Two people stepped into my life recently, jarring me from the “active denial” that i am a cancer survivor. i haven’t written much about it, other than to highlight some Trailer Park drama, or my exploitation of the situation to indulge in public nudity.
One person came to me through colleagues at work. JB, in her mid-50’s, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and was nervous and scared about the path forward. She’s had wonderful support from a colleague who is a 12 year survivor, but her circumstances were very different, and much has changed in the past decade regarding treatment. i offered to meet with JB, to run through my experiences, and listen to her concerns.
JB’s circumstance seemed similar to mine – smallish tumor, not particularly aggressive. Lumpectomy with radiation to follow. She is single, with no local family support network, but friends will be coming to town post-surgery.
Just listening to her fears, her questions, her concerns… pulled some of those fastidiously buried memories from their bunkers. But it also brought back memories of my “pathfinders” – the women who were my coaches, carefully illuminating the way forward one step at a time to keep me from being overwhelmed. Answering my questions. Sharing their experiences. Calming my fears.
This was my first chance to “pay it forward”**. The conversation seemed to help her, and after some quick tears and a hug, we were both on our way – her to pre-surgical lab work, me to another meeting-from-hell.
And then there was M… We met professionally a few months ago, through a mutual friend. We will also be sharing quarters on a vacation to South America in the fall – Machu Picchu and The Galapagos. We both wanted to go, and rather than pay the “single supplement”, decided to join up as roomies…
Through our friend, i knew that M was dealing with advanced prostate cancer. We had lunch last week to cover some work-related issues, but also to discuss medical histories. Since we’ll be sharing close quarters, a little “getting to know you” seemed to be in order.
His circumstances are astonishing – and he is inspirational in his approach to the battle and ability to articulate the experience. It’s not behind him. It’s only a matter of time before the prostate cancer will win. But his general health is good, and he is one of those remarkable individuals who are “living with cancer“.
There’s quite an adventure ahead in October. i consider it an honor to share it with him…
i was jarred from denial. Temporarily. But it reinforced the fact that i got lucky*** – at least this time! No complaints. A powerful reminder not to waste a single breath…
* Not the only Queen of De Nile….
** i have a “cancer buddy”, but she and i went through it together. As i was diagnosed, i was in a local musical. i decided to stay in the show and allowed the newspaper to do an interview – “the show must go on” – partly to get free show publicity and partly to get the word out about early detection. My “cancer buddy” found me – she’d been diagnosed 2 weeks after i was – and we’ve been drinking together meeting ever since! We talk, drink wine and compare notes. She’s a goddess… with a lovely new tattoo on her left breast which says “I Won”…
*** Oh. And let’s not forget the “Model Year 2007 Bionic Twins” that make it very difficult for this 45 year old woman to keep her shirt on in public!