I’ve had an anger creeping over me for the last couple of days. In truth, I’m starting to unravel.
It started the day after Christmas with a backache. And obviously, a back ache = metastasis. The cancer was now in my bones. I mentioned this in passing to Josh (You know, the way you would say, “We need milk. I’m going to the store.”) and left for work, where I took care of a woman who was dying of breast cancer.
The next evening Josh and I got into a spectacular fight. It was good, you guys. Or really, really stupid. And mostly my bad.
After the appropriate amount of cooling off time, Josh sat down next to me.
“I couldn’t understand why you were so mad at me, so I started to wonder if something else was bothering you. Then, I remembered that you said your back hurt and that you must really be scared. I’m sorry.”
Just so many more tears than I’ve cried in a while. An outpouring of everything I didn’t realize I had been bottling up since chemo ended.
I am scared, you guys. Scared and angry. As far as cancer goes, I know that I have it good. I caught my cancer early — at stage 1a — and I got the appropriate treatment, but that doesn’t calm the fear as much as you might think.
Last Monday, I saw my smiley oncologist for the first time in three months. The first time I met her, she giddily quoted my odds at 90 percent. There is a ninety percent chance that I will still be alive in five years. I vividly remember how happy she was to relay this information to me like it was just thebestnewsever!, but I was panic-stricken. All I could think for months was that there is a one in ten chance that I am going to die in the next five years. Those numbers kept me up at night.
“I would buy that lottery ticket,” I would say to myself.
When, in August, Dr. M told me that my cancer was more aggressive than she originally thought and my chances of recurrence were higher, I kept wondering what my new odds were, but I was too scared to ask. I already knew what the “good numbers” were doing to me.
On Monday, I finally worked up the courage.
Looking from her face to her shoes to my wringing hands, I asked, “So…umm…when I first met you, you told me that my odds were ninety percent. I was just wondering…umm…what they are now?”
She looked at me quizzically and tilted her head. “Ninety percent.”
“But I mean. Because you said that my cancer was…umm…more aggressive.”
“This summer. You said it was more aggressive. You said my risk of recurrence is higher.”
She looked puzzled and started shaking her head. “Oh, no, I shouldn’t have said that. Your odds are still ninety percent. If not higher, really.”
“Oh. Okay. That’s good. Thanks.”
I can’t tell you how stupid I felt for seriously fretting and wasting time making up what I thought my odds probably were (50/50) for months. FOR MONTHS, I believed my own made up statistics.
To be honest, I need to learn to stop believing everything I tell myself. I see signs of my imminent death everywhere.
- Nemo’s mom dies at the beginning of Finding Nemo, and as I sit and watch with Penny, I’m sure it’s a sign that I’m going to leave her behind too. My insides turn to ice.
- I see a story about another young woman dying of breast cancer, and I feel like the universe is sending me a warning signal. (Seriously, were there this many people dying of cancer before I had cancer? Yes. It’s yes, I know.)
- A black cat is sitting in my driveway as I try to pull in. He’s there to foreshadow my demise. I just know it.
- I go to see Gone Girl with my bff, and the mother in the movie dies of breast cancer. I am positive that God keeps showing me these types of scenes to mentally prepare me for my own death.
- One of my best friend’s dad dies, and among my grieving thoughts at the funeral are thoughts of my own funeral.
It’s exhausting. I find these signs everywhere, and I was never much of a sign believer before. I’ve never been particularly superstitious or overly eccentric.
A few weeks ago, one of my friends told me that she thought she had multiple sclerosis. She had some mild but unusual symptoms. She was worried and pretty scared. She had already played out the whole diagnosis through death in her head without so much as a doctor’s visit.
“You don’t have MS! You’re just fine. You’ll see,” I said.
For days, I told her, in earnest, different variations of that until she said, “But Heather, it has to happen to someone. What if I’m that someone?”
I skipped a beat but still said, “Noooo…you DON’T have MS!” while thinking, “She’s right. I’m that someone.”
So I prayed for her for days until she texted me that her doctor confirmed that she did not have multiple sclerosis.
We had both started to believe the dangerous things we tell ourselves and let fear take over. You just CANNOT believe everything you tell yourself.
That is what is happening to me, and I know it. But when can a headache just be a headache again? When can a patch of dry skin not be skin mets? When can a backache be a sign of a hard night at work and not a death sentence?
I really don’t know, but I should probably work on telling myself better things.
P.S. Thanks for continuing to vote for my blog! You guys have me in third place and are awesome!