The new cancer patient.
Being newly diagnosed and having your world change at the drop of a hat can be overwhelming to say the least. You suddenly feel like your head is spinning, and think what in the heck are you going to do? And holy hell am I going to die? I was diagnosed almost 9 years ago now. I knew deep down in my heart when I found that lump right before Spring Break, it was cancer. What I didn’t know was just how aggressive, scary, and deadly the tumor in my body was because I was the new cancer patient.
As I told people of my diagnosis, I was comforting them, telling them it was okay, and I would be fine, blah, blah, blah, but down deep I was scared to death. What I really wanted was someone to tell me it would be ok. But, how did they know that? When someone told me it was nothing, just a cyst, etc., I thought, who are you to say that? You don’t know.
I wanted to say so many things out loud. But, the nice calm person in me internalized it all. The feelings of dread and the pure terror that rolled around in my brain, I kept to myself. I comforted all of those, especially the ones I love, because didn’t want them to worry.
When my surgeon told me she was sure it was 99% cancer as she was doing the biopsy, I asked her to let me look at the chunks she was digging out of my right breast. She showed me each chunk of grey looking matter. I knew right then it wasn’t good. No one should have tissue that looked like that! We discussed each chunk, each looking grizzly and nothing like pink tissue should look. Neither she nor I knew just how bad it would turn out to be.
I went back to work, after meeting with her to confirm that yes, I had breast cancer but we didn’t know the type yet. Type of breast cancer, I thought breast cancer was cancer? At school, my desk was in an area outside the counselor’s office, nurse’s clinic and the AP’s office. I was sitting at the desk when the phone rang. I answered with no clue who was on the other end.
It was the surgeon calling. She told me yes, it was a very aggressive breast cancer but it was also a bad kind. Quietly, I asked the students who were in the waiting area to leave the office. Needing details, I did not scream or cry. She had already set up an appointment to have my port put in the next day at 5:00 pm and to meet with the oncologist the next day after. Port, what is a port? I was to register at the hospital for pre-op immediately. Time was important treating this beast that was trying to kill me.
I quietly walked into the counselor’s office. There he sat along with a friend. I just sat down and I am not sure what I said. I don’t think I cried. But, I did get my things and I went to the hospital. I talked to Calvin as I drove towards Atlanta. He met me there. Neither of us cried. He just hugged me, squeezed my hand and said that we would get through this. He never, ever, promised me it was going to be ok. I liked that because we really did not know. Little did I know then, that that would be the last day I would work for almost a year.
At the hospital, they were waiting on me. A nurse asked me some questions and got me ready for the EKG, blood work, chest x-ray and I am not sure what all. When I was finished she gave me a three ringed notebook planner with general info, a place to put business cards and anything else i needed to have for organization. She said something to me that really hit home and has stuck with me to this day. She said ‘I know you are overwhelmed, don’t fight anything. When you are told to go here or there, go. When they say do this, do it. Don’t fight it but ask questions, be your own best advocate’.
Believe me I asked every question I could ever think of. I challenged my oncologist and surgeon, demanding answers. I did not know until about two years ago, just how bad it really was. Hmmm, wonder how I missed that important little detail? Maybe my mind did not want to know and retain that knowledge?
I carried that book with me until I finished treatment. It has my whole cancer history in it. Being organized made such an impression on me and made my life so much easier. My book is awesome. I have every blood test, scan, surgery, written diagnoses and the results everything done. Actually it is two notebooks that it is important for me to have.
In writing all of that it is to just give one an idea of now everything changes in the drop of the hat. You are cruising along thinking the world is yours and then BAM! Everything changes so fast. Those of you touched by cancer know what I am talking about. It has a trickle down affect too. It hits family, friends, co-workers, your complete lifestyle changes.
Nothing is ever the same… and you don’t even really realize that yet. You will feel shaken to your core while you are being happily and jolly but in reality, deep down, you know you are fighting for your life.
So remember when someone tells you that they are just diagnosed with cancer, please do not tell them it will be okay. They don’t need to hear that your aunt passed away from cancer. Asking them when they are going to loose their hair is not a good idea. Cancer patients don’t need to hear that.
Instead think of something positive. Ask the person WHEN you can bring them a meal. Talk with co-workers, church members and others to set up a food train, send cards with some cash it in. People are not prepared for all of the co-pays, parking fees, necessary things involved in a cancer diagnosis.
Instead of flowers, give them the twenty or forty bucks you would have spent on the flowers. The cancer patient and family has so much to worry about without having to think of things that will cost money that they doesn’t even know about yet!
There are so many little things and gestures of kindness that we received that meant the world to me and to Calvin. Instead of ‘giving’ to a pink charity, adopt a cancer patient and his/her family. That way you know where your money is going and they get the full amount. Calvin and I so appreciated that.
Please ask me if you want to know some other ideas or info for helping a family member or friend who has been newlydiagnosed. I am an open book! I try to educate and to help. It takes a tribe of women helping women
Cancer is not always a death sentence, like it used to be. At times one feels like they are going to die, I know I did. But you muster courage, strength and somewhat of peace with your faith. Whatever your religion or faith, you will pull from it for strength. You will find comfort in your beliefs.
Pulling from deep down in your toes or from whatever you can to remain sane, pleasant, and for courage to move on will get you through the very worst of days. Then you will celebrate and rejoice in the good days. The old saying ‘attitude is everything’ is so so very true, you are the new cancer patient.
Until next time,