A year of tests, procedures and screening will be coming to an end (hopefully) Tuesday morning as I head into St. Joseph’s Hospital for a lumpectomy. The past year has taught me a great deal about myself, and about how to face whatever path is set in front of me. I won’t pretend there haven’t been times when I wanted to give up, to walk away and let nature ‘take its course’ (whatever that might be). Of course, there has been fear and frustration, worry and sadness that goes along with finding out that you might and do have cancer. But, even though there have been times when I have been completely alone, going to appointments, MRI’s, ultrasounds, mammograms, biopsies, surgeon meetings… I know that I have not been completely alone throughout this process, this journey.
My friend Donna gave me some excellent advice about halfway through this. She told me that I needed a team of my own, a group of friends and family to rely on depending on how things were going to go and what the results of the tests were going to be. It is true, it does take a team to be able to get through this, and I have only just started.
When I was a kid, I used to play competitive softball. I was a pitcher. My younger sister was the catcher. My dad was the coach. My friends were all my team mates. I have never forgotten what it felt like to be part of a winning team. We won because we all learned to work together, played our best games, hit as many homeruns as we could, scored runs and I struck out a lot of batters. No one person wins the game. The Team wins.
I have never been one to ask for help. My oldest has often compared me to a tank, because of my ability to power through whatever life has thrown at me. I have learned, since beginning this journey, how to ask for help when I need it. Sometimes, I have asked, and the person hasn’t been able to follow through, but that is ok. I asked, and because I did, I have been able to ask again, and make things work. I have adapted my ‘tankness’ to include the team. I have two captains – my two offspring – who remind me constantly about my own courage and strength. Having them with me to cheer me on does make a huge difference.
I have never had surgery before – and the seventeen procedures I have had to three different hospitals during the past year has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. In a strange way, the events of the past year has given me a new found confidence in myself that I have never had before. I have a few ideas why that is, but the bottom line is, I have finally learned to balance my needs to be taken care of with my need to take care of others. In addition to learning how to ask for help, I have also learned to let go and learned to say no. I have also learned to stop letting other people decide what I love and want to do.
There certainly has been no shortage of opinion and advice shared with me. It has been interesting/ amazing how many people have come forward with their ideas of how things must be and how to “cure” this disease, everything that I have been doing wrong and what I should be doing, eating, not eating, taking to become healthy. Having watched and cared for my stepmother as she faced breast cancer five years ago and sadly lost her battle, I am very aware of the challenges, the options, and what treatments are out there (traditional and non-traditional). What I have learned is that everyone’s experience, everyone’s path dealing with this disease is different and unique. There is very little duplication. What I have had to do does in no way diminish another woman’s (or man’s) experience and vice versa. I have spoken with many woman while we have been waiting our turns at the Breast Clinic or in Radiology or Nuclear Medicine about what their experience has been. Each person has told a different story. We are all unique fighting this common “enemy”. Different but the same.
Tuesday morning will be my first lumpectomy (and hopefully my last). I have allowed myself to be worried and afraid. I have allowed myself to be sad. I have asked for help and eventually have found it. I have prepared my kids and my home for the days following the surgery. Anything else that follows, I will face with a full heart because I know that I am moving forward, and taking each day as it comes.
Most of all though, I thank my team. You are near and far, physically present sometimes but mostly always in spirit. I appreciate all of the good wishes, prayers, kind words and positive thoughts being sent my way. We can do this 🙂