I’m sorry to say that I have.
A routine mammogram found a problematic spot, and the subsequent biopsy confirmed that my right breast made a new malignancy.
The irony of a cancer diagnosis is that you can feel quite well when you get the bad news. That’s been my experience both times. Just as I hit my stride, a derailment.
It’s tempting to ask, why me? Well, why not me? I’ve been absorbing the lessons of impermanence. Relinquishing our imaginary hold on anything, easing into acceptance. Easier some moments than others.
This time will be a bit different. I already know bad news can come out of nowhere, and that it’s my responsibility to keep participating in life even as I endure challenges. I’ve also resolved to quit looking back and ruminating about which life choice led to my cancer. It’s a worthless exercise in torture.
I refuse to be injured by the diagnosis itself. Bad things happen to good people. Or, in my case, bad things happen to smart-alecky broads who aren’t as funny as they think they are. The thing is, I’m still here. Today as I write this, I feel calm and whole. I cry a lot, worry some, but still crack jokes. The warmth of friendship has been a great comfort.
I am afraid. My thinking has shifted to understanding that breast cancer is a chronic disease. That helps me accept these setbacks are part of the process. It is with me for the duration, so life goes on.
I intend to enjoy my body to the fullest up to and I hope, beyond the surgery. The pleasure of eating a ripe peach, swimming in the ocean, feeling the sun on my skin, or having an orgasm is wondrous. I suppose I can still do all that with one breast, but I wish I didn’t have to.
A diagnosis is a complicated set of variables, I don’t yet have a handle on mine. I intend to keep working, loving, eating, swimming, and writing all the way through.
If you are my friend do not be shy about reaching out to see me, take a walk, or just sit with me as I recover. I don’t need any pep talks, or ‘be strong’ emails. I am a not a warrior. I don’t want advice on medical care, herbal remedies, or holistic healing videos. Definitely hold the sympathy and horror stories.
If we don’t know one another, use this as an opportunity to reach out to someone in your life who is struggling with a condition. Take a walk, sit with them. What ill people need and deserve most of all is the opportunity to be part of life. Showing up is the most salutatory offering.
No need to tiptoe, or write me off.