I want to be angry, to be a Fearless Friend to my sisters fighting MBC, to fight against the marginalization of the 30% of people with breast cancer that develop mets. When I feel well, I can be. Right now, I don’t know what I can be, other than afraid.
When I first went through chemotherapy in 2009, I went to a support group hosted by my hospital. I had a chemo treatment the day before and felt awful, and there was a new woman there. She had just had her lumpectomy that morning and talked through an iron jaw and clenched teeth about how she didn’t need any pain pills, how god and church music was all she needed to get through it. She had steel grey hair in a (midwestern old woman) buzz cut. I sat there feeling hurt and sick and ugly and bald, incredulous at this woman being lauded by everyone else for her strength and bravery. I knew at that moment and I just didn’t have it. I worked full time through my entire treatment and I still felt small and sick and hurt and ugly.
When I started my chemo break this past August, I felt good enough to be angry and add my voice to the fight. Until the mets in my brain manifested themselves. I felt so wounded and honestly doomed once the stoned glow in my head cleared away and my thinking was more clear. I keep getting stronger but my energy is nothing near what it was in October. I lose my sense of center easily and feel like I’m careening around until I sit down and rest. I see shapes and movement out of the corner of my eyes and have difficulty reading because of slightly doubled vision. I start classes in two weeks and I’m scared that I won’t be able to get through even one lecture. I’m scared that my hair is never going to grow back.* Especially since I haven’t had any radiation treatment since December 1st, and I barely have stubble on portions of my head while other parts are still smooth and shiny.
All I want to do is curl up under the covers so no one can hurt me anymore. Doctors can’t cut me or poison me or burn me. Students can’t try to make me responsible for their problems or paint me as evil because I won’t change their grades. And maybe I won’t die this year.
I’ve met so many astonishingly brave women with MBC and Fearless Friends without recently that I’m almost ashamed to be this scared. But then again, courage isn’t the absence of fear, but going on in spite of it, right? I hope I can do that again.
*Isn’t it weird how much hair really does matter? When lost my hair this time I thought I would handle it better then I did when I was on chemo, but nope, it’s just as devastating to my self-esteem as last time.