Hey, everyone, and welcome back to my Road Trip to Cancer City, which is probably a much-too-cheerful title, given that it’s a very UN-cheerful situation!
I wasn’t going to blog at all today, given that my basic position right now is between a rock (surgical oncologist this past Monday) and a hard place (oncologist visit this Friday).
The basic info that the surgeon told me is that my “area of concern” is about 4 centimeters by 2 centimeters. Not having a math-oriented brain, I had to ask Mr. 50by60 what that actually looked like.
He (the doctor, not Mr. 50by60!) said my two options would be a lumpectomy with radiation, or a mastectomy with (maybe!) no radiation. Of course, he can’t really be sure if I might need the radiation anyway, which is why I’m seeing the (non)surgical oncologist on Friday. Also, being a woman, I’m hoping she’ll give me some guidance from the point of view of someone who also has breasts and understands my concerns about having them chopped up, a la Saint Agatha.
(For all my non-Catholic, and/or poorly catechized, heathen friends and relatives, here’s a link to a wonderful image and explanation about who St. Agatha was, and why she’s the Patron Saint of Breast Cancer: https://henryzaidan.medium.com/saint-agatha-patron-saint-of-the-breast-cancer-01-works-religious-art-contemporary-20th-2bf448a8d88)
So anyway, a big part of what’s contributing to my stress in making this decision is: Right now, I feel fine! I’m not in any pain. I’m able to do all the things I normally do. BUT — once I commit to a course of treatment, specifically surgery, I know I’m going to wake up from the anesthesia NOT feeling fine. Intellectually, I know the pain will be treated and other women have gone through all this and blah blah blah. But right now, the words “you have breast cancer” seem like an abstraction, almost like something that’s happening to someone else, but the words “and you need this surgery” are a very solid, concrete, all-too-easy-to-imagine reality!
So you can see why I was debating writing this today. But I’ve decided I need to do this, if only to get my thoughts out there. Maybe there are people reading this who’ve struggled with the same exact type of decision and can offer some guidance. I mean, I get that you may not be able to *physically* be in the same room with me or anything, because y’know, COVID.
But I’m totally down for comments, emails, instant messages, etc. — thanks! Oh, and also, I’m writing this because, even though I’m stressed out, I find the process of seeking out, or even creating, just the right memes to express my thoughts helps distract me and calm me down.
I’m trying to keep my spirits up and keep a positive attitude, not so much because it “helps promote healing” (it might, but then again it might not), but because what’s the alternative? And now I have to share with you a few appropriate quotes from my all-time favorite author, Betty MacDonald, in “The Plague and I,” documenting her battle with tuberculosis.
First, she says (of herself and her family):
“People who ‘packed up their troubles in their old kit bag and smiled, smiled, smiled!’ made us want to throw up, and yet we were not of the “Let’s Close Down the Lid of the Old Cof-fin and Bawl! Bawl! Bawl!’ school of thought.
Betty had to stay at a TB hospital which she called The Pines for a year, and remembers that every meal had a little card with a “beautiful thought” on it; things like “If you must be blue, be a bright blue.”
“I [noticed] a preponderance of throwing up at suppertime and wondered if the beautiful thoughts had anything to do with it.”
I just love her attitude (and now I just gotta reread this book!)! Betty did what she had to do in order to get well, but she didn’t just lay back and enjoy the process — she bitched and moaned about it whenever she had the chance! So you can see why I’m now trying to channel some of her rebellious spirit. It makes it a little easier to know that you don’t have to just be “inspirational” and “brave” all the time — you can be angry, too! If you’d like to read more about Betty’s “journey” (a word I’m sure she, too, would have snickered at, like I do!), I highly recommend reading this, and all her other books, too!
So there ya go, Part 2 of this very weird road trip! Honestly, I don’t know where it’s all going to end. Although if you remember my post from 2019, “Memento Mori, So Pass The Doritos!“, let’s face it: we ALL know how it will end, eventually, right? If we don’t, we should! But that doesn’t mean we have to be happy about it, and it doesn’t mean we have to give up immediately. And I’m not, so God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll see you next week with more fun stuff! (And yes, I’m done!!)