Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm So Afraid

I've been staring at this blank form for quite some time with no cogent thoughts coming forth. There are plenty of ideas, jumbled fragments, but I can't seem to wrap any of them up into neat little packages.

And I think there's probably a very good reason for this.

My best friend has breast cancer.

She's 37. She has three children aged almost 5 and under.

I've known for a few weeks now--about as long as she has--and I think I've just been pretending it's not true.

The doctors caught it early. She just went in for a check up--a routine physical--and the doc suggested she go in for a mammogram to establish a baseline. The doc didn't feel anything. The mammogram didn't show anything specific, just some thickening. They sent her for an ultrasound assuming they were just ruling things out.

She has cancer.

And they still can't even feel the lumps.

That's a good thing. The prognosis is good.

And I thought I was okay. I mean, I don't have cancer. I can't complain. So I'm fine. I'm the fine one. I'm perfectly fine.

EXCEPT WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO MY BEST FRIEND???!!!!!

I can't fix her. I can't make it okay for her. I can't change things when she's scared. I can't make it better. And I hate that.

Each time my head starts in this direction, I just say shut up. You're not the one who is sick. Just shut up.

But I'm afraid too.

When my aunt was diagnosed with cancer nine years ago, I was sure she was going to be fine. Six weeks later I was at her memorial service. I still think of her almost every day.

I'm so afraid to be positive about Pfunky's cancer.

I'm so afraid.

23 Deserve Mamma's Love:

The Panic Room said...

"I can't fix her. I can't make it okay for her. I can't change things when she's scared. I can't make it better. And I hate that."

I'm not sure if I've ever experienced anything as frustrating as this feeling. It is the source of all of my anger. Feeling powerless when every instinct is to protect the ones you love. all the luck to your friend. So glad they found it early.

Dan said...

All you can do is continue to be her friend and hope for the best.

I've had several friends go through cancer and the number one thing they all want is to continue being treated as a normal person. So many people just disappear from their lives when they find our about the cancer, be it from fear or not knowing what to say or ...

It is hard to deal with the feeling of loss from the cancer without feeling a loss of friends too. So just be there - you'll find the right things to do and say.

Rebel with Cause said...

I hear you and get how much prior experience gets at you. May be mine can help you.

First some facts- breast cancer is one of the most survivable forms of cancer, especially when found early (as in the case of your friend. My sister in law was diagnosed and treated just over 10 years ago with breast cancer, a year after she has small melanoma removed. She is fine and continues to work hard (World Bank senior position). It did come back two years ago and she had full mastectomy. She has now had reconstruction, got the boobs she always wanted (much smaller!) and looks 10y younger. She is just over 50.

Now for my niece. She has had a very small mole which she insisted on having removed though doctor advised not to do it. When they tested it, they found it was Malignant Melanoma. Ok, they removed small area around it and tested 5 lymph nodes. Turned out there were some cancer cells in the top one! THIS CANCER IS NOT TREATABLE. She was 28 at the time. Doctor advised her to have full line of lymph nodes on the affected leg removed. She looks like a model, works for a leading Charity Foundation and took just 6 weeks from the operation to get back to work- taking time during lunch for massage. Only her boss knows. She has got married last year. Last month she turned 30! She is fine and totally does not dwell on it.

So, take it one step at the time and do not get frightened for your friend. Being positive helps recovery. I am sure you will be there for her and she knows that.

All the very best from your Twitter follower

@Alheri

Mamma said...

Thank you for your kind words.

I will be by her side. And we've been friends too long for me to treat her any other way that as the amazing person she is--which has already included some dark humor.

Sometimes you just have to laugh or you'll only cry.

flutter said...

You can be her biggest ally. Kick this cancer's ass.

Kimberly said...

So scary...ugh. You and your friend will be in my thoughts and prayers. xo

amy turn sharp of doobleh-vay said...

I am so very sorry. I m sure this is so scary. You keep being you and be there for her and that will help her I just know it. Find people to talk to and be strong. Yr love will be good for her. hugs.

Beth said...

Of course you’re afraid. But you can do something – be there for her (which you will do), be positive (no matter how you’re feeling) and even share laughter. Trust me, occasions for laughter do occur amidst the pain and fear - and that’s a wonderful thing.
It’s amazing what we’re capable of doing despite what we’re feeling.

Maggie said...

