“You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting.” – Shmi Skywalker, Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace
I am the type of person whose emotions can be easily triggered; sometimes by even the most minute things. Once I teared up because I was convinced I had strep throat and it was actually tonsillitis, which was probably better anyway… Like, how dumb is that!? This is why I try very hard not to be overly emotional about things so I can control my physical reactions. If I prepare myself for something by thinking about all of the possible outcomes, then I feel like I can deal with whatever will happen.
However, the moment I heard that my biopsy came back positive for breast cancer, even though I had prepared myself for this potential outcome, the tears just came. And there wasn’t just tears, there was some sobbing. And then, for a moment, silence.
I was stunned and at a loss for words. It is common knowledge that cancer exists and it has affected my family and friends, but there is nothing like the feeling of knowing that it has invaded your own body. Before this moment, I had often thought about it, but “that could never happen to me” was always the afterthought. Now, it was really happening. I was devastated… And I was scared.
I could tell my doctor was shocked himself, but he was calm. He dealt with these things all the time and thank goodness for that because I needed that calming presence, even if it was over the phone.
So, the question came from my doctor, “Where do you want to go?” Go? I was befuddled for a moment. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Where I was supposed to go. But he wanted to know what hospital I wanted to go to get a more comprehensive look at my results. “I have no idea,” I responded. He told me he would have the nurse call a couple hospitals to find out when someone could see me, and she would call me back soon.
The moment after I hung up the phone is a bit of a blur, but I know I instantly called my husband and then my mom, who both came to see me right away. I couldn’t even say the word “cancer” out loud at this point. And I couldn’t be around anyone else that day, so I called off work. After my husband and mom left, I was left with my own thoughts.
For a long time, I just sat on the couch. There was a storm raging in my head. At this point, I did not know how bad my cancer was, and I was not going to know for about a week. I thought about every possible outcome, and I was lost in a black hole of uncertainty. Did I catch this early enough? Would things have been different if I found out months earlier? What if it was really, really bad? What if I couldn’t recover from this? What if, what if!
But of all the thoughts and emotions I was dealing with, the one that was most prominent was that… I felt ashamed. I felt like I had done something wrong; that I had done this to myself. That my body was punishing me. That I deserved this.
I know, in retrospect, that these things were not true, but I had to go through these dark moments first. I had to let myself be upset. But then I had to move forward because I had a long journey ahead of me.