Those words are so powerful. It has taken me 10 years to be able to write them down. I feel ready to share now in hopes it can help others who hear them or fear them. I realized as I thought about what to share, this will likely take me a few posts. This is Day One.
I remember the day I heard the words like it was yesterday. I remember distinct details which seem burned into my brain. Generally, I have trouble remembering specifics of a few days ago if I don’t write them down.
We lived in Chicago. I was sitting at my cubicle desk enjoying the sunshine and the excitement of a recent promotion and new role. I got a call from my doctor to come in for my test results from a recent relatively routine procedure. I felt they had done it in part to humor me since they knew I like to get concrete information rather than probabilities whenever possible. I told my husband Michael I would need to stop by the office on my way home so would be a little later. He immediately sensed something was amiss asking, “Why do you have to come in? It can’t be good news.” I laughed and told him, “You worry too much. I am sure it is nothing serious.”
I didn’t give it much more mind share as I wrapped up my day and drove the few minutes to the medical building. I waited until the doctor could see me. When we were in the examining room, he told me those simple words. “You have cancer.” I can't recall much about what else he said. It felt like airplanes were landing in my head. I saw his mouth moving but could not hang on to the words as they danced around my consciousness without any order. I was a healthy 37 year old with two young boys – how could I have cancer? I had never even heard of this type before: cancer of the uterine lining.
I nodded as he explained things which I couldn’t take in and walked numbly to my car. My whole world had shifted and turned upside down in the span of minutes. I no longer saw the sunshine or even what was happening around me. I called Michael as I started to drive. I felt tears freely flowing down my cheeks as I told him. I could hear the devastation in his voice and didn’t know what more to say. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around what I had just heard. Surely this was a nightmare and I would wake soon.
Instinctively, I called a friend who was a breast cancer survivor and had lost her younger sister to the same disease when we worked together. She was a no nonsense high powered executive. She told me. “You have to own getting yourself the best care.” She offered to have any doctors I considered thoroughly checked out and told me she was with me. I clung to her words and confidence like a life raft in the middle of a choppy ocean.
When I approached my home, panic and helplessness began to wash over me. What was I going to do? How was this even possible? I saw my husband sitting outside the house on our front steps – tears streaking his handsome face. His look mirrored all that was running through my head. It was almost too much to bear. We hugged and cried – neither of us knew the right words for what we were facing. Our boys were seven and three. We went through the motions of a normal evening until they were in bed.
I then slowly descended the stairs to our basement and lowered myself to the middle of the floor. I let the sobs and fear just roll through my body like the waves of the ocean - -ebbing and flowing continuously. Michael came down to check on me. Again I saw my worst fears reflected in his eyes. I asked him something I knew I needed, “You need to act like everything is normal. I can’t do this if every time I look at you I see you expecting the worst. I really need you to do this for me.”
Now I appreciate what an impossible request this was but at the time it was so important to me. I was gearing up for a fight and I needed my best friend and life partner to be his confident self. I don’t panic about much and wanted to attack this like I would any other complex challenge. I gave myself the one evening to let the most unproductive emotions and thoughts take center stage. And I knew in the morning, I would get to the business of making a plan to ensure I was there for my family.
|Damian 3 and Dimitri 7 -- 2004|
|Me and the boys hanging out in our basement --2004|