Friday, November 19, 2010

God Is Twisted

This is a true story: About two months ago, I was driving in my car, talking, praying in a way, to God. I do this every now and again. I was bummed about not having much to write about these days. I lamented, in fact. I'm too dang happy to be a tortured writer, I said in so many words. I prayed for stories, creativity, a light, inspiration and words.

About three weeks ago, God answered my prayers. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And, this is my story.

The Diagnosis
Just after my diagnosis, I was, of course, crushed in a way I've never been crushed before. Death, it seemed, was paying me a visit, at the very least. I had sensed it in a way. Prayed a "just-in-case" prayer when I'd driven by "I'm Still Me" breast cancer boutique on my way home from work, gotten the heebies when I eyed The Lake Manassas Cancer Center. Sometimes when life seems so sweet I wonder, just how long is this going to last? Forever, I hoped.

But, this damn lump in my boob was getting bigger. When I went to my ob/gyn just 3 months ago, they assured me it was nothing. I'd just had a baby after all. A gorgeous, perfect baby girl, mind you, with a "doesn't it make you jealous" delivery and a "doesn't it make you sick how skinny I am after I just had a baby" body. My doctor did send me across the way to the ultrasound specialists, but they confirmed the same. Just a lactating adenoma. Not to worry. But, I did worry. And, as I worried, it was growing, and starting to hurt.

When I went to the breast surgeon in October, she did a low-key ultrasound in her office just to get an idea of what we might be dealing with. "It doesn't look suspicious," and it moves around, she said. "It feels a little bouncy, so let's try to aspirate it and see what happens." Ew, a needle in my boob. I can't think of anything more enticing. Nothing came out. Onto the biopsy, but I'd have to come back so my insurance could approve it first. Two days later, and a crazy contraption was shaving cancerous cells off of the golf ball in the top left side of my breast, and only a few days after that, it was confirmed.

That day when I went in to get the verdict, I scoured the nurse's face to see if she knew something, I studied her body language looking for clues. She seemed removed. Not a good sign I thought. And as soon as the doc walked in, I could feel the weight in the room. She touched my leg and said, "It's positive." I said what the fuck, and she confessed she'd said the same thing when she got her hands on the pathology report. We were both shocked. Less than five minutes later, she was giving me options, drawing sketches of boobs on paper, incision marks, chemo, radiation, oncologist. Stop! I can't listen to all of this right now. I have to tell you your options, she said. The prognosis is always good. Not always, I thought. It can't always be good.

I don't remember the exact date when it all went down. The day my life changed irrevocably. All I know is that I don't want to remember. I don't want that day going down in history. I'd rather forget it frankly. And, now, I'm determined that someday I will.

My mom was at home watching NJ, and she was sure it was nothing. We all were. Except for that little voice that I heard telling me it wasn't. And, now, I had to go home and tell her that I had breast cancer. The first person in my family ever to have breast cancer. I thought this shit was hereditary.

In the days after, I couldn't hear right. I felt like I was in a tunnel, and time slowed down, and nearly stopped entirely. It was NJ's first Halloween, and it was bittersweet. Everything was so sacred, fragile. I felt like I was trapped in a glass box that might shatter and break at any second. I could hear atoms and molecules actually shifting in the atmosphere; I could feel my legs cutting through the thickness of the universe and my feet seemed to sink into the concrete. There was an echo. And, finally, I broke down, uncontrollably, fiercely declaring my darkest fears, ones that a 35-year-old woman in the prime of her life should never have to give testimony to. Am I going to die and will I see NJ grow up?

My internet obsession then began. I searched for stories, people, women like me, JUST like me, who were writing about their journey and WINNING at it. There are a few, mostly on forums or foundation websites. But most of them were older, or had a different kind of breast cancer. One of them had died. I wanted a real girl with a real story. And, one that wasn't depressing. Where was she?

Here I Am
Now. Here I am. Not merely compelled to write, but rather, forced to, by God. I am in no position to ignore such an overt sign, am I? So, it seems, I MUST write.

I've always been a writer, and am an editor by trade. But, of course, as is the case with so many writers, the fear can be crippling. Fear of judgment, criticism, transparency. For any artist, it's the first and hardest obstacle to overcome. And, while it's the first, it's also the second and the third and the fourth. It is always there, threatening to overcome the hard-won armor of confidence. It is relentless.

But, things are different now. Not only is my bucket of excuses empty, but my fear is palpable but weak, and I can easily overcome it these days. Fear in me is waning everyday. And, soon, I believe, it will be gone forever. I feel brave.

This is not your everyday breast cancer blog. I don't intend for it to be depressing or overly medical, or inspirational, or exhaustive. I just hope that someone who has been diagnosed, or anyone really, will read it and find something helpful, funny, pretty, encouraging or thought-provoking. Mostly so someone sees I've been there, done that, and I'm okay. I'm not dying, and neither are you.

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