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I remember

It was one year ago today that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It seems like WAY longer than a year ago. And it still feels a little surreal, even after the fact.

When the nurse called and told me my doctor wanted to see me, I knew. They don’t make an appointment just to tell you your biopsy was negative and you don’t have cancer. I knew.

XUP and I had been batting emails back and forth, and she phoned right after the nurse called. I burst into tears and XUP said all the right things. GC came over and took me to the doctor’s appointment. I think we all knew.

When my doctor delivered the news, I was very calm – numb, even – because I already knew.

A couple of hours later, when I was alone, I googled ‘infiltrating ductal carcinoma.’ All my numbness shattered when I read this:

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) … starts developing in the milk ducts of your breast, but breaks out of the duct tubes, and invades, or infiltrates, surrounding tissues. … IDC is not a well-contained cancer. IDC has the potential to invade your lymph and blood systems, spreading cancer cells to other parts of your body. If IDC spreads beyond its original site, we say it has metastasized.”

I literally backed away from my computer with my knuckles in my mouth. I heard the sound of fear coming out of me. I was petrified.

I remember a lot of fear in those first couple of months, as I went through all the tests and waited to find out how bad it was and if it had spread.

But I also remember how much love and support and kindness I received from so many people, and how much it meant to me.

I remember sitting at my computer in the middle of the night, a year ago tonight, unable to sleep, reading the comments to this post. I felt the fear subside. I felt profoundly comforted.

It’s a hard thing to describe. It wasn’t that I necessarily believed I would survive. But I felt that even if I were to die, my life was well-lived and complete, because so many good people cared whether I lived or died.

It didn’t end the fear forever, but it was very comforting to feel that way in the middle of that first very dark night. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Thank you.

15 comments to I remember

  • redfraggle

    All my love to you. Thank you for sharing your experiences so frankly with us. It helps. A lot.

  • An online friend is dealing with a huge family crisis right now (her teenaged son ODed and was beaten almost to death. He had a heart attack and the neurological damage has them facing his learning to talk and walk all over again). Right now she’s wrestling with continuing to skirt the issue, and talking openly about parenting an active addict. She is a very well known author and blogger. I directed her here. We spoke about how silence kills, about addiction being a disease, about harm reduction and her own boundaries.

    Your willingness to talk openly here about all the various facets of your life is so amazing Zoom.

    We hide from talking about cancer. We push it aside in our psyche and pretend it will never happen to us. We never know how to deal with friends or family that are facing it, and we skirt the subject out of fear of being insensitive, or too invasive in our questions. It puts a wall between those dealing with the disease and their loved ones. It isolates, and I really feel isolation kills.

    Your writing about the past year has been so open and genuine, and courageous. Thank you for talking about all the unmentionable parts of it.

    HAPPY anniversary dear sister.

    I love you.

  • Oh Zoom . . .

    Thank you so much for your honesty and grace. I love your courage. I’m inspired by it and you. And for entirely selfish reasons I hope you stay healthy for a long time. I want the pleasure of reading what you write.

    Stay well and health-filled . . .

  • Carmen

    Zoom, I love your blog because you really call it as it is. Sometimes I read you and think: “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel.” You’ve become my “blog family”, people I read and care about. Glad I could accompany you on this year of trials. I also want to thank Julia for introducing me firstly to your blog and then to you.

  • My husband’s family is one of those that carries the genes for genetically transferred cancers. The feelings you describe are so true and real and in the moment. Out of 5 sisters, 3 have cancer at this time. Life and death become part of your daily thoughts in a whole new way when cancer enters the picture.

    It’s hard to believe it’s been a year. Best wishes and good thoughts on your anniversary.

  • Much love to you on your, um, anniversary and every day!

  • lissa

    You are welcome, good job making it thru the year, life is good if we let it be. Thank you for sharing the experience.

  • XUP

    Well, it’s hard to think of celebrating such an anniversary, but since you got through it with flying colours I’d say celebrating is exactly the right thing.

  • Hello Zoom, I’d wondered why it seems that you are living life to its fullest each and every day. Now I know.
    All the best now and in the future, Shannon

  • deb

    I remember that night and how devastating it felt. I am glad that we were able to help you get through the overwhelming blanket that you felt had dropped on you. It was the first time that I understood the power of the blogging community.

    Love you lots.


  • Many happy anniversaries, Zoom. Each one is a thumb in the eye of entropy. Keep ’em coming! :)

  • Ahhh, the kindest, most generous comments are often the hardest to respond to.

    Redfraggle, I know this is a difficult time for you, and if there’s something I’ve written that has helped in some way, that makes me very happy. Cherish your memories.

    Mudmama, you’re one of my sources of inspiration, especially when it comes to courage. I agree completely with you about silence and isolation. Sometimes, when you’re being tormented by something, just saying it out loud to another human being diminishes its power and brings some relief. And you never know, when you put something out there, what wisdom and comfort others will offer back to you because of it.

    Cheryl, thank you so much. I will do my best.

    Carmen, I echo your thanks to Julia. And thank you to YOU, too, for reading, for being there, for your kind comments, and for bailing me out of my knitting problems. (Speaking of which….the socks and I are stalemated again.)

    Donna Lee, thanks for sharing that. Many people tend to think of death as some distant thing that happens to other people, yet there are some advantages – in terms of how you might choose to spend your time here – in living with the prospect of death on the horizon. It sounds like your husband’s family has had to come to grips with this;I hope they’ve found some of the benefits of it.

    Thank you Toni!

    And Lissa!

    And Pamela!

    XUP, I didn’t exactly celebrate – I just reflected on it. But yes, you’re right, I did come through the year with flying colours, and that’s worth some kind of celebration. :)

    Thanks Shannon – I’m not sure I live each day to the fullest, but I don’t take life for granted as much as I used to.

    Deb, it kind of reminds me of the first line of A Tale of Two Cities…It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

    Susan, yes, a thumb in the eye of entropy. I like that.

  • Thank you Zoom. You know,the memories and family are what is left. The living every ounce of life, reaching out to community be it online or local, and family, whatever that means to each of us, that is what matters. You seem to have that covered. You live your life and appreciate the details, you care about and affect your communities for the better and you cherish your family. And you are helping me right now, with your honesty, your ability to see beauty and humour and your compassion.

  • That first year, how strange it is for all of us! And I’m so glad you’ve passed that milestone. I am at 12 years since my diagnosis, still working on who I am now–what’s changed (beside the obvious scars)? What’s not? Your willingness to explore these aspects of a life-changing event makes yours one of the blogs I *must* read. Thanks for hanging in there!