The hardest part is the fear. Since I don’t know the magnitude of the problem yet – ie, what stage it is, and whether the cancer has spread beyond the original tumour – I sometimes feel very much at the mercy of my worst fears.
I was lying in bed this morning thinking about the fear. It’s unlike any fear I’ve ever known or imagined. The closest comparison I can make is that it’s like the fear you feel while watching a horror movie, and the girl hears a noise in the attic and she starts creeping up the attic stairs while creepy music plays in the background. And you’re sitting on the edge of your seat, your heart in your throat, your hands half-covering your eyes because you can’t bear to look but you can’t bear not to look, and in your head you’re pleading with her not to go up there, just turn around, and run, run, run away!
It’s sort of like that, except it’s ME creeping up the stairs and it’s not all slow like in a horror movie, and there’s nowhere to run and hide. And it turns out that Google is the attic. So help me god, I am never going to google breast cancer again. It’s like opening the floodgates of hell.
Let me tell you about the first few hours after I found out.
After the biopsy, I was told that my results would be sent to my doctor at the Centretown Community Health Centre within seven to 10 days, and she would be the one to let me know. On Day 8, I called the nurse (at XUP’s urging) and asked her to see if she could make things happen a little faster. At 2:00 she called me back and said they had some results and my doctor would like me to come in for 3:00.
I pretty much knew then that it was cancer, because they don’t make an appointment to tell you it’s not cancer. But there was still a possibility that it wasn’t cancer…maybe it was something else that should be dealt with, and they wanted to explain it. But I was 99% sure it was cancer.
GC picked me up and drove me there. As soon as I saw my doctor’s face, 99% went to 100%.
“How are you?” she asked. The last time I’d seen her was just a few weeks ago about my back.
“My back’s much better,” I said. “How’s my front?”
“Sometimes I hate my job,” she said.
I was a brave little soldier. I felt inordinately proud of the fact that I didn’t cry. I left, retrieved GC from the waiting room, and told him it was cancer. We walked over to the Second Cup at Bank and Somerset and got cranberry-apple muffins, and then went back to my place.
By this time it was 4:00 and our volunteer shift at the Shepherds was starting at 5:00. I decided not to go, since I wanted to tell my son and a few other people. We decided GC should go, since we didn’t want to leave Shepherds doubly short-staffed. So off he went.
Okay. So here I am, one hour after finding out I have cancer, and I’m alone. The first thing I did was hit Google up for more information. And Google, as always, obliged. Within five minutes I was backing away from the computer, absolutely panicked by what I’d just read, sobbing and completely at a loss as to what to do next. Then I returned to the computer and shut down that window.
Behind that window was another window with my blog stats on it. The very first item on the list was a post I’d written about running in a breast cancer race a couple of years ago. Someone had just visited that page! So I clicked on the link and re-read the post and studied the picture, and then I knew what to do next. Call Lori.
So I composed myself and looked up her number and called her. I’m not much of a phone person at the best of times, and for some reason I was very surprised when she answered.
I couldn’t talk. I just burst into tears. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Fortunately Lori has call display so she at least knew who was sobbing on the other end of the line, even if she didn’t know why. So she just kindly and patiently tried to guess what was wrong while I sobbed. And finally I pulled myself together enough to tell her I’d just been diagnosed with breast cancer.
She was absolutely the right person to call. She picked me up and dusted me off and gave me the perfect combination of empathy, moral support, optimism, realism, book recommendations, good starter information and helpful tips. (“Whatever you do,” she said, “Don’t Google breast cancer.”)
She also told me that when the picture in that post was taken in 2006, she was the only one of the twelve women in it to have ever been diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m the fourth. We’re all still alive.
By the time we got off the phone an hour later, I was feeling infinitely better and my son was knocking on my door.