After reading Stella’s post it reminded me of something I wrote at the very beginning of my journey, now almost 2 years ago. Re-reading, I could feel again the terror that swept though me in the time between diagnosis and active treatment — one of many junctures that seemed impossible to get through at the time. I posted it here in hopes that some of the newer members will not feel so alone and will know that there is life after all the struggle.
What Keeps Me Up at Night
I have been told, by the Warriors I know, the woman who have beaten Breast Cancer or are still in the throes of it, that this period I am in–the one between diagnosis and surgery—is the most brutal. Every night I go through the motions of a normal nighttime routine. I wash my face, brush my teeth, set my alarm clock and crawl, exhausted, under the covers; only to lie there and listen to the endless parade of horrible thoughts that march through my brain. Sleep is not even a factor anymore. Each night my stomach churns as if it were the evening before the start of a brand new job. Unfortunately, though, I don’t get to wake up, don a crisp suit and meet my new co-workers.
A friend sent me a quote recently; “Fear is just a lack of imagination”. This I truly believe – in the daytime. But when the dark surrounds you and your family is sound asleep and the dog is happily snoring next to you, it is imagination that takes over and elicits such intense fear that sleep becomes comical. My imagination tells me that the cancer is growing. That somehow it has jumped onto the nearest lymph node like the big Kahuna catching a ride on a radical wave and is surfing through my bloodstream. I watch it in my mind; I actually feel it happening in the quiet hours of the night.
When my imagination is not messing with me, it is the facts. The information I read in books and on- line, things like: 40, 000 women will die this year from breast cancer. If the cancer has spread or returns, my chances of survival are sliced in half. I read that throughout chemotherapy I will be sick and tired and could get tingling of the hands feet, muscle and joint aches and a swollen heart.
Then my vanity kicks in. I know that I will lose my hair, this I have accepted. It is when I read that I will gain weight from the chemo – possibly 20 pounds – that I start to panic. Wait a minute. I have always pictured chemo patients as emaciated and thin; tired and frail. Not that I want to be emaciated, but, well it’s better than puffed up and bald, right? I didn’t think I was going to look like Kojack!
It is at this point in the night I try to talk myself back down. This vanity has to go. Maybe the cancer is God’s way of reminding me that there is more to life than hair and a good figure. I am hoping that I learn that lesson. I am hoping as I have been told that I will come out of this with a new lease on life, an appreciation for the little things and a new respect for the life I have been given. Tonight, while I lie awake, I will think about that and I will make deals with God –you know, the ones we used to make as kids all the time, like please make sure my mother doesn’t find out that I crashed the car and I promise I won’t drink– ever again. I will tell Him that I really, honestly will appreciate every leaf and piece of grass, every bird and every snowstorm, if he promises to let me keep my life and live to see my kids grow up. I will promise to stop yelling at my 14 year old and I will clean my house and slow down and smile more and go to Church. I will do all this if He will just make this go away……
Oh, and one more thing, I will ask Him if I could please, please get through this ordeal WITHOUT the extra twenty pounds? You know it can never hurt to ask.