*warning* this one may be hard to read for some of you
I debated as to whether I should even write these words down. My hubby says I am really good at putting on a brave face. I usually only fall apart with him. Last week was a really hard week. I got through it, and I am still going through some hard stuff this week. As much as I want to protect you all from my conversations with myself, I also want to share with you my reality. I feel as though we can hold even more compassion for those living through illness. For some of us, there is no end to our illness, there may be breaks, but it walks along with us ALL the time.
Why am I itchy?
Hmmm, that’s weird. Maybe it’s just dry skin.
Ah, crap, what the heck? It’s red, itchy, looks like a rash.
But, it’s around the scars. Sigh, seriously, have these boobs not had enough attention already? It must be the laundry soap.
Pause, while I re-wash ALL my bras.
Try not to panic, try not to think too much about it. A rash is no big deal, I got this, it’s just a rash. Nothing some cortisone or calendula can’t fix. Whew
Days pass into weeks, it’s not better, but not worse. I should go to the clinic. Nah, I am ok, I will try a few more things like Aerius and calamine lotion. It’s most likely an allergic reaction. Ya, I am sensitive like that. I will google it.
STOP. Wait, ok, I am going to be bravely honest here…I googled it the moment I started itching. Ya, and I went there…
Search - rash after breast surgery, skin cancer, Infection, Breast Cancer return after breast surgery, inflammatory breast cancer. Images. No, STOP. I can’t go here. I can’t see and read these things, they make my stomach turn. Ah, too late, nausea is setting in. Breath, just breath into the belly.
OK, I am going to go to the doctor. I will go tomorrow. Damn my hip has been sore lately, could that be cancer? My knee bothers me too. Ok, try really hard not to google breast cancer spreading into the bones...shit too late.
Now, I cancel going to the Dr. several times.
Cancel on going to the doctor??? Cancel on myself!!! What the heck? I don't do that! Why do I keep making excuses to avoid the clinic. Ohhhhhh, I know. I am terrified. Frozen in fear. I don't think I can handle hearing if I have cancer again. Enter nausea. Tears just flow when I think about going to the doctor and showing her this rash. If it’s the clinic I have to get into the whole story. You know the “cancer”. Then re-live the surgery in Dec. If I can get into see my family doc, she will understand if the tears flow. She gets “it”. The “it” is that fear of cancer returning. Every ache and pain and sneeze could be cancer. This fear is currently disabling. I mean there is a little part of me that is broken with fear. OK, let’s think through this? What if cancer returns, what will I do? I feel like I might crumble, ok just breathe. If cancer comes back I will do all that I can do to get through it. I will persist. I will be active. I will give it all I can to heal. Again. Sigh, of course I will.
OK, off to the clinic, I can do this! I can do this! I can do this! Why am I crying? Why can’t I breath right now? This is exhausting, maybe I should go home. I will call a friend or Lee to help me. No, I don’t want anyone to know this fear. I want to protect them. I don’t want them to worry that I am worried about the rash. I don’t want to tell anyone why. Just park the car, you can do this. Walk, one foot in front of the other. Register. Grab a snack, this will be distracting. Wait. I can see my doctor, whew, what a relief. I am feeling a bit better. She sees me, thinks my healing is amazing and is not concerned about the rash. Rules out infection. Gives me a strong cream, but more importantly reminds me that if ever, I am feeling un-well, with anything, to call her office and she will find a way to fit me in. Anytime. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and the feeling is washing over me. I can breath now. Oh thank goodness, I can breath. I sit for a moment, I am soaking this in.
Hmmmm, what do I want to make for dinner?
Just like that, I can think, breathe and move forward into this blessed life. For a cancer patient, a rash is never just a rash. I am learning to live with this fact. Somedays, I can use my many tools to work through the stress. Somedays I break. Both are ok and neither fully define me. In fact I can break and use my coping strategies at the EXACT same time. I am beyond grateful for access to my team of care-givers. If at one time or another you have been one of my caregivers, I am deeply grateful for you.