14. Meeting your new "tribe"
I have to tip my proverbial hat to UCLA yet again for the existence of the SImms/ Mann Center , one of the coolest things they do for pre-surgical patients.
It's a free class about what to expect in reconstruction.
While I didn't expect to learn a whole lot , because I spent four hours on our way home from Vegas reading "Dr Susan Love's Breast Book" , which the New York TImes rightly called "The bible for women with breast cancer." (Hey, when my doctor tells me to do something I do it.)
What I got, for the first time, was a chance to sit in a room with women who were actually in the same place I was. As soon as you start telling people you have Breast Cancer, suddenly you realize how many people you know have gone through it, or know people who have. At this point it effects 1 in every 8 women.
But being in that room allowed me to see how my fear compare to others.. There was a lot of worry about hair loss. One woman had finished chemo already and was talking the virtues of "Cold Cap Systems" for not losing her 'doo. There was lots of concern about how the kids will deal with it, which, again, doesn't affect me, and an uncommon amount of the worry about how cancer affects other people.
It was astounding really. As a group, we seemed to be so much more concerned with the people around us then we were about ourselves.
Socially, women are taught that they are to be the caregivers. So to be taken care is almost embarrassing, if not unthinkable. Specifically, as a self sufficient woman, asking for help can feel like failure, because vulnerability is just fucking scary.
As we went around the room, and I took my turn to speak, I realized while it is lovely to know women who've gone through breast cancer, there is an automatic bonding when you meet someone who is in the process of going through it at the same time you are.
Because your fear is her fear. Her hope, your hope. And it felt good.
Some much needed bonding, with a bunch of soon-to-be-bald strangers.