My mother had a radical way back in the 70s before they started doing modifieds and simples – at that time, you didn’t have a choice, and a lumpectomy was unheard of. She wasn’t given the option of having reconstruction at the time of the surgery, and opted not to have it done later. For many years, she was overly conscious of her missing breast, and it had a significant impact on her self-image. But eventually she came to accept her body as it was, and it no longer bothered her – she got back to being herself, the person in her heart and in her brain, not the person with a maimed body.

    I had a double last year (prophylactic on the right), and had tissue expanders inserted at the same time, with my final implants placed in February this year. While a part of me still cringes at the “unnatural” appearance of them naked, I am very pleased with the look fully clothed.

    Three months ago I found a lump where the original mass was – microscopic cells grew after surgery and during treatment into a mass the size of the original tumor. I had a lumpectomy 4 weeks ago, but the margins were so narrow, the surgeon wanted to take some more tissue. The problem was that she wasn’t sure she could do it with the implant in place. So I was scheduled with both she and the plastic surgeon, so that he could remove the implant if necessary.

    Even though intellectually I know I’m not who I am because of my tits, emotionally, I cannot picture myself without them. My mom, whom I suspect felt much the same, dealt with the grief and self-esteem issues of losing her breast and ultimately was fine with never having the reconstruction. As it turned out, my latest surgery went fine, and I did not lose the implant – I was ready to dance when I woke up in recovery and found that out.

    Whichever choice you make, it will be the right one for you.

    But now having to face radiation, and chemotherapy (again!, in less than a year), I too just want to be done with it. It saddens me and scares me that something I thought I was done with could hit me so hard, so fast; but I take courage from the women I have met who, like B., have stage 4 cancer and face it with both serenity and a fighting spirit. I send out love and positive energy to all of them, and know that they do the same for us.


  3. I hear what you are saying. Speaking as an almost-18-yr survivor, I remember when it was sad, sad, sad for me, too. I cried some every day for years.

    BUT, I stopped crying, even when other people thought my situation was still sad, sad, sad. How? I gave myself permission to grieve. I found great friends and a gifted social worker who helped me work through my grief, so I once again feel happy and embrace life.

    Although some of the losses were permanent, such as the loss of my medical practice and my loss of normal stamina, the grief was temporary and healing. Knowing and believing that the pain of grief is temporary and healing may help you endure it and move forward.

    P.s. Although I cried every day, I also laughed every day, too. Although cancer is always sad, I didn’t and don’t have to feel sad all the time.

    With hope, Wendy

  4. Lately, I have been feeling sad a lot.

    I think, even with stage 4, that we can work through the sadness. But we never get completely past it.

    Same with our body image. Eventually, we come to accept our bodies as they are. But there is a part of us that remains saddened by the loss and the changes.

    I know several women who had double mastectomies and walk around flat. For the most part, they are comfortable with their bodies. And they have a certain amount of freedom that I envy (they don’t need to wear a bra!!)

    And I know a fabulous doctor who walks around with one breast and no prosthesis — you can’t miss it, because her stethoscope hangs on the flat side. I think she is amazing!!

    Working through these issues takes time.

    It’s important to allow yourself the space to feel sad.

  5. […] Cross-posted to Mothers With Cancer. […]

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