OHBD 2015

OHBD 2015

Sunday, December 21, 2014

You Have Cancer

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