On December 26th, 2006, i was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even as i got the diagnosis, i had been doing my own research, and was reasonably certain the prognosis would be good. The challenge: How to tell the inhabitants of The Park?
Specifically, Mom. The rest of them? I probably wouldn’t have bothered telling any of them if not for Mom. I was separated for 5 years, and divorced for a full 6 months before i told The Park… but this was something Mom would want to know.
First order of business – control the timing. I scheduled our Christmas visit to The Park for the 27th from 6 pm – 10 pm. I can do anything for four hours.
Second order of business – Pre-brief my oldest sister, S, who is a 6 year breast cancer survivor. I though her best situated for keeping Mom from getting scared and upset. I called S on the 26th and said “It’s going to be ok, but i’ve got a small, malignant tumor in my breast, and i want your help keeping Mom calm when i tell her”.
What happened next surprised me, even after being in and out of The Park all my life. She started wailing and crying… “What am I going to do? My sister has cancer? Waaaaaaaah…..”. This went on for an hour. I was calming her, reassuring her that i would be fine – and emphasizing that i needed her to be calm and strong to remind Mom that breast cancer can be effectively treated if you get it early…”.
She was terrified of going through it all again. And then decided that it would be good therapy for her to assist me along the way… “You’ve got to let me help you through this – i need to do this”.
Seriously. I could not make this shit up.
Explaining what to expect to the kids as we drove to The Park, we decided to play a game. A game called “how many minutes before they turn the conversation toward themselves?”. As always, we played it “over/under” – The Girl called “Five minutes” and The Boy said “Under”. The game was on…
It’s not that i want to be the center of attention down there – far from it. Just a little concern, empathy and perhaps – and i know this is expecting too much – critical thinking and advice. I’d ridden the medical roller coaster before with Dad, i knew what to expect. And being on that particular coaster alone isn’t much fun… but i really didn’t expect much help from my extended family – this was more of a formality.
While Mom was eating and therefore distracted – i sat down and told her about the diagnosis. Made it all sound very straight forward, low key, totally under control, and with minimal drama… She was concerned, but encouraged by my upbeat outlook. Oh, and her cadence never slowed while eating half a Papa John’s mushroom and black olive pizza.
Soon, the conversation turned to “well, daisyfae told me yesterday, and i about lost it, but we had to keep DQ, Jr. sworn to secrecy because she was in the car with me and figured it out while i was talking to daisyfae…” and “S told me last night because she was totally freakin’ out and had to tell someone about it”, and my absolute favorite from DQ, “I just knew there was something else going on with daisyfae – i’m kinda psychic about these things”.
Then we were on to how DQ has been having mammograms since S was diagnosed, and they have several ‘watch’ areas on her, and S is really upset because when she went through it, nobody told her that radiation would prevent her from having breast augmentation in the future…
You get the idea.
Then we moved into a cool conversation about my brothers first wife, the former crack-whore, and one of his daughters, also a former crack-whore, now working at “the Wal Marts”… So life goes on. It’s a holiday – there’s food, diet coke, and cigarettes, so we’ve just GOT to trash someone’s ex-something or other.
Total amount of time spent discussing daisyfae’s cancer: About 4 minutes.
*i’m fine. got lucky, and had it all behind me by May. no worries.