I sipped on that sweet chemotherapy cocktail all afternoon yesterday, and now I’m just waiting for that weekend hangover.  Last cycle was my worst, possibly because I fasted as some preliminary research shows it to be helpful in reducing side effects and identifying cancer cells.  Whether it was a result of fasting or not, I felt sick sooner and for longer.  Honestly, I don’t think I came out of the fast properly, but this time I ate my little heart out, as I’m accustomed to doing.  Fasting and I are just not friends.  I’m definitely a Ron Weasley when I don’t eat.  And this cancer is pretty much a horcrux.  Does anyone have a basilisk’s fang hanging around?  Or, like, a super fancy sword made by goblins?

Chemo days are actually some of my favorites.  I kick my feet up, watch this tv, and flirt with the old men while someone else takes care of my kids.
Chemo days are actually some of my favorites. I kick my feet up, watch this tv, and flirt with the old men while someone else takes care of my kids.

So anyway, I kind of got the wind taken out of my sails yesterday as my doctor gave me some unexpected news.  First, let me just say that my oncologist is a very smart, accomplished, and sweet woman.  She just smiles so dang much!  The first time I met with her, it was rather offensive to me.  She rocked her permasmile as she talked me through my treatment plan and odds.  My odds.  Yeah, she smiled through that scary little nugget.  She even gave pointed little giggles before responding to my questions.  I left her office after that first meeting not really sure if my doctor understood the severity of my situation.  I am ALL for a laugh, but this stuff: not funny…unless I make it funny.  Then, it’s funny.

For my third treatment three weeks ago, one of my bffs, Christen, accompanied me.  I warned her of this smiling phenomenon, stripped down to put on a gown, and waited for the doc.  As we waited, we did what all best friends do.  She felt me up, of course. You know, then we had a pillow fight in our jammies.  jk. jk.  Kind of.  I don’t think it counts if the boob isn’t attached to me, right?  See, what had happened was…I took my boobs off and handed her one.  We’re pretty much like sisters, and I showed her my scars too.  She’s the first person besides Josh and my daughters (oh, and a million medical professionals) that I have shown so it felt kind of like another step toward acceptance.

Christen, preparing to be my maid of honor, even in kindergarten.  She never could handle her "juicebox."
Christen, preparing to be my maid of honor, even in kindergarten. She never could handle her “juicebox.”

Aaaaand I’m off track.  The point is that today, when Dr. M walked into the exam room, she wasn’t smiling quite as brightly.  Instead, she informed me that she took my case to the tumor board for the third time at my insistence (I just know that doctors love nurses as patients!), and they decided that I did, indeed, need radiation.  I was not expecting that.  She explained that they reviewed the original biopsy results and basically concluded that, although my two tumors were small, I had an aggressive form of cancer.  My odds of recurrence are higher, and I’m young.  Youth is not an advantage in the case of breast cancer.  Hormones and such.  Dr. M literally told me that they were just going to throw everything they had at me.  Fun.

Except, not really.  Not even remotely what I wanted to hear.  I guess that, now, I am not halfway there.  I don’t know.  We don’t have a radiation plan yet.

I realize that this really doesn’t change anything…just what I know.  I realize that getting radiation is a good thing.  I realize that my God is a big God, and I realize that fear will only stop me in my tracks and rob me of the now.  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t head straight to the bathroom and break down.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t walk into the chemo waiting area looking a hot mess.  Think Britney Spears, circa 2007.  Then, the kindness of the other cancer patients was more than I could take.

I sat down next to Josh and tried to hold myself together, but hot tears escaped one by one of their own volition.  People looked over sympathetically.  People gave me my space.

Then the middle aged woman sitting across from me wheeled away.  No big deal.  I was trying haaard to shut myself down, stuff it back inside, so her movements barely registered with me.  Until she came back bearing tissues for me.

She looked me in the eye, “Here.”

That was too much for me.

I started sobbing into the tissues she just handed me.  More people looked.  I buried my head into Josh’s arm.

“Everyone’s looking at me.”

“That’s okay.”

One final sob.  Then, lock down.

When I was called back into the infusion center a couple of minutes later, all I could do was look at the woman in the pink hat and mutter, “Thanks.”

I know she knew what it meant.

Thanks for acknowledging me.  Thanks for supporting me.  Thanks for knowing that sometimes we just can’t hold it in.  Thanks for understanding this pain.  This fear.  This loss of control.  Thanks for seeing me.  Thanks for being my friend.  And I will call that woman, who I will probably never see again and who I only exchanged two words with, a friend always.

This whole thing is bananas, really.

I mean, in other news, my eyes have become the place where eyelashes go to die.  I can’t yet tell that any are missing, but I can sure feel them practicing their cannon balls one by annoying little one into the pool of my eye.  On the bright side, my brother-in-law pointed out that I have a lot of wishes coming my way.  Score.

Also, I had to have a conversation with Penny last week about why my hair will grow back but not my breasts.  The answer is easy enough if you have a brief moment to prepare, but my initial response to her question contained a lot of “uhs” and “umms.”  I found my way through though.  And I will find my way through this too.  With the help of friends and family.  You guys are rocking it.  And I just can’t keep up with all of the thank yous right now.  I feel like, one by one, you are all carrying me.  Sort of like crowd surfing.  Each meal, each letter, each dollar donated, each ridiculous beard shaved in the name of more donations or promises to run the marathon portion of a legit Ironman race in a prom dress.  A mowed lawn.  Childcare.  A care package in the mail.  A shoulder for me to cry on.  A tissue passed my way.  They are all hands, and you just keep holding me up…until I make it to my brother, Paul.  Then I fall.  True story.

I was once crowd surfing and was dropped hard.  I look up from the floor, and it was my very own brother that dropped the ball…err, me.  Maybe he was tired of seeing so many dudes trying to cop a feel.  Or maybe he’s just short.  But then he hoisted me back up because, you know, I had already lost a shoe.

Yeah, this is totally like crowd surfing.  My loved ones are holding me up, that shoe probably represents my mind, and I’ve been groped more times than I count.

8 comments on “Permasmiles and crowd surfing.”

  1. I have read every one of your posts. You have an amazing gift for writing Heather. When you beat this horrible disease, (and you will), you should write a book about your experiences to share with others. Stay positive because attitude is everything!

  2. Heather, You are SUNSHINE on a cloudy day! My whole mind, heart, body and soul aches for you. But, at the same time, I am even more determined to pray harder, longer, and more intense to go before the throne of GOD pleading for you to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and the comfort and peace of God like you have never felt before. I am believing for a miracle for you. We serve an awesome God….He is a God of wonders! Every miracle in the Bible started as a problem. You will get your miracle. You have such a remarkable talent. Love you!

  3. Dear Heather, know that as you are crowd surfing it is God who is holding you up. All the good deeds people have done for you are messengers sent from him. I agree with Suzi that my every sense aches for you. I will continue to pray for you, and pray God holds you up high until this battle is won. I love you very much.
    Mary Sue

  4. I have just found your blog, and I thank you for sharing your journey. I am 5 years out myself and I work at the College of Nursing at Barnes (though not a nurse). But what I want to tell you was that I actually do have a couple of different prostheses – an aquaboob, an exercise boob, an every day boob. When I first got them a friend came over and we had them all out on the table and she was feeling the difference (she’s a sculptor and was interested in the material, etc.) when my husband came in. He stopped, looked at the two of us and the four boobs on the table, shook his head and said, “This is so close to a fantasy I once had. And yet so so far.” I still laugh about that.

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