Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Shameful Secret

 I heard that a friend was dealing with breast cancer, and for the second time. Although I made the appropriate shocked expression and the correct 'what can we do?' noises, what was going on in the inside was completely different.  I'm ashamed to admit that. 

I asked my questions, delicately, trying not to seem intrusive. "It's been quite a while since her first diagnosis..." and the answer came. "2003, I think..." 

And my mind  clicked like a calculator, Nearly 20 years. 6 years before me.

"She's guite positive and upbeat, the strongest woman I know," I was told. 

"Was it caught early?" This last question asked with bated breath, because, because, because, I am an absolute ASS about making those appointments, about keeping up with them, my illogical mind assuring me that if I just don't think about it, it won't happen again. 

"Is there anything she needs? Anything that we can do?" I really am making all the appropriate sounds. 

Inside, I was taut and watchful, once again. 

My exterior is not mirroring my true feelings. Role playing is familiar to me. I've done it all my life. When cancer came along, it was quite a stutter step in my life. Never saw that curve ball coming, but I chose the role of an optimisist, and I played it well, for everyone in my life. On the last day of radiation, they march you to a bell that you ring. Everyone cheers. Everyone claps. Treatment is finished. Hurrah. 

My face was happy that day in keeping with my chosen role, but inside, what I felt was...well...I don't know how to describe it. I didn't feel like it was over. "Your cancer, unfortunately, is a type of cancer that has a tendency to break off and travel in the bloodstream," I had been told when I asked about recurrence. I took that knowledge and buried it deep because I didn't know what else to do with it. 

As the years passed (unbelievably 14 years of them), I thought about cancer less and less, except,..today, I am thinking about my friend. Selfishly, I am also thinking about myself. 

No one knows. Don't rat me out. 


22 comments:

  1. Cancer s a very difficult situation. You are not in control . Cancer is in control although there are winners it still terrifies us. Much success to you in your journey.

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  2. I imagine that after 20 or 14 years you deserve to feel safe but that b@stard C doesn't always go quietly. I understand your fears and no, it is not selfish to think about yourself as well as your friend.

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  3. Well, how could you NOT think of yourself as well? Seems perfectly reasonable to me, and in fact I'm sure your friend would agree. (But maybe keep up those checkups, as nerve-wracking as they must be.)

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  4. You were dealing with cancer when I first "met" you here. Has it really been 14 years??

    I believe your thoughts are entirely normal. I can be an avoider myself, but really.... you need to keep up with your checkups. (said with love and concern)

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  5. That is the nature of it - since my diagnosis, another friend is going through it - although her diagnosis is far more sinister - triple negative and everything bar the kitchen sink being thrown at it. It is but human nature to reflect on ourselves also at such times. I am pretty sure that in amongst the thoughts for yourself, you also had sympathy for her situation.

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  6. Once cancer touches your life, it's impossible not to have it always in the back of your mind. Your friend's situation brings those feelings and fears to the forefront. Hope she does well!

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  7. I had breast cancer in 2016, one year after my husband passed away with cancer. The doctor said it was caused by stress. I don't know how he came to that conclusion. I had surgery and then radiation. I see the doctor every year for my check up and mammo, so far, I have gotten good checkups. I am due this month to do all the yearly things that women go through.

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  8. Sweetie, make a check-up appointment. The devil you know, you can fight and don’t have to worry about sneaking up on you.

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  9. I can imagine that it really hit home to you. Now, please go and do whatever it is that you need to do.

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  10. Not selfish at all. Put your mind at rest and go get that checkup.

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  11. It is good to think of yourself while you are also thinking of her. Schedule your checkup. Stay safe!

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  12. How could you NOT compare your poor friend to your own history? I'm so sorry you went through that Deb, I had 2 female friends in the 1990s who were dealt the breast cancer card, one made it and the other didn't. I'm sure you were very kind & thoughtful in your responses, and that's wonderful it's been 14 years.

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  13. Do whatever you must, Deb.
    My mother died of breast cancer.
    I haven't.

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  14. You're not selfish at all. How could you not think of your own cancer? I didn't realize that you'd had breast cancer. Go and get your mammo. Listen to me, I haven't had a mammo in five years. I'll go too.

    I think once you've had cancer, it would be difficult to ever trust your body again. Denial is how we cope, how we keep getting up every morning.

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  15. I hope you do go and get a check up as everyone says.
    There are still too many people getting cancer despite all the research and improvements in treatment.

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  16. Get the checkup....pirate here, had prostate cancer treatment 9 years ago...he has regular blood tests, now annually unless his levels misbehave.....he is always under their radar now. Thankfully

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  17. I get it, the "out of sight, out of mind" approach. However, you SHOULD be thinking about yourself. As you intuited, catching these things early is the best case scenario. Please make the appointment, and then make the next one while you're checking out of the doctor's office.

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  18. I was largely ignorant of cancer until it took my mom. Since then, I think about it quite often, especially since I've read that 1 in 4 people will have it in their lifetime. I think it is impossible to know that fact and not turn your focus inward when you hear about someone else's battle with cancer.

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  19. It isn't at all selfish to think about yourself. It's a scary thing to go through and having done it once, you will always worry about it happening again. Just be as supportive of your friend as you can.

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  20. Best relief will be when you go for your mammogram. I had one form of b.c. 20 yrs. ago followed by chemo, radiation, & medication for 5 yrs. Ten yrs. later I had kidney cancer - surgery. Nothing else needed. January 2020 found a lump in opposite breast & went through 2 yrs. of treatment for a totally different breast cancer - beginning w/ Letrozole to shrink tumor. Hospitals were postponing surgeries due to Covid. First time had genetic testing to discover I indeed carried the gene with a predisposition to heredity cancers. Post treatment: Also keeping eye on uterine cancer based on x-rays. SO, PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF NOW. DO IT FOR YOURSELF & YOUR FAMILY. Hugs. Regina from the base of the mini-mountain in Maine.

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  21. Oh that's a brave and interesting post, for I sense its really its about the way our deepest fears can be triggered - and how they can be overwhelming despite any reasoning or objectivity on likelihood, context, whatever. This happens to me - a lot less than it used to, but sometimes something will trigger anxiety and its almost debilitating. I know EXACTLY what you mean about role playing to hide it... and how hard that is to pull off.
    I've learned that, in my case at least, the thing about these incidents is that the fears they trigger are founded of traumas of one sort or another. They may not seem traumatic now, but they were at the time and we still carry that 'memory' with in us.
    Take care and don't beat yourself up, as they say.

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  22. Not shameful or selfish, just human. I'm having my yearly mammogram today as a matter of fact as it's always scheduled during my birthday month. A gift of peace of mind. And yes, next year's appointment will be scheduled before I leave the building. Make the call friend, one less thing to worry about is a very good thing.

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