43. Dear Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Sister...or things 2018 taught me about being a patient, and being patient.
Dear Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patient,
If you are reading this I imagine you have already traveled through the litany of emotions, ranging from:
I’m too young for this.
I don’t wanna die.
I don’t have time for this.
What about work?
What about my kids?
What about my hair!
It’s understandable. A diagnoses that has so many triggers, it might as well be an Octopus’ gun.
But I know how you feel. I do.
And while you may not believe anyone else has had these exact feelings, they have. But it’s not a contest. And first you need to take the space to feel them yourself. Because even though someone has experienced what you are about to go through, they can’t live in your skin, so it’s gonna be a pretty lonely place to be for a bit.
But don’t worry. The “flip side “ is when you tell “the world” about your diagnoses, you will be managing so many people that you will soon crave the solitude of when it was your secret alone.
Remember when your stomach dropped when you heard the words “You have Cancer”? When you tell the people you care about, the same thing will happen to them. It’ll be different, of course, as it’s not their diagnosis, but in a way it’s a little worse. You have the small amount of power to make decisions about your treatment, what you will do, when and who will treat you... They only have their feelings, which are dictated by their experience with the “Big C.”
And upon letting the “cat out of the bag”, if you choose to do so, you will be literally ONSLAUGHTED with LOVE. I know it sound not so bad, right? But bear in mind, Love presents itself in many ways.
And sometimes those “ways”… frankly feel like a punch in the throat.
There will be people who…
Openly weep for you, even more than you have allowed yourself to cry, because feeling helpless in the face of someone you love is awful. (Having to assure those people that you will be fine may be even more taxing.)
Tell you they are there for “whatever you need,” which is amazing and well intentioned, but can add a whole new load of stress when they keep asking, and “thank you “ isn’t a good enough answer. (The easiest solution is to have tasks for them so there is something physical they can do. I chose a semi-constant request for“photos of kids” and “soup.”)
Designate themselves as your “sterilization warriors” and set out to make certain that you are free from outside germs, as much as they can without literally sticking you in a plastic bubble.
Assure you adamantly “You will be fine!” as you see the fear of mortality in their eyes, a fear you can only ease by being the kind of patient they need you to be.
Tell you four days before your Friday Surgery to “Change the Date!” because despite having the heads of the department working as your surgical team, that even the top Doctors hurry through their Friday procedures so they can get a jump on the weekend, which is where the “B” team works just FYI.
Offer up nutritional advice and “detoxing “ supplements, usually based on heresay or a snippet of “promising information” that has taken out of context to help prove the theory that the oncologists who have spent their lives trying to cure this ugly disease are actually just “ Big-Pharma con-men who are getting rich on your illness when the cure can be found at the corner health food store”. (I know you think I exaggerate here, but buckle your seatbelt, I guarantee you will meet them.)
Will insist on introducing you to someone who had some type of Breast Cancer and beat it, because in their mind you are all the same.
Will call you out of the blue, after not talking to you for years, ask what happened, and wait just long enough to hear the word “cancer” to launch into a 45 minute monologue telling you what you need to do, who you need to see, how you should see a therapist because they “Know how you are”.
Check in to see if you are okay, and revel in your confession that it’s been hard for you, because “they knew you were handling this too well, and it must have been a front all along.”
Listen briefly and then try to “fix you” with healthy supplements that they coincidentally are selling, and think you have a good “platform “ to sell too.
Call while you are in the hospital, insisting they will “fly out on a moments notice,“ and when you thank them and try to gently say that visitors will be too hard right now, then fully disappear.
And then there will be the people who
Bring you an endless trail of soup cooked with expertise and love.
Present you with a bag of “Seven Days of Cozy Pj’s.”
Help expertly style and select wigs.
Cover your classes without asking why.
Simply check in to say they are thinking of you, and ask how you are feeling.
Send you long old school emails, talking about life and other random things, cause they know that talking about cancer gets boring really fast.
Call to just go on a walk or just “hang out,” because, like I just said, talking about Cancer gets really boring, really fast.
Keep inviting you to events because they realize a cancer diagnoses doesn’t mean you are in quarantine.
Check in from across the country and the world , just to let you know you are in their thoughts
Have had a similar diagnoses, to whom you will instantly bond and find a wealth of support and advice.
Miraculously, silently come to your aid without provocation, mostly because their connection to you is so very authentic.
All of these people will present themselves in one way or another, and as vastly different as their intentions may feel, because, believe me, sometimes it feels like you are being assaulted, the thing you need to try to remember is they all come from LOVE. Cause there is no one “perfect thing to do “, and people are trying their best. Because , THATS. WHAT. MATTERS.
So I gently remind you, friend, to try and “hold space “ for people and their “loving ways” as you “hold space “ for yourself. You will know innately what energy will serve you now and what won’t .
Honor that, yet do your best to acknowledge those whose energy doesn’t serve you and meet it with kindness, as it’s intention is good.
One small upside of this diagnosis is the clarity it brings and how your POV changes regarding yourself, your relationships, and how you move through this world.
Know that LOVE is LOVE, and it is a blessing. Take a breathe and realize it takes a lot of forms, but at the end of the day it really is the thing that helps see you through.