Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda
I didn’t die, I know the suspense was killing you.
Once I found out that my cancer was not life threatening, information relayed to me by a gastroenterologist who looked like my HUGE celebrity crush, country singer Toby Keith, I took a deep breath and relaxed, but quickly things got chaotic.
One thing I learned about cancer is that everyone has an opinion about it. I became inundated with advice, from family, friends, and my house cleaner ( the one who tried to dry her wet pack of cigarettes in my microwave), the “you should’s,” came flying at me like bugs towards a trucker's windshield.
· Get a mastectomy.
· Get a double mastectomy.
· See my doctor, he/she is the best.
· Get chemo.
· Avoid chemo.
· Get a lumpectomy.
· Have positive attitude.
· Be grateful it’s not worse.
· Avoid soy.
· Never use a microwave. (Obviously that one was not from my house cleaner).
Under the guidance of an amazing breast specialist my mom found (apparently she wasn't having Dr. Toby the butt doctor operate on her daughter’s breast), I opted for lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation. Due to my age, and the fact I was, as my radiologist Dr. Lee put it, “a skinny white woman,” my physical recovery process went quite smoothly. But emotionally it was a challenge.
I was overwhelmed with all the advice, worrying and scurrying and offers for help. It just felt too chaotic and it made me anxious and I didn’t like (and still don’t) people worrying about me. It was difficult for me to ask for help but the hard fact was that physically, I needed some. With a toddler still in a crib, a doctor prescribed heavy lifting ban, and daily radiation appointments, I just couldn’t realistically manage it on my own. I felt helpless and that feeling of helplessness frustrated me.
Not only did I not ask for help, I resisted it. I told my family I didn’t need anyone to come with me to my radiation appointments and I went alone, I refused my mom when she tried to come over to help me lift Brennan from his crib and instead I rigged a system where I could do it myself, I told my friends they didn’t need to bring me food, to which my friend Polly said “whatever, I’ll be there at three to watch the boys and I’m bringing you chicken fajitas.” She can be bossy like that.
I also told my husband to go back to work. So, he did. Yes, he did. He was restless being home and his impatience made it hard for me to relax, so I told him I had everything covered. That left me, just days after surgery, to entertain, change, and bathe two toddlers, to arrange childcare while I went to radiation treatments, and to manage people who popped in to check on me. I felt alone, even with all of the love and support swirling around me, not to have my husband just be there just hurt. But then again, I didn’t ask him for help, I never said, I’m scared, I’m tired, I need you, please stay with us. I felt I shouldn’t have had to ask, he should just want to do it Then again maybe I should have just insisted he stay home and help me but instead I just turned further inward, determined to prove to myself, and those around me there was no need to worry, I had everything under control all the while, I was unconsciously laying the groundwork for what was about to come next.