Housekeeping and Words

So, this post is a lot of housekeeping.

First, I need to apologize to you if you are close to me and found out about my cancer via reading my blog. I know that's not the way you would have chosen and a few people have told me how much they hate that. I get it and I'm sorry.

But here's the thing: I process by writing.  I'm a writer, and as long as I'm writing, it means things are not dire. There is hope and I'm working to find it. As long as I'm writing, it means the essential part of me is doing just fine. By way of contrast, the events that led to the end of my marriage left me so wounded and heartbroken that I didn't have words for a long time. That was bad. (Seriously, that was baaaaad.) I have all kinds of words and discoveries about having breast cancer. That's actually a really good sign. But I get it--we all process things differently and I am truly sorry if you felt left out of my inner circle because I didn't tell you personally. Honestly, I limited telling people to a very few people who are related to me by blood. (Or, you know, my Counseling Skills class' small group because I had class the night I found out and that's like a three-hour counseling session.)

Plus, you know, it's hard to say out loud. I still choke a little when I say it. "I have breast cancer." "I have been diagnosed with breast cancer." That sounds pretty scary. If I write it, it seems more like a plot twist.

Second, it's beginning to sink in that there is a battle ahead of me. I'm taking stock and getting ready. I'm dialing in my optimally healthy vegan diet with no sugar, gluten and limited grains in order to give the cancer as little fuel as possible. I'm CONSIDERING giving up caffeine (realistically not going to happen until after grad school.) I'm trying to get back on the mat, although I won't be able to exercise for 3-5 weeks after the surgeries. I'm trying to build in some better sleep habits, and I am absolutely sitting in meditation every day. I want very much to ramp my pranayama (the yogic breathing techniques) back up--those I can do immediately post-op and the calming meditative effects would be so welcome. I have to find a way to manage my stress better. It's been an inordinately stressful year and I think if I had been more firmly rooted in the meditative practices of yoga, I would have weathered things better. I'm not saying stress caused my cancer. But I think it would be a lot easier to navigate if my practice had been stronger. Let me know if you're interested in taking back your own health and I'll document what I'm doing and put together a Facebook page (or another blog for you Facebook haters) to encourage us. Or I'll just keep going here if that's more helpful.

Third, I am still in voracious research mode. I'm talking to all manners of doctors and naturopaths and doing as much reading as I can. (For a woman who is at the end of her second semester in grad school, this is a surprising amount.) I have said the word breast so many times in the past week-and-a-half that if the NSA really is listening to my telephone conversations, I'm probably on a list somewhere. Right now (and this is subject to change,) it's looking like I will have the lumpectomy and then a week later (if the margins are clear,) I'll have bilateral breast reconstruction and reduction. Both of those surgeries are day surgeries with no hospital stay, so that's good.

And then I'll probably do the radiation, which I will find out more about when I meet with the oncologist.

Fourth, I want to say a lot about the outpouring of love and support and kindness I've encountered through this whole thing. It's been simply breath-taking. That you would open your hearts and take the time to send me cards and notes and presents and flowers...I just feel so held. So blessed. Honestly, if your good wishes could heal me, I would already be well. I don't know how to say thank you, exactly, but I will never forget your unbelievable kindness. I'm so glad to have company on this journey.


This sounds terrible, but when I had a breast cancer scare last year, I held onto the thought that, if I did indeed have breast cancer, at least I would finally get normal size breasts (fake, but normal size). I was going to opt for a B.

I told you, TERRIBLE. But I needed a silver lining.

And YOU KNOW that you can get right back to that mat, if only to lie on your back and focus on your stomach rising and falling as you breathe. Or to do some mild hip stretches. Or whatever your body is needing at the time. Your mat is your friend.
tanita✿davis said…
I dunno - I found out about the death of a friend on Facebook, and then quit.
A blog has considerably less... commercial feeling, though I know if I knew you personally, it might still feel weird. Still - as a fellow scribbler - I concur - while you're writing, you're not in a corner somewhere screaming. A hopeful sign, to be sure.

Unknown said…
THANK YOU, Barb, for talking (writing) about your struggles. My way of coping is to read, and you have a way of sharing in an articulate and open manner, which I find constructive and inspirational. I studied/read/searched obsessively for a solid year (and still am) when diagnosed a year ago with a genetic and ultimately, terminal disease, and it still takes my breath away every single morning when I wake up. Life is HARD, much harder than I ever imagined when I was younger - I had always looked forward to a simpler future and assumed I could count on that. I am so, so sorry you are going through this, but truthfully (and very selfishly), I know that when you write about it, it will help me. You are tremendously gifted, and I am grateful for your words of wisdom. I strive to be as strong as you are.
ccr in MA said…
Well, it's easy for me to say, as someone who wouldn't expect to hear about it any other way, but I can totally understand that. You need to process it however works for you, and you can't put someone else's feelings ahead of that, even if it sounds harsh to say so.
psam ordener said…
I had a cancer scare a several years ago and I held it all in until the results of all the testing were in. No definite "no", just a probably "no" and I've had CAT scans every six months for several years to make certain that there's no change in that mass in my lung. Once I had the "probably no" (because they could not get any cells for biopsy to confirm), I relaxed enough to tell other people, like my husband and kids and the other dance Moms at the studio and the ladies I lunch with every week. The outpouring of love and support was almost enough to heal me completely, if it were possible for such to occur! It's wonderful. It relaxes you. It lessens the stress, and that allows your body to fight the invader instead of the stress. Meditate. Relax. Do yoga. Get a massage. Talk with friends. We may not heal you, but we can support you in the fight.