I’m posting a lot right now, but a lot was going on at this time last year:
My sister Jen was very smart in presenting the news to my family, in that she avoided saying that it was worse than we expected and instead focused on the fact that the news was to be considered “good”. That is, that it had not spread anywhere else. That was one a point one couldn’t argue with (not in my family, who really had a concept that it could be worse).
I was exhausted from the day, but I woke up often during the night and very early the next morning. Crying always comes a little easier in the company of sleep deprivation so I took advantage of a little private morning blubber. Jen was still asleep. Unable to lounge comfortably in bed – one of my favorite things to do in the entire world – I was wide awake and had to get up straight away. My friend Johanna called and I took a stab at telling someone the news. I got a little choked up, so even though she could barely understand me (and surely hardly believed what she thought she heard) she got that it was bad. She had never seen me upset over anything. Actually it felt good to tell someone. Vocalizing something is part of making it “real” I find. It sort of ties together the mental and physical aspect of how something is affecting you (My fellow anthropologists will dig that one!) and that was needed. After, it was time to take the bull by the horns. I felt it was a good time to tackle a little of the information the breast nurse had given me, and to generally start educating myself about this cellular freak out of a disease.
Most memorably, one brochure contained the personal stories of many different women. According to my journal: They both touched me personally and didn’t. Everyone was different. I was trying to maintain my objective, professional distance. Then one lady’s story said oh-so-nonchalantly “even though Mary Moo has had other physical discomforts to deal with, like Multiple Sclerosis and…” I don’t even remember the rest. (nevermind the fact that there was MORE tragedy in that sentence.)
I realized that one of the only “good” things about all this was my subconscious feeling of security that, given this, surely my number for terrible life things was up. (As a family, this was already over the line of what you would expect/is fair…from anyone not belonging to an unrecognized minority, not chronically suffering from any more financial challenges than most folks, and just not being born into a less than First World country…) But reading that this woman got cancer AND MS? That’s just fucked up. And they called it a ‘physical discomfort’?! They dropped it like it was an quiet fart and no one would notice how rotten it really is.
But I knew. And when I read that a chill went down my spine. Well, it would have were that not a bit dramatic for my taste. So, a figurative chill went down my spine. But an almost unnoticeable (almost) shade of darkness tinted my vision of the world. Literally and Figuratively.
To clue some of you in a bit, MS is what had my mother struggling for 20 years and bed-ridden for 10 more until she passed. I’m rather pissed to realize that technically I still have to worry about that too! Grrr….
My sister asked if I had broken the news to my best friend Wendy in NYC. I said no and that I didn’t want to call her. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was feeling a bit sore at her because I hadn’t heard one peep from her since this whole “maybe cancer” thing start several weeks ago! (My mention of her in a recent post was a little out-of-sequence.) I’d be damned if I was going to go to her to give her the news. If she wanted to know she could damn well call. Jen suspected that Wendy was simply scared to call because she was afraid of the answer. So I agreed to call her, but telling Wendy was like telling a sister and sassy as my attitude had been, as soon as I heard her voice I could not talk through the lump in my throat. Wendy probably thought it was a heavy breather until I handed the phone to Jen, who gracefully took over.
Sure enough, Wendy had been procrastinating. (Doesn’t please me, but I do understand.) She and Jen chatted a while, until I was involved enough in the conversation for Jen to be serving as an intercom. Past my weak moment, I grabbed the phone and said “Hi, my friend…”. Again, I heard her voice and I had to thrust the phone back at my sis. What a silly wuss I am! No way would I have gotten through the family calls without freaking them out!
My life was suddenly about several categories of stress: medical, financial, bureaucratic. In interest if length I won’t start all the details here, but the situation was that my Belgian residency and health insurance had lapsed on the 1st of the year. (Hence, the reason I had gotten the mammogram the year before! How’s the for a tasty dish of cruel irony?) My American insurance was of doubtful use. So, on top of everything else, I had to figure out what to do there. My last weekend relaxing started off with me making bucketfuls of calls to the US to start the process for having my coverage apply to my surgery. Fat load of good that would do. But I’ll get to that.
Meanwhile, I did have one last weekend of duel breastdom and normal shower-taking. I wouldn’t see either of things for a long time…