Many years ago my husband was hospitalized (for the 3rd time in as many years) with bleeding ulcers. I was in the ICU waiting room at around midnight when the resident came to talk to me. Did I understand what was going on? Did I have any questions? Evidently, she felt that I must be stupid or something because she wasn’t getting the usual vibes from a patient’s spouse. After she began to press me a bit, I looked her in the eye and started asking my questions.
Was he going to die? Well, no.
What was the worst thing that was going to happen that night? They might not be able to stop the bleeding and would have to do emergency surgery.
Was that dangerous? No, not really, but it was surgery.
So I sort of let her have it. I had a six month old baby at home, a full time job, and this was my third trip to the rodeo. My response, as reserved as it was, was fully appropriate for someone who knew what was going on with his condition, who already had a good relationship with the doctors, and who knew that her husband would get through this just as he had the last two times.
The point of all this is that I am struggling to know how to react to the breast cancer. For the most part, I have been pretty cool and collected. I cannot change the fact of having cancer: I can only control my response to it. So I am very calmly talking to medical staff, and doing research, and asking about things that are new to me, like infarctive necrosis. But I wonder sometimes if I am taking all of this seriously enough? I think about next steps, and the decisions I have to make, and then I will go off on a tangential thought about wills and funerals and how will they know how to pack up the Christmas decorations properly if I’m not around? I think surgery and maybe chemo, then I wander over to hospital beds in the house and hospice and will I ever travel to Brazil again?
I know that I am being heavily influenced by the fact that I lost two very dear friends to breast cancer, both of them fighting long and painful fights. Intellectually, I can understand the odds and recurrence rates and how serious of a case my medical team seems to think it is and the fact that my friends were both diagnosed in their 30’s not their 50’s, but emotionally, I am still afraid of the worst. There’s the old story of someone going in for cancer surgery, and the doctor finding them riddled with cancer, with the only solution to sew them back up and send them home to die. Sheesh, I had some pretty morbid family stories growing up.
This is crazy thinking. I can get through this, and I can beat this, one breath, one step, and one day at a time.