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.