Thursday, February 27, 2014


I'm scared. No, I'm not just scared. I'm absolutely terrified. I know why, yet I don't know why. I know what helps, yet I can't help it. It feels like a full time job just to stay in control of my fear and so far, I've been able to do it. But it's not easy. Even if it looks like it is.

It's not easy because I remember August 3, 2012 as if it were yesterday. That's particularly odd because I've lived a lifetime since then. But I remember it so vividly. I remember driving home from Kristin's house after having visited her at the beginning of her treatment. I remember drinking a glass of water in her kitchen and telling her how strong she was. I remember watching our little boys play together and peeking in on her newborn as she slept comfortably in her bed.

I remember coming home and thinking to myself, Why her? Why cancer? And I remember thinking, If it could happen to her, it could happen to me. I had never done a breast exam so I decided it was time. Brian was oblivious to the fact that I was feeling around my own boobs while sitting on the sofa next to him.

When I felt the small lump, I had a rush of fear. But I still felt somewhat entitled at that point in my life, so part of me tried to be rational, to explain the fear away. There's no reason you would have cancer, I told myself. But there wasn't any reason Kristin would have it, either. There's no reason why so many people get it.

Three-hundred and twelve blogs ago, I found out that it was, in fact, cancer. That was the first time that it truly hit me that my life could change in one day, one doctor's appointment, one test result. I wasn't entitled to anything. I could get cancer just like other innocent people could.

*  *  *

Over a month ago, I started to become obsessed with a pain I was having underneath my left implant. I thought about the pain all the time, wrote about it in pieces I never published, and talked to my oncology team about it twice. Danielle put in an order for a chest X-ray but I decided to take ibuprofen on a routine basis for a week and see if my chest still hurt after that. It didn't, and so my fear subsided. I had a good stretch of not feeling any sort of pain that I twisted in cancer. It was a stretch of a few weeks, at least. Then came February 14th; the night I heard that my friend, Kristin's cancer had returned.

As I've written about before, this news crushed me. It crushed me as a friend, as a mother, as a sister, as a wife. It crushed me on an unselfish level and it crushed me on a completely self-centered one. In some ways, Kristin's recurrence strengthened my faith, but in other ways, it completely leveled it. On the leveled end of that spectrum existed that nagging pain in my chest. Almost hand in hand with Kristin's news, my pain resurfaced with a vengeance.

I know what almost every person reading this is thinking. If the pain came back when you heard of Kristin's news than obviously your pain is all in your head. Trust me, I have told myself that approximately two million times. But fear is not rational. Fear is the most terrifying thing of all.

And so I've found my mind wandering to dark places. Places that paralyze me for a few moments. Places that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

On Sunday night, I broke down to my mom. I cried like it was August 2012. She listened and told me she understood. It's incredible how those two words -- "I understand"-- can be so comforting.

My mom also told me that I should get the pain looked at. "I'm too scared to," I explained. I was. Far too scared to know if what I think I feel is really what I think I feel.

I fell asleep that night with puffy eyes, and so sad that cancer tormented people like it does.

By Tuesday morning's commute to work, I was so sick of being so worried that I decided it might be time to take action. When the thought came to me that I could take action and not be alone, I decided that it really was time. I got to my office, shed my winter layers, and immediately called my oncologist's office to take them up on the X-ray offer.

Dr. Bunnell decided an MRI would be best. The first available appointment was this Monday at 4pm. Quivering, I agreed to take it.

I know that what I'm going through now is a tiny, tiny fraction of Kristin's recent journey. I even worry that publishing this piece could be interpreted as a cry for help when others deserve it so much more than I do. But I decided to publish this anyways to show how one person's story can feel so inextricably linked to another's. Because maybe my story is to another person like Kristin's story is to me. Because I am haunted by my thoughts of two summers ago. If it could happen to her, why couldn't it happen to me? It's hard to digest the reality of the type of cancer we share. No one knows that better than Kristin does.

Before my diagnosis, I knew that my life could change in an instant. But cancer showed me just how that could all play out. What I've been through and what I've seen others experience has showed me how quickly one path can detour into another. It's that knowledge that makes the thought of next week so scary, or rather, so absolutely terrifying. Because more than I could ever rightfully explain, I want to get a clean result on my scan next week. But so did my friend. And for reasons we may never understand, she was instead detoured into a fight that no person should ever have to face.

1 comment:

  1. Tara, I have followed your blog for a while now but haven't commented before. I wanted to let you know I'll be thinking and praying for you and your friend Kristen this weekend. Like you, I was diagnosed with (left) breast cancer in 2012 (at the age of 37). I had a bilateral mastectomy as well, and to this day often experience pain under that left implant! I tried the Advil regime as well, and am now convinced my pain is excercise related. I wanted to pass that along with the sincerest hopes that yours is too. Big hugs.