So scary and so sad--I unfortunately know the feeling since my best friend was also diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37 with 2 young daughter and a husband who adores her. She, too, found the cancer by accident--felt a lump, got a mammogram and it turned out the lump was nothing--but they did find another spot that was cancer.

They first thought it was only stage 1, which was comforting. She elected to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction so she'd never have to worry about cancer in the other breast. They did the surgery and found that the whole breast was full of cancer--up to the skin, almost no margins at all. But her lymph nodes were clear. Or so said the surgeon; when the plastic surgeon went in to place the expanders she found a lump on her side, which they biopsied: cancer. Had she not elected to have the reconstruction they would have sewed her up and never known it was there.

Turns out the cancer was much more advanced then they thought, so she had to undergo 6 months of very aggressive chemo, then several more months of radiation. It was hard but somehow she made it through--even while caring for her 2 kids throughout the whole thing.

Then a tree fell on her house, destroying it! Talk about horrible luck. But at least she was done with the treatment. She since had the permanent implants placed and had tons of ongoing problems--many more surgeries and procedures. Finally they healed and she's been fine for almost a year--and now they told her she had to have a hysterectomy. Which she just had.

The great news is that after all this, she's cancer-free and she's back to doing everything she used to do--brownie troop leader, camp-outs, etc, etc. Her hair grew back and she looks exactly the same as she always did--except, as she'd tell you--with perky new boobs courtesy of health insurance ;)

I'm so sorry your friend is having to go through with this--and that you also have to go through with watching and worrying. But just remember that they found it really early, which is great and really encouraging news.

My favorite breast cancer story is a friend of my mother-in-law's. She had breast cancer over 20 years ago. She had a mastectomy--back when they were horrible and disfiguring, unfortunately--and to this day is fine and cancer-free. I figure if they could cure breast cancer 20+ years ago, the chances for survival for someone diagnosed and treated today are excellent.

Sorry to take up your comment field--the one suggestion I have for you is to gather as many positive cancer stories as possible and share them with your friend. My friend was so appreciative of hearing survival stories--it really gave her the strength, courage and optimism to get through the treatments and to go on afterwards.

Marty, a.k.a. canape said...

You know I get this. Way get this.

You have to be positive for her. It's really all you can do. That's how you change things when she is scared. That's how you make it better.

Then, when you need to be scared and you need to contemplate the worst? You email one of us.

The patient needs the most care, but those that care about the patient need care too.

Love you much, and I'll be praying for you and your friend.

NicoleCrowley said...

I think to feel helpless- especially when it comes to a loved one's health- is perhaps the hardest feeling to come to grips with in adult life... I've had to, and it's not easy or fun.

Best thoughts and prayers to you and your friend!

catnip said...

I totally get it. I think we all feel that helplessness in the face of a loved one's cancer. Just being there for her is the best thing you can do.

PunditMom said...

It's so scary -- we're gotten to an age where this happens too much. Thinking of you and your friend. xoxo

Jessica Gottlieb said...

Oh.

Fuck.

Tash said...

Wish I had the words for you. She's lucky to have a friend like you. It's clearly in the very very early stages, which is the best prognosis possible. Keep us posted. Hang in there.And yes, laughter is the best isn't it, even in dark times. Was amazed at the number of jokes we cracked while in hospital last week Monday at 4 am with my better half's father. (all well now) but the doctors were looking at us like we were mad. Sure made us all feel a bit better.

toddlerplanet said...

Hey, babe. You can do this. You can. She needs you right now... Just. To. Be. Her. Friend.

Email/twitter anytime.
Susan

jodifur said...

I'm so sorry.

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

I wish I could do something to help both of you.

Liz@thisfullhouse said...

Sending all positive thoughts your way and glad that your friend has you by her side.

Cancer sucks and needs to be kicked in the ass, HARD!

Good luck to you both.

Amy said...

I'm SOOOO sorry to hear about your friend. I can't even imagine what you're both going through.

But thank you for mentioning this. It calls attention to the fact that none of us are "safe" and that we need to be proactive when it comes to our health.

Thank goodness she had all that testing!

Amy (at Gracobaby)

Slackermommy said...

I'm so sorry. How scary. My best friend is like a sister and I would be a wreck too. She's lucky to have you by her side on this journey though. You are one of the most thoughtful and kind people I know. She will find so much comfort in having you close.

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flutter said...

You can't fix her, but you can love that shit right out of her.

You can.