I come from a large Italian family. We are close, do most everything together, and support each other no matter what. We don’t keep anything from each other. No secrets ever. I knew that I was so lucky to have a family like mine to be there through this but I feared how it would effect them. I worried about how my parents were coping, my siblings, my grandmother, but I really worried about my nieces and nephews. I knew that my nieces were a little too young to understand, but that is what made it hard. I knew that I wouldn’t look the same, I would be sick, recovering, unable to completely be myself and do the things I would normally do and how they would process that. I worried that it would scar them. I worried about my nephews in a different way though. They were old enough to understand what Cancer was. They were old enough to understand that I was sick. They would understand what multiple surgeries would mean for me. They were old enough to be worried about my life.
Both sensitive and intelligent, I knew that they would have questions and get emotional. My Sister-in-law waited to tell them for this very reason. We didn’t have answers yet. We didn’t know exactly what this all meant and what my treatment would look like. I knew that I would see them that weekend though and knew that my “I have cancer” word vomit would get the best of me.
It was Valentine’s weekend and normally it would have been spent doing cute things with my boyfriend at the time but this year just wouldn’t be the same. Friday was spent literally on the phone the entire day trying to track down my pathology slides so that I could get it to the hospital where the surgical oncologist that I was set up with was. They required the actual slides of the cells not a report. Penn needed to have their pathology lab dissect them in order to get their own diagnosis. You would have thought I was trying to track down the National Treasure but it was in fact the most important thing in my life in that moment.
I treated myself to a much needed manicure that evening and my friends came to join me. They came with gifts and flowers. My one friend had gone through breast cancer and brought me the Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book. She told me this would be my bible during my journey and she was right. I carried that big thing everywhere I went. It was full of everything that I needed to know and be prepared for. She then handed me a card from her step-daughter and I immediately burst out in tears. It was a Get Well Soon card with the sweetest little message.
I felt so incredibly lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life.
The next day my boyfriend took me to a Flyers game. I knew that it would be a struggle but I wanted to do something normal, something fun. I needed to get my mind off of this.
I tried, I tried so damn hard. I tried to be in that moment and be appreciative for everything good in my life. To be appreciative for the man sitting next to me. Appreciative of the fact that we were sitting on the ice at a Flyers game. I just couldn’t get the tears out of my eyes. I heard the crowd roaring in a far distance, there was that underwater feeling again. It was like everything was in slow motion. I couldn’t stop being completely and totally distraught. He could tell I wasn’t doing well and suggested we leave during the 3rd period and head up to my family’s house.
There I was, about to face my nephews and the fear of seeing them and them not knowing tore me up but the idea of them knowing was equally if not more upsetting. How would I say it? Would they believe me when I told them that I was going to be ok? Would I even believe myself?
I pulled my sister-in-law aside and told her I needed to talk to them. I couldn’t not tell them. We never kept secrets in the family. She agreed and we decided to sit them down and tell them together. They were receptive, inquisitive, and confused. “You have cancer? How? Are you going to be ok?” I told them yes and yes and I promised to be honest and tell them how I was every step of the way. “We love you Aunt Janine.” More tears…
The next day was Valentine’s Day. My bf offered to take me to a nice dinner but it just didn’t feel right. I knew where my head would be the whole time. I just wanted to be with him and my family all together because those were all the people that could always make me feel better, make me feel somewhat normal. Strength in numbers. Usually, my boyfriend and I post cheesy Valentine’s Instagram + Facebook posts with each others picture and saying how much we love each other blah blah but today was different though. Everything was just different. He put up a photo of me saying “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”
We hadn’t publicly told anyone of my diagnosis yet and I really wasn’t sure I would ever make a formal announcement. That is pretty awkward if you ask me but I knew eventually people would find out and have questions and be concerned. After this post though, people had questions. I thought to myself, hold on tight, this is going to be a bumpy ride.