Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fight On

My surgery begins at 1PM, so we will be leaving the house around 10:30. Thankfully, the Ativan did bring my sleep all the way to 4 this morning and since then I have tried to keep myself away from another blog post, repeating to myself, These people really need a break from hearing from me! I kind of feel like I'm sending that extra email in an exchange that already felt complete, or giving that extra good-bye hug that's more awkward than appreciated. Nonetheless, I find myself back here, desperate for my therapy. (And hungry ... a way less-fun hungry than the one I felt before we headed in to the hospital to deliver Annabel by a planned C-section. Would a bowl of Cheerios really screw up the surgery that badly? I won't take my chances, but it's sure tempting.) Moving on...

For the last few weeks, every time I'd see my Dad, he'd ask me, "So are you mad yet?" I'd laugh, and shrug off his question with some non-answer. "You need to get mad," he'd tell me. I knew where he was coming from. My Dad has overcome so many seemingly insurmountable obstacles since he was a young kid growing up in Roslindale. Only someone with a fighter's determination could come from where he started to where he is now, and he's always been an inspiration for me as to what is really possible in life.

So in the last few weeks, I felt like I was disappointing him when I had to admit that I felt a lot of things, but anger wasn't really in the top five. Every now and then I'd feel it when I thought about how unjust this all seems -- that I don't smoke, rarely drink, exercise regularly, eat pretty well, wear sunscreen, and even breast fed my children (reluctantly), yet still ended up with cancer.  But I've seen far too many examples of bad things happening to good people to think that I had any right to feel angry, so the feeling was fleeting. It wasn't the real fighter's attitude my Dad was hoping for.  

But yesterday, something clicked. My Mom and Rachel and I had lunch with Paula, one of my Mom's most remarkable friends who may honestly be one of the strongest women I have ever met. She's a fighter -- a fair, beautiful, balanced, take-no-prisoners-for-all-the-right-reasons fighter (just like her husband and daughter, by the way). After lunch, and before I had to pick up the kids from school, I decided to take my new "Kick Cancer's Ass" playlist out for a walk. By myself. Now this was a big deal, because since I was diagnosed, I haven't been alone very often (aside from the time I spend writing here), and when I have been left alone with my own imagination, I have tended to decompensate. But yesterday I felt ready for some time alone.

As I walked a little loop around Canton, in awe of one of the most beautiful days I have ever seen, I blared my tunes, and I remembered the night before. It was then, for the first time since my diagnosis, that Brian broke down. Again, I'll wait to ask him if he's OK with me sharing that, but he's come around to this whole being-brutally-honest-thing, so I'm guessing he'll be fine with it. I mean seriously, what human being wouldn't eventually crumble for a few minutes under the weight of this situation? So he let out a whole lot of tears like I've never seen. He's a big guy, and I'm kind of shrinking (though working on reversing that) so I didn't feel like my hugs were as comforting to him as his were to me, but I tried. And I repeated back all the things he had said to me a few nights prior. Again, we basically cried ourselves to sleep.

I recalled all of this as I walked my loop under the gorgeous warm sun. I was overflowing with emotion -- appreciation for all of the love and support that surrounds me, excitement to finally be ready for take off, certainty of the many years I have ahead of me. And mixed in with all of that was a bubbling anger. A feels-so-good-to-finally-feel-it anger. Now, I'm not an angry person, and I actually don't even know if anger is the right word here. But it's close enough. Because I am fucking mad that this cancer made my husband cry.  I'm mad that it has become my Mom's full time job, that it's interrupted so many good things, and that it's even toying with the idea of taking me off of this Earth. I'm mad, so [insert expletives that are as bad as they get (I can't think of any)] mad at this disease and I'm ready to start to kick its ass.

It's so strange for me to think and talk and write this way. Because I take myself as such a pacifist, and I rarely even swear (except if I have a few drinks, then sometimes a few bad words slip out in my silliness). But I'm not so passive anymore. Not when it comes to this cancer.

When I saw my Dad last night, I told him that it finally happened, that I somehow got mad. He gave me the loving high five and big hug that I always get from him, and he told me I'm ready then.

I can't even believe it myself -- that I really do feel ready (and increasingly hungry). I know this is just the first hurdle, and there will be many others, each that I'll clear one at a time. But where I thought I'd be dragging my desperate, weak, and helpless body into this surgery, instead I feel something totally different. I feel alive -- excited, grateful, and mad (with a healthy dose of nervousness). In my mind, that all adds up to being ready. I'm ready to fight for all of the people that I love, and for my life with them. And I will, I absolutely will, win. Because anything that makes anyone I love cry him or herself to sleep needs to be obliterated, once and for all.  

*  *  *

Oh, and for those of you curious about how today goes, I think Brian may post something later tonight. My surgery is expected to last between four and six hours. Again, we probably won't know much about the cancer until next week but at least we'll be in flight to our destination! Thank you all for everything. I couldn't get through this without you.


  1. Prayers to you for a safe flight! The Theodores'

  2. I have been reading your blog and thinking of you as you face this with style and grace. My husband and I have been praying for you, your family and all who love you.

    Today your post made me weep: you got mad because cancer made your husband cry. There is no better example of love between a husband and wife. You were not thinking of yourself in that moment (as you certainly could) but of him, and how it affected him. Wow. What an example to all of us.

    You are an amazing woman. Just amazing.

    I pray all goes well for you today.

  3. Praying for you, everything will go smoothly!!

  4. I'm a 3 yr breast cancer survivor or what one of my cousins who also had breast cancer said, We are not survivors, we are Thrivors!
    You are in my thoughts and prayers and Faulkner is the best. I had a partial mastectomy and 7 weeks of radiation and I am one of the lucky ones.
    Stay strong and positive and stay strong in your faith.