Must Be A Mistake
Life loves to throw a curveball. Which is an issue for me as I’m a planner. I like structure and routine, and I don’t like surprises, unless it is a tropical trip or jewelry, (I’m over controlled not crazy). Back in 2005 the tension between Marc and I over his drinking left me feeling very shaky and uncertain. In trying to control his behavior, I felt out of control in my own, and I was focused on trying to find some balance, so focused in fact, I never saw what was coming, a surprise wrapped not in a little blue box, but rather in the shape of a phone call.
NOTE: Instead of rewriting this part of the story, I am including an excerpt of a piece I wrote in 2017 while treatment for anorexia as I tried to figure out how, as my treatment team suggested, this diagnosis was related to my eating disorder.
“Hi Sherri, this is Dr. Broms,” my doctor announced when I answered the phone, “is this a good time for you to talk?” I was instantly on alert, as his medical assistant was always the one to call with test results.
“Of course,” I answered despite having a backyard of four year olds splashing in a plastic pool and my friend about to disclose the latest neighborhood gossip.
“I hate to have to tell you this over the phone but your biopsy came back. It shows a malignancy.”
I was caught off guard. The ultrasound I had the week before was just a precaution he had told me, probably another benign cyst in my breast. I had many over the years and being only thirty six years old with no family history of cancer, I wasn't concerned.
“What does that mean?” I asked trying to keep my voice steady, hoping this was a misunderstanding.
“You have breast cancer.”
It was a warm, sunny afternoon and I could feel the perspiration run down my back, but it had nothing to do with the weather. My legs felt weak and I collapsed into the chair nearest to me.
“Mommy come watch me,” I heard Dylan’s little voice calling from the backyard.
“Are you sure of this?” I asked the doctor, holding out hope he could be wrong.
“Yes.” He responded solemnly.
“What stage of cancer?” I asked, not ready to resign myself that this was even true.
“I don’t have that information,” he patiently replied.
The real question was on the tip of my tongue. It was what I really wanted to know and was trying to muster the courage to ask.
“Am I going to die?” I croaked, my throat so dry as if I hadn’t had water in days.
A long pause that seemed to last for ten minutes but in reality, was probably closer to ten seconds hung in the air like a heavy fog.
“I have scheduled an appointment with a specialist on Monday at four, he will be able to tell you more, this is just out of my area of expertise.” WTF, Monday?! I have to wait until Monday?! I screamed silently to myself.
I dreaded the end of the call, as if the finality was a way of accepting I had cancer but there was nothing left to say. I thanked him and hung up the phone and allowing the fear to burst forth in a flood of uncontrollable sobbing tears.
My friend generously offered to stay and watch the kids while I tried to maintain some composure. I called my husband, my mom and my best friend, then I did what any rational person with fifty-five hours to sit and think about the fact they have cancer would do. I Googled. The “what if’s” ran through my head all weekend, the biggest being, what if I never see my kids grow up? What if they have to go through life never having me as their mom?
I stood in my bedroom later that evening, staring at my face in the dresser mirror. The vibrant laughing woman, whom just hours before, was playing in a plastic pool was gone and the woman in the mirror looked old and tired. Hair askew and bags under her eyes that could carry a lifetime of worry. I starting imagining the cancer inside me growing by the minute, like a little dried sponge that was being exposed to water and expanding with every drop. I wanted it out and out now. A flip switched inside me and I felt a little burning ember starting to flame and I said, “God, I will do whatever it takes to survive this. Anything. Just let me live through this so I can raise my kids. Please let me be with my kids.” Those words are etched in my memory. I have never wanted something so badly.