I hate to be a blog-hog, since this makes three posts in a row that are mine, but I figure those of you who weren’t at the WC party this weekend might want to know what I shared with those in attendance. I’ve been keeping it a secret for a while, but I’m ready to share it with you.
Even for those at the party, I’m not usually such a blubbering, trembling mess, so I’ll give you some of the details I failed to mention there.
We each shared something we fear and something we love. My fear is breast cancer.
To give you some background, my paternal grandmother has breast cancer, and my maternal grandmother died of ovarian cancer, making me a likely candidate for both cancers. I started hormone therapy when I was 15 (my OB/GYN changed my regimen recently, which I don’t appreciate because it messes with my moods, my appetite, and my sleeping patterns). Because I’ve been on artificial hormones for the past seven years, I have what they call fibrocystic breasts.
Most of the cysts are small and harmless. Recently a few of them aren’t so small, which also means they’re not quite so harmless (and they hurt like the dickens). I also have been experiencing some skin changes in that area, which does not bode well for me.
The cysts make me an even more likely candidate for breast cancer, but I’m especially wary of the skin changes, because those symptoms match a less common form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). Only 25 to 50 percent of those diagnosed with IBC live past the first five years.
I fear death, but that is only a small part of my fear.
I’m even more scared of what it would mean to live through this. The pain, the weakness, the vulnerability. I’m scared to lose the things I have: from my mobility and strength to my friendships and relationships.
Which brings me to what I love: I love real people who are real and honest with each other, which is also why it was important to me to come to Rexburg this weekend. I find myself clinging to the things I’m scared I’ll lose.
I’m also scared of what it means for my future. When my OB/GYN first told me that IBC was a possibility, I asked myself what that would mean for me. What kind of choices would I make? I told myself that I wouldn’t drop out of school, that I would stick to my April graduation deadline. But in the past couple of weeks as a (relatively) healthy person, I almost buckled under the stress. I wonder if I’m as strong as I pretend to be, and I don’t want to find out that I’m not.
I’m scared for my future children. I want to be able to feed my babies (sorry if that grosses any of you out). I don’t want my little girls to have to experience the same problems and fears I’ve had to face. I want to live to have children.
In “Cinderella Man,” Russell Crowe/James Braddock tells his wife why he wants to box during the Great Depression. He says, “at least I can see who’s hitting me.” I don’t think I really understood that until now, because I’m fighting against something that is somewhat intangible to me. If I have IBC, it means that something within my own body has betrayed me, and I don’t even have a battle plan to get rid of it. Because at this point, there’s nothing I can do. My OB/GYN is monitoring any changes, but for now I have to wait, and the waiting intensifies my fear.
PS—would anyone be interested in another Provo WC party? Maybe in November or December? We can eat food, share the depths of our souls, and have a great time. If you’re in like flynn, comment or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).