Or maybe I should have titled this, "How I Cope," because that's what I really mean. You may use the same defense mechanisms as me, but I'll let you speak for yourself, and I'll try to tell my own story here. And I do mean that -- feel free to share if you have a different way of getting through the tough situations life throws at you. That's what the comments section is for. :)
Today was tough for me.
Since my initial conversation with the genetic counselor, I have spent the past weeks preparing myself mentally for surgery. I am a "squishy" person, and by that, I mean I am not very good at watching medical videos, much less thinking about procedures being performed on me. I can take a shot, I can watch them insert that one inch needle into my port every three weeks, and I can deal with the tug and pull of having stitches sewn into my flesh after a mole has been removed.
But having my breasts cut off, and my ovaries and tubes sucked out . . . that just seems like I'm giving up huge pieces of me, and maybe for nothing. I don't know about you, but I'm not all that great at handling a piece of raw meat when I'm preparing it to eat, much less with equating parts of my own person to said piece of meat. And yet, that's really what I've become. If you don't believe me, just look around on ye olde webbe at what a mastectomy and lymph node dissection consists of. Or better yet, look at reconstruction procedure photos if you really want an eyeful.
Not for the faint of heart. Or at least, not for the squishy people like me.
So today was a lesson in how prepared you think you are to hear more hard truths when really you're not. I promise I will take the time to go into what my day brought to me, but not in this post. I have to process all the information that I took in, think about it, roll it around in my mind, make it something that I can wrap my brain and my emotions around, before I can write about it.
This post is about how I have been dealing with all this hateful medical stuff that has to be done just in the hopes that I'll outlive this cancer. I'm not going to lie to you -- my doctors haven't given me any percentages about how long I'm likely to live based on my treatment plan or what rate of recurrence there is for my staging and my age. I haven't asked, either, because I don't want to think of myself in terms of statistics, unless they are the kind that give me a 100% chance of survival if I jump through all the hoops presented to me. But I think we all know that life doesn't come with those guarantees even for the most healthy of us, so I am not going to wait around for someone to whisper sweet nothings in my ear along those lines.
No, instead, I'm going to talk about how I've been managing. How I've stayed positive (for the most part), in the face of knowing that reality could be so ugly in the end. How I've made chemo and all the other procedures that have come thus far seem tolerable.
You all have lifted me up, with your words of encouragement and your thoughtfulness. They mean more to me than any of you will ever know.
I'd like to be able to say my religion has done this for me, how prayer is the thing that has worked, but I can't go there. I saw something the other day on another woman's post to a forum about breast cancer, and she said that she was surviving because so many people had prayed for her. I wish I could believe in that, but my mother got a lot of prayers and was worthy of God answering them and allowing her to live.
That didn't happen.
Her death was ugly, drawn out, and horrifying. I hope that's not the way I go out of this world, all yellow and withered with nails like talons, a shell of my former self. I most certainly don't want to live in so much pain that I groan constantly despite a drug-induced coma dragging on for weeks throughout the holiday season with everyone standing around my bed waiting for me to die. I don't want it for myself, and I don't want it for those that I love.
So please forgive me if you are one of the faithful. I want to be in your camp, I really do, but I hear people make comments about how prayer saved them, and I can't get past the fact that prayer did not save my mother at a time in my life when both I and my sister needed her to live. I'm sure that many of you will have the answer that God does everything for a reason. I wish I could believe that, too, but I still see no value in the death of a woman who taught little kids with learning disabilities, and who went to church every time the doors were open. I still feel her absence in my life, and the scars from our last real conversation are ever-present.
That conversation involved her sitting on my roommate's bed in my dorm room and telling me that she was terminal and would not be around to watch me graduate.
Prayer, if it works, seems to work for only the select few, and if there's one thing I know, I'm not half as worthy as my mother when it comes to belonging to that group. So to me, prayer doesn't feel like an honest solution for my situation. It makes no more sense than random DNA picking me to be tumor-prone from birth, and that's why I have to stick with what I know.
My friends and my family care. You care enough to read what I write here, and you care enough to support me with comments and song links when I'm wallowing in my own self-pity on Facebook. You care enough to send me quilt blocks even though you have never met me. You care enough to mail me funny hats, pretty fabric for head scarves, homemade cookies to tempt me to eat. You care enough to send me cards, some of you every week, some of you every chemo cycle, some of you every once in a blue moon.
You care enough to pray for me when I don't have enough faith to pray for myself.
And that is what keeps me going, even when I have a tough day like today.