The last three weeks, my family and I have been operating in a deep sense of trepidation. In the past 12 hours, I have experienced some things in the lifting of that worry that I don’t want to forget.
Three weeks ago, I received a phone call saying they had found a mass in my lungs from a fairly routine chest xray, and that I needed to get a CT scan done as soon as possible. That was on a Friday night at 5pm, on a holiday weekend. Boo! The road since then has been a very, very difficult one as they have run test after test, not wanting to pierce my lung for a biopsy if it could be avoided. Each successive test showed more indicators of cancer. I was facing the very real possibility that I had that dreaded word…. cancer. Further, I wasn’t facing it alone, as my son is all too wise and empathetic for his years, and knew what was going on.
After a phone call yesterday clearing me, saying that the mass was benign and that we would continue to follow up and watch it but that the concern had passed, my son asked me, “why was I SOOOO worried about the scan results, mama?”
The word Cancer is scary to anyone. Let’s be honest.
However, it took his father before he was even one, so my response was, “because, my love, that word has a very difficult reality for us. We know the depths of what it can mean, and that’s a really scary word to us because it’s already taken someone we love.”
When we hear the word cancer, it sends a tingle down anyone’s spine! When you have to face it for someone you love, the majority of people go straight to “no, it’s not cancer” or “they can beat this!” and we find strength in the thought and knowledge that it is all going to be fine. We have to believe that. Because, if we don’t believe it and the worst can happen to them, then it can happen to us too.
I know this sentiment well, because I have done it many times over and found myself in the same mindset. Honestly, it is a wonderful thing – it bolsters all the good energy put toward the “black void” and pushes back the fear, the negative, etc. It creates a support network and faith even when the person going through it might not have any of their own to call upon. I have been that emotional and verbal strength for many. However, I experienced something in the past several weeks that I don’t want to forget, because I think it is important (and it’s the kind of thing to slip away along with the worry).
When it’s YOU hearing those words, “We think it’s cancer,” you go through a whole different experience! I am sure that it is slightly different for everyone who goes through it, and depending on how it unfolds, I am sure everyone goes through the different emotions in different orders and speeds. I guess what I don’t want to forget is how it rocked my world in a way that made me feel so very alone (even though I wasn’t).
Everyone around me preached, “you’ll be fine” and “stay positive” and “lighting won’t strike twice.” Although there was not a single thought in my mind that I would die (that just wasn’t an option!), and even though I was actually pulling off an magician’s trick of being positive in the middle of it all, …. It seemed to me like I was the only one who understood that it wasn’t just positive thinking that was needed! There was a battle that had to be prepared for! There was armor that had to be donned and mental preparations.
I had to come to a place of acceptance that it could genuinely be cancer. Maybe it’s silly or ridiculous to have jumped to that conclusion before hearing results, but I don’t think so. When you have to wait for 3 weeks between insurance approvals and scheduling and tests and results, you have a LOT of time for your brain to go through all sorts of things! That’s 500 hours of wondering if your life is about to turn upside down and trying to figure out how you are going to handle it.
Knowing, as I do, what a cancer journey looks like – physically, emotionally, mentally – I had no choice but to at least let my head and heart come to terms with the fact that the doctor could walk through that door and confirm the worst. I am not being dramatic. Just very real. I had to accept it. Grieve it.
In accepting it, I had to prepare for it. I had to allow the emotions to take residence for a bit, mull around in my head, and then I had to find a way to climb on top of that hill of emotion. I had to get to the place where I was ready for it, I had to accept it and then determine that I could beat it. That I wouldn’t lie down quietly and die.
I was so damn scared.
And, incredibly mad. Pissed in fact.
But, because everyone around me was doing their job of staying positive and supportive, I felt alone in those feelings. Like there wasn’t anyone who could understand. I imagine that’s how it feels to go through cancer. Damn Lonely.
Even when you have an army of support around you. Even when you have so many wonderful people holding you up, and giving you strength. I can now at least understand a little more of how alone you feel on that journey because the journey you have to take separates you from those around you. I don’t want to forget that!
Today, I have a new lease on life. I can find my footing again and know that up is up and the ground is steady. But, I don’t want to forget how it felt to face it head on, and I want to remember that I needed someone simply to understand that I had a different journey than they did. I needed someone to comprehend how damn scared I was and let that be ok. I didn’t need them to change their position of positive support and bolstering me, but simply understand it.
I want to end with something someone wise told me in the midst of this….
Fear is simply our minds way to protect us. A preparation.
Anger, however, never a primary emotion. It is always a secondary emotion. It comes from some sort of hurt or injury – physical, emotional, etc… and therein, we have a choice every time anger shows up. We can choose to be 1) the victim – to allow anger to take hold and say “woe is me” this is happening TO me and let the feeling of being mistreated and unfairly dealt be our focus…. or….. 2) the conqueror – the one who climbs up on top of the emotions that flood in and take control of our lives and make a choice to be IN CONTROL wherein anger has no hold and no ability to reside because we are the ones who are in charge.