Learning that you have cancer affects you emotionally in ways that are hard to explain. After the biopsy in my left breast, everyone seemed optimistic that I didn’t have cancer. I didn’t prepare to hear any bad news, but I felt anxious to hear the news. Until I actually had to hear it, that is.
I was in the middle of cleaning my bedroom on a January Friday morning. My phone rang, I saw it was from my oncologist’s office, so I took a deep breath before I answered. My doctor sounded very happy, and my nerves instantly calmed. No one could give bad news in such a pleasant voice. He said that he had the results from my biopsy. Then he said, “I’m afraid that the margins weren’t clear, and they found a little cancer.” After that, I somehow managed to schedule an appointment for Monday to discuss the next steps before we hung up.
I asked my toddler son to go play in a different room for a minute. My world just shifted into a dimension I didn’t plan to be. How could he deliver such terrible news sounding so completely happy? Tears, unexpectedly, sprang to my eyes. I just mumbled to myself, “I have cancer.”
Looking back on this day, I am surprised I was so hard on myself. I couldn’t stop crying no matter how much I tried. I’m the girl who is strong and can handle anything that comes my way. My first husband passed away when my daughter turned six months old. I had overcome many challenges. Cancer would just be another bump in the road, so why would I just cry? But I did, and it was happening out of my control.
As I sat processing, I knew that I had a support team of family and friends waiting for the results. I realized that I probably couldn’t deliver the news over the phone. Whoever I called would probably jump to the conclusion that I’m dying because I was crying. I didn’t even know anything about what stage cancer I had! So I decided to text the news instead.
The thought of ruining their day also made me cry, but I knew it needed to be done. I don’t remember what order I texted people but I kept it simple. I really wanted to text my husband. Actually, I wanted to drive to his school, hide in his arms and cry. But he had been working so hard in nursing school that I really didn’t want to distract him. I didn’t even text him right away because I couldn’t see myself ruining his school day.
My dad, sister and brother practically begged me to talk to them on the phone. I just couldn’t do it yet. My mom, unfortunately, was on important teleconferences all day and hadn’t seen any of our messages until later in the afternoon. Everyone seemed to want to come to my house and be with me. Usually I would love the visitors, but I couldn’t see them yet. It was really weird for me to feel this way.
I went to play with my son and I tried to salvage the day. I felt relieved that my son would most likely not remember any of the days ahead. I just stared at him and at this point, I prayed that I’d be around to watch him grow. My mind could barely wander to my 9-year-old daughter. She and I have a strong connection and an unbreakable bond. She’s very intelligent and knows about cancer. A few students from her school had unfortunately passed away from cancer, so telling her was what I dreaded the most.
Eventually, I did text my husband and was able to talk to my family on the phone. I managed to eat some lunch, and I smiled at my son being goofy. But the news of cancer looms over you like a category 4 hurricane about to blow uninvited into your life. No one can totally make you feel better. I knew I had to muster all the strength in the universe to deal with this. One breath at a time.
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