You Have Cancer {In the Cafe} 9 comments


You Have Cancer {Living Outside the Stack

A friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer today. I listened to her cry on the phone. Wishing I could reach across the miles and hold her hand. Hug her. Physically be there with her. Let her know that I understand. I’ve been there. She’s a wife and a mother. My heart aches for them. My heart aches for her. But her story is not mine to tell, so here’s my story:

Am I going to die? Will my kids remember me? Does Tony know how much I love him? How long do I have left? Will I go peacefully? 

Why me?

Those were just some of the thoughts that tumbled through my head as I stood there holding the phone. Did she really just tell me I have cancer? Over the phone? I couldn’t deal with that right then. At that moment, I had to start preparing for the possibility that I might die. That I’d leave my husband to raise 4 small children alone.

My husband stood there looking at me. I told him what the doctor said: “I have ‘a little bit of cancer’.” Her words: “You have a little bit of cancer…” What does that even mean? Don’t deal with that right now. You’re going to die. He grabbed me in his arms and held me tight. So tight that it hurt to breathe. But I wanted him to hold me tighter. Squeeze the tumor out of me. Smash it. Squish it. Just don’t let it kill me…

I went into “Mom Mode”. I grabbed a floppy disk {a bright orange floppy disk, the color of the sun, the color of life, something I was going to lose} and wrote letters to my kids, I made a list of songs I wanted them to hear, movies I wanted them to watch, books they needed to read. The pens they should use. The only pen they should ever use: Pilot Precise V~5. I wrote stories about my life. I wanted them to know me. To see me as more than a picture or a vague memory.

I organized their closets. I washed everything and hung them on color coded hangers so the hubs would know which clothes belonged to whom. I arranged their drawers in birth order. I didn’t think about what he’d do when their clothes got dirty and were washed. He’d have to hang them on his own.

I bought their favorite shampoos and foods in bulk. I made sure he was fully stocked with laundry detergent. I made lists of everything. I, the woman who hates lists, became obsessed with lists. All of this in less than a week’s time.

I cried.

I stared at my babies and cried.

I held my husband and cried.

The hubs saw the desperation in my eyes. “You’re going to live.” He talked to his aunt, a Surgical Head Nurse, and she was able to get me in to see an oncologist at her hospital. They calmed my nerves. They told me I was going to live. I was going to live. I had to have surgery and radiation therapy. I was going to live.

I had a total thyroidectomy {removal of the entire thyroid}. My parathyroid and lymph nodes: gone. “Diseased” tissue was removed from both breasts. Cancer gone.

In the years since my diagnosis, I’ve watched my children grow into adults. I’ve become a grandmother, completed two Master’s degrees, run several 5Ks, and started training for a 10K.

I lived.

I continue to live.

I’m not sharing my story because I want sympathy for what I went through or praise for surviving. I’m sharing my story because I want you to understand that there is no “normal” reaction to a cancer diagnosis. Some people fall apart. Some people go into fight mode. Some go into denial. Everything that you feel is real and it’s normal. But don’t wallow. Find a reason to fight. Hold the people you love close to you.

If you’ve never received that diagnosis, be aware of your body. You know when something is “off” or doesn’t feel right. And even if nothing feels wrong, do your breast examines every month. Go to your doctor for yearly check ups. Do what you can to stay healthy.

You have to take care of you in order to be able to take care of everyone else.
Daenel T

  • melody

    Beautiful. I too am a cancer survivor and so I loved reading this and thank you for sharing your story. I was dx in 1997 with breast cancer and then again in 2004 with breast cancer on the other side. From one survivor to another, Life is good and God is GREAT!

  • Praise God today that you are cancer free! Your story is authentic and difficult, but I see glimmers of beauty: the way you love your family, the beautiful marriage you are in, the wonderful mother your children have, the good friend you can be- even over the phone.

    • I tell my kids all the time that God hand picked them just for me. It was such a tough time and they were so strong and brave. The oldest one used to make sandwiches for the younger ones when I couldn’t. Love them.

  • Cheryl

    My warm and encouraging thoughts to your friend and hands down to you for the strength in fighting and surviving cancer!

    http://dressingupforme.blogspot.com/

  • Lois Houston

    One of my work friends just received a breast cancer diagnosis. She is a tough fighter and we’re all supporting her through it. I agree that no two people will react the same way. For those of us who know and love someone fighting cancer, the best thing we can do is to be strong and supportive for them no matter how they react. Your friend is fortunate to have you to lean on – you know better than some others what she is going through. Blessings to both of you.

    • I’m so sorry, Lois. My thoughts and prayers are with your friend and her family. And with you all for strength to encourage and support.

  • Erin

    “You have to take care of you in order to take care of everyone else.” Amen to that. Of all the ailments in the world, I wish cancer would disappear. It has affected and taken too many loved ones. Sending uplifting and healing thoughts to your friend…

    • I wish it would go away too. My MIL has had it twice… It’s a horrible disease that has hurt too many people.