My nieces dear friend is days away from dying. She had a virulent form of Breast Cancer. It is called Inflammatory Breast Cancer. My niece no longer lives in the same town as her friend. Not even in the same State. She is distraught. AND her friend’s sister is visiting my niece. She was on the airplane when my niece received the call.
Her friend had fluid in her lungs. She was having a terrible time breathing so, her husband took her to the ER. They did all their intakey stuff and ended up admitting her into the hospital. The x-rays showed cancer infiltrating her lungs. Too much infiltration. In both lungs. They can biopsy but, see little point in stressing her out physically when they already know the outcome. She’s been fighting this for a couple of years. It never really got better. She will leave behind three daughters the oldest is 9. Her husband we expect will be totally lost. He’s been along side her the entire trip. She was the force behind their family. He was happy to have her be that force. We are concerned he might really, as would anyone else, be completely useless for months after her death. Worse her mother is a major emotional abuser and practices parenting-by-negligence. That is an entirely different set of harrowing stories.
In light of this I feel, I don’t know, a bit chagrined. I think that is the best way to describe a recurrent feeling I have been experiencing cyclicly since I found out the good news that my cancer is not the worse kind.
In light of my niece friend’s reality this brings my own reality a little more into contrast. Would I feel less embarassed of expressing my fear of an equally likely diagnosis and talking openly about the as yet, unanswered mystery? I guess because, I am not sure, my feeling comes from being so scared of the implications of my initial indistinct diagnosis.
It was truly on the line. The Dentation Line is a very fine and characteristically uneven separation between the anus and rectum. Was it at the low point of one shaky portion of the line closer to the anus and therefore, ultimately considered Anal Cancer?
That line caused me to dive into a fear I was not aware I had. Of course, I never really thought it would be me. There is so little cancer in my immediate family that the idea of my being susceptible was a rare and only momentary thought. There was no fear in the thought experiment. Sure, there was acknowledgement that fear would be part of the scenario were it palpable. I worried about the “what ifs” when a friend or a friend’s friend was diagnosed with breast cancer what if that were me. Well, now I know. It is not only palpable but, viewable, biopsyable, and treatable.
I had occasionally wondered how it would feel to be without one of my breasts. I imagined it would hurt from beginning to end of the chemo/radiation/surgery/more chemo and maybe more cutting. Would that even be enough? Would the cancer really END? And what about loosing even one of my breasts? The sensation of stimulation when my breast is being touched in a sensual manner. That feeling doesn’t just stay at the point of contact. The zing runs straight through my internal organs all the way to my vagina. Would I even feel sexy? How about a partner (not that I have one. But, I did have a husband for nearly 30 years.) how would he see me? Which is kind of sardonically funny when I think about it. He didn’t see me as a person anyway. He saw me only as parts. Not even, it felt, a full collection of those parts. Though, he enjoyed and benefited from all those sexual parts of me that are WomBan and those others, like hands, that would please him. I was a puzzle he held the missing parts of in his hands, or pockets, or somewhere deep back in an already cluttered drawer. Only choosing to put the pieces of the puzzle together that served him best at any one time.
Even so, how would I feel without a part of me that is and has been so essentially a part of my self. My identity. My worth. They were the life for each of my children from birth til they weaned. They were the first signs of my maturing physically at about age 13. They have always been there. Here. Right here. Not away from me. Never separated. Not like Play-Dough that you can split apart and smash back together into the original unified and lumpy pink doughy elastic piece. Thinking about their loss was always a strange and quite distantly scary concept.
Yet, when I received the cancer diagnosis and understood the possibility of loosing my rectum and anus I suddenly had an entirely new viewpoint on how a breast cancer patient must feel upon receiving their diagnosis. Neither of us can fathom the process. Never having experienced it first breast or anus it is a foreign plan. Each time I think I am moving forward I find I am at a stopping point. While, I feel like each pause is a stopping point in accessing treatment I have to remind myself that it is only a pause. I am anxious to move forward. Make no mistake. I am not anxious to experience the pain, exhaustion, and loss of memory, etc., often experienced with these treatments.
I am (so far) lucky that it turns out I won’t loose an essential part of me. Of everyone. It is the part of our bodies spurned as the most unhealthy and loathsome part of us. Though, it is required to keep us healthy and alive. And alive I am. I am so sorry my niece friend, her children, her husband, her sister, nieces, and nephew will all too shortly experience her death. Each differently. Each in pain. At least, they do have some people around them who love them and will support them.