I think, no, to be fully honest- I know- that for a long time I ignored most if not all of the feelings that I dealt with from the very beginning of my cancer story. Trust me when I say that I discovered that I had a lot more varied emotions than I thought I did. While I know that emotions are a good thing, they can also be an annoyance.
When I scheduled the appointment for my physical not long after celebrating my 50th birthday if I felt any emotion over it they were mostly annoyance over the interruption, acceptance that it was something that needed to be done and impatience that it was causing me to have to put off what I really wanted to be doing instead. But being the somewhat responsible person that I was brought up to be, I kept the appointment. I even made it through the embarrassing parts with minimum discomfort. I was a big girl, I could handle that annual physical then go on with what I wanted to be doing. When the doctor told me that since I was now 50, he thought I needed to have a mammogram I shrugged. Another something or other to endure. I'll admit that there was that "No worries it won't happen to me" attitude. There was the "No history known to me in my family- nothing to fear here" yes, a bit of arrogance mixed with denial and a bit of ignorance. Still, I agreed to having the mammogram done and the appointment was made. I was told when and where and I smiled and nodded a lot thinking the entire time that I need to find this place.
I have never hesitated in admitting that I am lousy, really terribly lousy at directions. I have been told that I could not find my way out of a paper bag placed on its side. After asking friends and family and even going online to get directions I got in the car and headed out to find it. Confusion reigned. Even though this was an area of town where I travel a fair amount it isn't normally down this road. There are a lot of doctor's offices and other buildings along the way as well as many side roads leading to more doctor's offices and various buildings. I had to find the right route to the right building to the right office. With maps spread out and directions playing like a broken record in my head I was growing frustrated until I managed to find the place that I feared I had passed. Driving around the building I saw exactly where I needed to go. For a while peace was in control.
The day of the test I got in the car confident that this was going to be a simple get it over and done with thing and that I wouldn't have to worry about it again for a year. Nerves were stretched a bit tight only because I wanted to remember exactly how to get where I was going and get there on time. Walking in the building and finding the right place I began to over come the nerves and while still polite as I had been taught to be the "not going to happen to me" cockiness was returning. Dealing with the paperwork I sat and waited fighting the boredom that comes with sitting in any doctor's waiting area. Hearing my name I followed where I was lead and then walked into a small dressing area. Following the directions given I waited ignoring the growing fear of the unknown and fear of being embarrassed. I have never been any competition for Dolly Parton and have even through my life been teased about my lack of endowment. I also feared the pain to come. By the time my turn came I had worked myself into a state of nerves, cold sweat ran down my back as I followed once again.
Mammograms are uncomfortable. There is a certain degree of discomfort and pain along with the embarrassment of having to go through it in the first place. I know me-I know that when these emotions come into play I try to cover them up by talking. When I start talking under these circumstances the brain just takes a mini-vacation. I never really know what may come out of my mouth. After the last image was taken I was lead back to the dressing room, shown the easiest route out and told to have a good day. Relief- sweet sweet relief.
That didn't last long.
When after another round of images, a needle biopsy and then surgical biopsy showed that I did indeed have breast cancer my all too neat world changed. I had grown up in a home where we were protected, instructed, sheltered. We grew up in a time of self-sufficient entertainment. Childhood emotions had matured, some had been left behind while others just lay dormant. Until now. I still believe that I took the news rather well. On the outside anyway. I was calm, controlled, confident in the ability of my doctor. I smiled at all the right times, answered her questions in I thought all the right ways. Lets get this done and over with.
I thought I had been confused in trying to find the imaging center. After what seemed like a thousand and one questions, lots of tests, getting poked and prodded and asked even more questions I was seriously confused and lost. I was also tired.
The day of my surgery there was a degree of fear, but I still believe a lot of that was born out of a history of reading supermarket tabloids and seeing the horror stories within. It was a bit entertaining meeting all the people that would be a part of my surgery and dealing with all of the particulars. There was the ever present confusion, there was the attack of nerves, there was the pain that came with certain preparations. At all times there was this outward calm while on the inside I was a cauldron of emotions. The nervous feeling was tinged with a tad bit of excitement. This was something new and different.
Afterward when I was finally back at home I went straight to my bed and pretty much stayed there for two days. Sick is not really an emotion but that is what I was.
I was taught that if you have a job, you need to be there working that job. Two days after y surgery I was back at work. I now had to deal with what ever treatments was to come. Along with the impatience, the frustrations, the aggravation of wanting this all over with and behind me. I really am a bit daft at times.
During the course of my treatments there were times that I wanted to crawl into a dark spot and hide, just for a while. I didn't want to deal with it at that moment, or any other moment. I wanted it to have never happened, I wanted everything to go away. Then I would quit feeling sorry for myself and be thankful-yes- thankful for having cancer. Now I had an understanding about what people were going through. I feared that I would need chemotherapy, feared losing my hair even though I complain about it on a regular basis. I was so tired that trying to put one foot in front of the other n some days felt like the biggest challenge ever. I am a serious chocoholic, but during treatments all manner of 'junk' food was taboo. If I tried to eat chocolate or drink anything with caffeine I paid for it. I was angry that I couldn't enjoy the things I wanted.
There were times I felt ignored and alone. I knew I wasn't, but it seemed that way. My very first Relay for Life event, at two in the morning as I walked around that track it was so very quiet. The people walking spoke to each other in muted tones. Many walked in pairs or even more. I could hear their laughter and whispers. I on the other hand was walking alone. I was walking alone and I felt alone. Looking up into the night sky it seemed like I could see into forever. The thousands of stars shining down had me feeling not a little insignificant. I was alone on that track, I was alone in facing my cancer treatments.
To this day I know that I still distance myself a bit from others. I dealt with it pretty much alone then. I deal with the feelings that come now after all this time. I'm getting better though-
Everyone who is diagnosed with cancer is going to face their own emotions. Like the kaleidoscope toy we had as kids where the thousands of colors and shapes with in shifted and moved to form new shapes and designs that is our emotions. We face them, deal with them, work through them. Our personalities and support systems will determine how difficult that task is and how long it may take to make our way along and through them. There are people more than willing and able to help--we don't have to fear those emotions and we don't have to go it alone..even when we think we do.