Friday, May 18, 2012

Where have you been?

Is that what you want to know?

The sad news is that I've been in angry land. I've been in angry land since the day of my last post.

I realized I was in angry land that day because the sweetest woman in the whole world asked me how I was doing and I jumped on her, all angry-like, telling her she can't be asking me that every time she sees me.

Who does that?

Resident of angry land, that's who.

A few hours later, I was sitting alone in a big room waiting for a faculty meeting to start and that's when it hit me. I am angry.

I am angry I am going through this again.

I am angry because I have to wait to excise the boob that is trying to kill me.

I am angry because I have to wait to find out if the cancer has spread.

I am angry because if it has spread, then this is what is probably going to kill me, not old age. I was okay with that 10 years ago. 10 years ago I was ready to die, even willing.

I am angry because this time I have a child, a precious child, and I am not so ready or willing to die anymore.

I am angry because I had to suffer through the loss of a mother to cancer when I was a child, and I do not want to suffer through what terrible agony my mom must have suffered knowing she was having to leave her girls behind to fend for themselves without her. But more than that, I don't want my child to suffer what I have every day since my own mom died.

There's more that I am angry about, but I really don't want to be a downer.

Have you ever heard of a "downer cow"? The term refers to any cow brought to slaughter that is unable to walk under its own power. Downer cows, by FDA edict, are not allowed to be slaughtered, so workers do everything they can to get the cows to stand up and walk under their own power, from prodding them with electric shocks to powerful waterhose blasts to other incredibly inhumane tactics. For the past ten days, I have felt like both a downer cow and a slaughterhouse worker trying to prod the cow to get up.

I'm exhausted.

By the way, the day after I realized I was in angry land, I apologized to the sweet woman and told her to keep asking how I am.

And now, I'd like to tell you a happy story. Maybe I should have started with that. Oh well. Better late than never.

The day I went to the doc to hear the results of my mammogram, I was supposed to stop at a stranger's house right after to pick up some free stuff. This is something I occasionally do because I participate in a practice called Freecycling. If you've never heard of Freecycle, it's essentially an online organization dedicated to keeping things out of landfills by assisting people in passing stuff along to someone else who wants it instead of throwing it away. To find out who may want it, you join the Freecycle Yahoo group in your local area and post an "OFFER" ad. Or if you're looking for something in particular you can post a "WANTED" ad. Rhett thinks I'm going to be murdered at one of the pick-ups, but so far so good. It's really a cool thing.

Anyhoo, I responded to a woman who was offering a pattern, the fabric, and everything else needed to make a summer skirt. Since I have a hard time finding skirts I like (and that fit right), and since making my own clothes is usually not nearly as cost effective as a good sale but I still kinda' enjoy sewing, I thought this fit the bill. The problem was that after finding out at the appointment that I would have to have a biopsy, I forgot about the pick-up and went on to work. "No-show"s are bad news on Freecycle, so when I got to work and remembered that I forgot, I emailed the person...let's call her tell her I was really sorry. And because I didn't want her to think I was a flake, I told her why I forgot, hoping she would forgive me and still let me pick up the stuff.

Turns out, she forgave me and told me not to worry, as she was a survivor herself.

What a coincidence!

Or was it?

There's a reason I call her Angel. I began thinking of her as an angel shortly after that day.

I asked if I could pick up that night, and she responded that that was fine. We exchanged a few more emails after I picked up, and I realized what a genuinely nice person she was. Through this entire process, what had been most troubling for me was that I didn't know anyone who had had a mastectomy that I could talk to. And that is how I get through things best, by talking to people who have been there before.

So, not-her-real-name-Angel is my Angel because, as it turned out, she has had a bi-lateral mastectomy. She was a sanity lifeline for me as she answered questions and gave freely the advice and counsel I so desperately needed.

I have no doubt that Heavenly Father put her in my path at the very moment I needed her to be there.

(Just so you know, none of that anger was directed at Him. I suppose that's what makes it hard to process through. If only I knew WHO to be angry at.)

Interestingly, just a few days ago, I got back in touch via email with the teacher in whose classroom I did my dissertation 8 years ago. I had contacted her months ago to guest lecture in my class but then never followed up with her. She was contacting me to follow up, and in the process of our email exchange, I began to remember that she also had had breast cancer and a bi-lateral mastectomy. I asked her about it and told her why I was asking. I have a lunch date with her soon, another person Heavenly Father put in my path to help me out.

Guess what her name is.



  1. Hey there....Again, I am so sorry you are having to go through this. I know you must feel angry. I totally think that's how I'd feel. Angry. Scared. Determined. Angry that I have to be those things. I hope you know I'm thinking of you every day. I'm glad you've found some angels close by to help you through it. You know I love you!

  2. And, throughout all you are dealing with, you are helping me. I haven't taken a full breath since my little sister's diagnosis. Your blog has helped me; knowing you has helped me and will help me help her. My little sister also has young children at home; this is a scary time. I do believe that anger energizes and moves us. I find (as long as I can keep myself from kicking or throwing anything...) anger to be most productive!

  3. Oh, Erika, it's great that anger helps you. For me, it's a time and energy sinkhole and it colors my entire being. I'm not a great person to begin with, so being angry does NOT make me any more appealing to be around (just ask my 5-year-old)!

  4. husband does sigh a lot around me...!


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