My parents came to town the night before an extremely long day of doctors appointments. I would see my first plastic surgeon in the morning and then head down to a new surgical oncologist, then see a genetic oncologist counselor for a rather long science experiment sounding appointment. Following along with our new tradition, my parents, my bf, and I went to a big, expensive wine filled dinner to ease our anxieties about the following day. The four of us had always had a special bond since we were the only couple in the family without children and often did things together but these dinners started to become a special tradition that I knew I would never forget. A lot of laughter, but a lot of anxiety, and never complete without some tears. There was just so much unknown.
We would joke about things and try to have some sense of normalcy but our attention would just be drawn back to the elephant in the room. The fear in my parents made me sick. Their daughter was dealing with something they had no control over yet I know felt somewhat responsible for. The fear from my bf was different. He seemed to feel helpless and concerned and as if he had a million things running through his head whenever he looked at me that made me feel helpless right back. I needed to be strong though. I needed to be strong for them and let them know that I was fine, that I had a positive attitude and certain that everything would be fine. I’m fine, I’m fine. Maybe if I keep telling everyone that, I would start to believe it.
We went back to the hotel that my parents were staying at and there was definitely some extra nerves between us all. Every time we saw new doctors was scary but what would the geneticist reveal? What were we really dealing with as far as mastectomy vs lumpectomy, and would this new surgical oncologist have different opinions or findings. We ordered another bottle of wine and sat in the lobby for a while and I noticed that we were all starting to fall apart. I kept popping Tylenol because I felt physically ill from the anxiety with the hopes that it would alleviate something. I needed some type of relief and truth be told I had no idea how to do that. It was a type of feeling that you really didn’t know how to make better. Everything hurt both physically and mentally. The anxiety was crippling and I felt like I was on a roller coaster that didn’t stop. Inside I was screaming, “stop the ride, stop the ride,” but that wasn’t an option. I needed air. I needed to clear my head.
My bf and I decided we would walk home and try to ease our nerves. It was a late Wednesday night and we didn’t anticipate running into anyone we knew. In the midst of a dual panic attack we bumped into a friend of ours. A friend that had no clue what was going on in our world at the time. We started to make small talk but before I knew it, I burst into tears and had a case of the cancer word vomit. “I have breast cancer.” It was near impossible to have a normal conversation with anyone because I was completely consumed. All of the stress, anxiety, and pain from that night came to a head right there in the middle of Spruce Street. I couldn’t fake it anymore. I am pretty confident that I traumatized him that night and continued to do so as I ran into people along my journey but the thing is, I didn’t care in those moments. All of that trying to assure everyone else that I was fine just stopped. I was not fine.