I’m a type A person, a bit of a control freak really. I plan how things are going to be and run by a schedule. Let’s just say I don’t like it very much when I don’t know what the future holds. Uncertainty is not my friend!
And that’s what was happening from the minute I walked out of my GP’s office after that first appointment. Can I go out to dinner next week? Can I book that bargain trip to China for next July? Can I drive up to visit my parents for a few days next week? All these things had to be put on hold until I got that final diagnosis.
It was hard brushing off invitations and events. We had just got home after being overseas for a month so of course lots of people wanted to catch up and see how our trip had been. My heart was not in it, the trip just seemed so far away (even though on the day of my surgery we had only been home for ten days) and my mind was elsewhere.
I couldn’t even research, because I didn’t know what I was looking for. I didn’t know the first thing about breast cancer – other than all the scary stuff like chemo and hair loss and sickness.
But I also had some good reference points. I don’t really know anyone who has had breast cancer, except my Aunt. She had it about twenty years ago though, and I didn’t have a whole lot to do with the process. It was caught very early, she had a lumpectomy and some radiation and got on with life. She’s still healthy today. So I’ve not really seen the chemo and sickness part of it.
I have seen chemo though. My Dad is going through it currently for melanoma. He has it every three weeks, and will do so for the rest of his life. But this is also not a scary chemo. He’s been doing it for over two years and it’s more like an inconvenience to him. He heads off to the hospital every third Wednesday morning in a nearby town, has his treatment, then heads back to the farm to put in a full afternoon of work. To meet him you would not realise he is doing this. He still has his hair (what is left of it!) and pretty much leads the same life he did before chemo.
So to me, cancer is scary, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. It is totally possible to fight this and win!
But I need a plan! So many people say that the hardest part about the whole cancer journey is not the surgery or chemo or radiation but the waiting. The waiting for results and treatment plans and surgery. Once these are all known, it gets easier.
At least now I knew I had a battle to fight, but I was still in that holding pattern of not knowing what was to come next.
It was time though to tell people. I was dreading telling my parents – since Dad has his own fight going on. They didn’t need me to be sick too, especially since I am the strong, dependable one who is never sick! In the end they took it pretty well, and I was relieved it was over and done with.
I was worried too how my daughter in Canada would take it since I was so far away. It didn’t help matters that her boyfriend’s father had only passed away from cancer just eight weeks earlier. The wound from that was still so raw.
There were only two other people I told, my sister-in-law and her partner. I called them just as they were visiting our local zoo with their three-year-olds and blurted it out. They would be affected by this because I babysat the kids one day a week. Luckily school holidays had just started and since my s-i-l is a teacher we had a couple of weeks to come up with a plan.
I’ve only had one other especially traumatic thing happen to me in my life – my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. The hardest part about it was telling people and that look of pity or horror or relief (it wasn’t them!) on their faces. I decided that there was only one way to avoid that as much as possible – tell everyone straight away. And the best way to do that is to announce it on Facebook, so that’s what I did.
Reading all the messages of support, encouragement and some personal stories messaged to me is the only time in this journey that I have been brought to tears. I had said in my Facebook message I was not going to blog about my cancer, but those messages of support helped change my mind.
I’m a fairly open person, and if I think my story can help others – and I do think that – then I will share it as openly and honestly as I can. I know that hearing what others have been through helps me immensely. We tend to hear mostly bad tales of breast cancer, but I wanted to read about all different experiences so I could be prepared for whatever is going to be thrown at me. Mine will be another voice added to the crowd. I am hoping it will be a positive one.