Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Emotional Side

As I mentioned before, I had the time from Feb. 24-Mar. 1 to digest the fact that Dr. Montgomery had given me a 99% certain diagnosis of breast cancer based on his experience. So by the time the actual results came in, I had gone through my grieving stages and was ready to accept the diagnosis and figure out how to fix it.

During that week, I focused on the words "fight" and "warrior", and I was worried that I'm NOT those things. From the moment I got the "I'm almost certain this is malignant" talk, I was thinking "fix it" and "treat it". That's not ME fighting, that's the doctors doing their jobs for me.

I told this to Paul, and he pointed out that some women (those who would be locked in their rooms with the shades drawn, bawling their eyes out, questioning "Why me?", and waiting for someone to help them) NEED an attitude adjustment. Thus, the pinky-pink ribbon-brigade comes out and tell them to be fighters and warriors.

That helped me realize that I don't need those pep talks. I never stopped living my normal life, and doing so is my way of fighting.

I think the lowest point I had was when I was crazy enough to look up survival rates and saw things like 80%. But wonderful Dr. Cooper pointed out that those statistics include everyone who is diagnosed, and not everyone chooses the most aggressive treatment. For example, someone like me might decide to try a lumpectomy first, or be afraid of losing her hair and avoid chemo. So if we are aggressive, those stats aren’t for us. Dr. Alpert said that she even sees people in her oncology practice who "give up" on their treatment because it makes them feel like crap. So THEY are included in the 20%, and I'm completely the opposite, so I'm not.

My biggest on-going mental freak-out was about the girls’ futures, but I found something in my care package (yes, like when you go to the OB for your first pregnancy and they give you a goodie bag, you do get a “Welcome to Breast Cancer” bag) that helped me out there. It said that a young child who asks “Are you going to die?” has no concept of the long term. Five years is more than their life. So if I just say “No, I’m not going to die today, tomorrow, next week, or next month”, they will be as confident as ever. That’s not saying I’m calm about it, but it just helps me handle the “what ifs” a little better.

Another thing that has helped about telling people my diagnosis is that everyone has a story or two about a best friend, relative, co-worker, etc, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in their 30s or 40s and they've all lived on. Yes, I know there's the other side to the story, but the more I hear about normal people surviving, the easier it is to distance myself from those who do not.

My current worries are (1) getting all of my wonderful helper friends in touch with one another so we can all figure out how we're going to make it through this and (2) avoiding fluke incidents during Friday's surgery. Since I can't do anything about number 2, I think I'll go write an email to my helpers right now.

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