Sunday, September 2, 2012

Selfish Me

I’m warning you up front – this entry is just plain selfish. I don’t have any analogies, any photos, any songs, anything funny or creative to document. I hope that most of you never get around to reading this one; that you’re with your family and friends enjoying this holiday weekend. But if ever there’s someone out there that feels the way I do, I want him or her to know, you’re not alone. So this morning, I have a reality check – an honest account of how gut-wrenchingly awful this waiting period has become for me.

I usually sit down on these early mornings, still sick to my stomach, thinking about something interesting or something empowering that I want to share. This morning, I’m empty of all of that. This morning, I want to open my front door and scream at the top of my lungs, How am I ever going to do this?!!!!? Because I honestly just don’t know.

As I have written to you, last Sunday was a turning point for me. Something happened and I stopped thinking about death and re-focused on my life. I had a few very normal days, so normal that I think I only cried out of appreciation when I received cards or hugs or messages from the countless good people around me. I still believe that I will beat this. But the last few days have been tough. And if there is one thing I know I need to deliver with this writing – for myself and for you – it’s honesty.

On Friday, Brian took the kids out so I could take a quick nap. As I was dozing, I was replaying my last conversation with Dr. Bunnell in my head as I have thousands of times before. I remembered his first call telling me that the HER2 test was not exactly positive or negative and that they would need additional “gold standard” testing to sort this out. I remembered his call back a few days later telling that yes, this will be treated as a HER2+ cancer. And then, in the most evil of ways, my mind concocted a thought that sent me into a tailspin. What if my cancer is different? Some weird hybrid of HER2+ and HER2-, and what if, just what if all those drugs they have just won’t work for me? Lying there on the sofa in the middle of the day, I was suddenly as alert as I’d ever been before. And I lost control. I started to cry, hysterically. I even think I may have wailed, which really must have been a pathetic sight to behold (luckily, no one did). But there I was, in the darkest of dark places that I had so successfully avoided for days. All because I tried to take a fucking nap. It sucked. Sucked so bad. That night, I thought to myself, maybe I just needed to get that out. Tomorrow will be better.

Then yesterday, it happened again. After Annabel went down for her nap, my parents and I drove into Sean and Lauren’s new apartment in Boston to help them unpack (it was September 1st in Boston, after all). It was so great to see their new place, help set up the kitchen (nothing more therapeutic than organizing!), and have a nice lunch outside with my family. But on the way home, I crumbled again. Hysterical. Couldn’t stop crying, couldn’t even hear any logic that was being presented to me. Could only feel comfort by my Mom’s hand that was holding onto my leg as I sat in the backseat.

In these last few days, there have been several remarkable, or at least mildly interesting things I could have written about today. But I’d just be forcing it. It wouldn’t be me, at this moment, as the sun begins to rise on September 2, ten days away from when the doctors can really tell me what is going on inside of me.

Because the me at this moment is just so…I don’t even know. Scared at what that complete diagnosis will bring. Sad that I’ve put my family through these last few weeks. Frustrated with myself that with all of the strength around me, I still end up in these ruts. Overwhelmed at the thought of ten more days of this waiting (and even more waiting after that).

Yep, I’ve put on quite the performance writing this one, and I feel better, if only because I feel drained. My kids will wake up soon, and my Oscar effort will continue. Since I need to leave myself with something a bit more positive than the preceding paragraph, I’ll say this. (Pause.) (Thinking.) (Have nothing.) (Open window for fresh air.) (See the fluffy pink clouds against blue sky.) (Breathe in cool, morning air.) (Still have nothing.) (Thinking.)

When I broke down on the sofa two days ago, my aunt Helen happened to call. We talked. Somehow, she calmed me. Then I called my Mom. She calmed me (I really just need to her her voice for that to happen). Then the doorbell rang. Seamus was going for a walk with Maverick, his dog, and wanted to see if Teddy wanted to join him. I told Seamus that Teddy would be back soon, and that I had fallen apart. He hugged me and told me everything would be OK.  He's a big guy, a really good and honest big guy. So I believed him. A minute later, Brian came home with the kids, and he and I escaped to the playroom where he held me tight until my tears were all dried up (for the time being). He too knows everything will be fine. But it means more and more to me every time he says it.

When I broke down in the car yesterday, my parents let me cry, said I was allowed that, and tried to figure out how they could help me. When they dropped me off, Teddy was waiting to play baseball, so we did. He hit almost every ball I threw to him. For part of our game, Annabel sat in her new Little Tykes red and yellow car drinking her bottle. When I told her to cheer, “Yey Mommy!” she smiled and cheered, “Yey Teddy!” mostly because she hopes to get a funny reaction out of me for it. She always does, and it felt good to give her what she knows to expect.

As I said in the beginning, I don’t have any quotes or wise words today. Selfishly, and on a holiday weekend when you deserve more, I offer you only ugly reality.  The ugly reality that this period of waiting for someone to tell me how much my body has hidden from me, how much it has betrayed me, and how able I will be to fight back, often seems like nothing short of torture. But I’ll start this day knowing that every time I crumble, someone has always been there to pick me up. For that, I am eternally grateful. And that feeling of being grateful, which fills me now, is a much better feeling than the ones that filled me when I sat down to write. I guess that's another therapy session, complete.


  1. Not selfish at all...just human...and an amazing one at that. I hope these next 10 days are better ones for you and go by quick. Tim and I are thinking of you constantly.

  2. Tara, I know. I know exactly. I wish I could convince you how 'normal' you this is all part of the acceptance, denial, acceptance, denial...fear...but please know that things will get better and not only do I promise that, I guarantee you that. I have the perfect book for you to read (if you have a Kindle, order it on Amazon)'s called 'Why I Wore Lipstick to my Mastectomy'... see below...YOU WILL LOVE IT!!!

    Book Description
    Publication Date: September 9, 2004
    A soulful, surprising coming of age journey by a dynamo who used her own adversity as a platform for examining issues all young women face.

    Having finished journalism school and landed her dream job at age 27, the last thing Geralyn Lucas expects to hear is a breast cancer diagnosis. She decides to go public with her disease despite fears about the backlash at work, and her bold choices in treatment are irreverent and uplifting. When her breast is under construction and her hair is falling out, her skirts get shorter. She goes to work every day and gets promoted. She has sex with her bandages on. She reinvents her beauty and in a bold move of conscious objection, forgoes the final phase of her breast reconstruction: the nipple. She is reborn in a tattoo parlor when she gets a heart tattoo where her nipple once was.

    Geralyn recovers from her mastectomy and chemo and has a baby in the same hospital where she was treated for cancer. What could have been a huge negative for this young cancer survivor became the impetus to examine her own sexuality and burgeoning womanhood. Virtually nothing has been written for women of a young age who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. This book also deals with the broader issue of self-acceptance that anyone grappling with questions of illness, self-image and sexuality can identify with.

  3. From the quiet voice of Henri Frederic Amiel:

    "Uncertainty is the refuge of hope."

  4. Tara, you are one the least selfish person I know... Please don't feel badly about feeling the way you do and you know your family and friends are here for you no matter what - and want to be.

    Thank you for being so honest and sharing these darkest of moments. You truly are such a gift to us all for so many reasons...

    And "Yey Annabel" for cheering on her mommy! I am right there with her! xoxoxo

  5. Tara, you have every right to feel "selfish". My thoughts and prayers are with you every day. Keep the faith!