Five years ago, I had breast cancer. To rid myself of it, I had chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy.
Flash forward five years. One day, I noticed a strange, bright red splotch on my breast, the breast where the cancer had been. The doctor did a biopsy of it, and the results came back malignant. It was an angiosarcoma, and the suspected cause was the radiation treatment I’d had five years before. This was a very rare form of cancer that, again, results sometimes from the radiation itself. That which was meant to heal me, made me ill.
On June 10, 2016, I had surgery to remove the cancer.
Fine and dandy. They got clean margins. Then, something awful happened. I was told that I had to have a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread throughout my body. (Nobody told me this beforehand.)
Enter fear, despair and disappointment. Enter the possibility of cancer and, therefore, the possibility of early death.
How am I dealing with this looming cloud of grief that is hanging over my head?
Below are some of my most useful techniques.
I know it’s there, but I push the fear out of my mind. This is kind of like swatting away a nasty fly. You wave your hand, and the pesky insect disappears for a second. Repeat the process ad infinitum.
Cry, cry, cry, worry, worry, worry. You cry until you have bruises under your eyes. The worry makes you physically sick.
Lorazepam and chocolate ice cream. When you can deal with the threat no longer, you pop an Ativan. To your surprise, eating chocolate ice cream with real chocolate pieces does the same thing as the pill does.
My cousin, Mary, volunteers at a hospice. She tells me that she makes ice cream sundaes for the patients every Saturday night. You say you might be in that hospice soon. She tells you she will make you an ice cream sundae every Saturday. You both laugh. Chuckling helps, but also gives you a strange, eerie feeling.
Get so busy that you forget. The house needs cleaned. The laundry needs done. The dinner needs cooked. By engaging in the day-to-day necessities, you somehow fail to remember your situation.
Retail therapy helps everything. You go to JC Penney in search of brown, V-neck, short-sleeved tee shirts. You’ve previously been to every store in a ten-mile radius and haven’t been able to locate them. You find the shirts! Your great retail success wipes out all bad thoughts. Sometimes shopping can cure anything.
Ask God for help. This is my most used technique in dealing with my fear of cancer. Jesus saves. He created the universe. He can save me from metastasis.
Enlist the voices of friends. Dissecting all the ins and outs of the issue with my best buddies is hugely relieving.
Diane, my close friend, also has cancer. Talking to her, who is fighting the same battle I am, is an exquisite balm for the pain I’m feeling. She tells you that she feels that her ship is sinking. I say mine is, too. Sharing this little cliché is like taking Taxol or B17 (depending on your point of view.)
I hang onto any shred of positivity I can find. I found the cancer early on. I had it cut out in its early stages. The cancer was very small and only on the surface of the skin.
I tell myself, “If I have cancer, everything will be OK.” Sometimes, we have to be our own Mom. Coo “Everything will be fine.”
Face reality. Sing “Stop Your Sobbing.” Chrissie Hynde to the rescue.
Writing is my true salvation. Analysis and evaluation, with a bit of humor thrown in, are keys. Hence this little blog post.
In a few days, I’ll know whether I have more cancer in my body or if I’m cancer-free. I’ll discover the answer to the current huge question of my life.
Until then, I’ll continue to use these little strategies to get through the day.
It could be worse. I could be drowning my sorrows in food or alcohol or illicit drugs. But over the years, I’ve developed self-control with what I put into my body.
Ironically, exercise is not on this list. And we all know exercise is an excellent stress killer.
In truth, I’m too weak from the surgery to exercise.
It’s as simple as this: I will keep calm, and employ the techniques above.
What else is a body to do?