Thursday, March 2, 2017

So What Do You Tell Everyone?

I told the story so far about my medical drama.  I decided to leave the hard stuff for separate posts.  The one thing that doctors don't seem to take into account and neither do most forums, support groups and other accounts is what do you tell people?

I thought about it.  I've spent a lot of my life hearing about what empowers women.  At the same time I've seen that women don't want anyone to know when they have cancer.  The two opposing actions confused me.  I didn't want to upset the people that I care about.  It made sense to leave it on a low key.  The problem with that was that I am against guarding information and lying.  It was something to wrestle with.  How many people should I tell?  What circle should the information be given to?  How much should I divulge? All pertinent questions.

I did tell my mother and mother in law.  My husband and son automatically knew, because I tell them everything.  I would never keep anything from them.  My mom lives in Arizona and lost my dad a couple of years ago.  She still has a lot on her plate and she doesn't travel well, so she couldn't come and help me.  My mother in law lives in the same town as me and is always willing to help out.  She has her own cancer, so she has a little experience with this stuff.

My mother in law was concerned.  She wanted to help and she was very understanding.  My mom was devastated.  She cried on the phone and there was nothing I could do.  I felt helpless, as did she.  She wanted to be here for me, but she just can't travel anymore.  She lost a step child a couple of brothers and sister and my dad recently.  I was really worried that she was not up to this.

I did it.  I sucked it up and told the family.  It actually went better than I thought.  My mom up and sent me a bunch of money to help the minute she heard. She insisted, since it was all she was able to do to help.  I was grateful, and put it aside to help with the medical bills.

Once that was all settled, I felt that I should tell my coworkers.  I think that this was what started me on the road to being truly liberated about the whole thing.  I told one coworker and it was easy.  There was no pity and I didn't feel uncomfortable.  After that, I told them all.  They were empathetic and told me that they would help out while I went through the surgery and all.  It was good.  I told everyone that I would keep them updated as things moved along.

So, the work hurdle was fine.  My husband wasn't sure who to tell what, so he was keeping it fairly quiet at work.  He has the unique circumstance of working with people that we've both known for years.  It wasn't long before I told him to go ahead and share it with them.  By then, it was just another thing in my life that was happening.  It was becoming less and less of a big thing.

The next thing I did was to invite a bunch of my girlfriends over and tell them what was going on.  I made some lasagna and bought some good brownies and we all got together to eat and chatter.  I hadn't gotten together with my friends for ages anyway and it was high time. I wished that it could have been under different circumstances, but I liked the visit.  I spent the whole day with the girls going in and out of the house. I didn't put a time on the gathering.  Everyone had work and kids to deal with, so they stopped by when they could and left when they had to.  We laughed and listened to music and ate. 

It was a great day for me.  I told everyone what was happening, and they were very supportive.  After that, we went on to overeating and gossip.  It was actually a lot of fun and I felt even better about it after that day.  I didn't feel alone after the support from family, work friends, and friends.  One of the ladies that I worked with at the time had also had a mastectomy.  Two in fact.  She was a great person to talk to about all of it.

My time with the people that I care about helped to empower me.  I've read for years about female empowerment.  I think it's different for everyone. I would like to think that women all think the same way and that it's an automatic sisterhood,  but we are individuals.  As much as we don't like to be, we just don't all think alike.  We don't all have the same reactions to things.  We don't all have the same way of dealing with issues.  We don't all have the same definition of empowerment.  We are all wonderfully unique creatures with an amazing capacity for love and strength.  I do know that for the most part we all do like lasagna.

And that became my coping mechanism.   Humor.  I learned during the more painful times in my life that you have a choice.  You can laugh or you can cry.  You get get pissed on or you can get pissed off.  The choice is up to the individual.  I've always opted for laughter and anger.  They keep me strong.  I feel empowered when I can look at something potentially devastating and laugh.  The world can take a lot from me but not my spirit.  That's who I am.  Fly in the face of.  That's empowerment to me.

So after telling the people closest to me about my breast cancer, I became very open about it.  I joked with my family about my upcoming mastectomy. I said that I wanted my prosthetic breast to be neon purple with a yellow daisy on the end where the nipple should be.  I said that I wanted to tattoo something silly about my missing breast on the base of my neck and let the general public wonder what it was about.  Empowerment has nothing on me.

At any rate, I'd started to cope.  I still had a long wait for a very serious surgery.  My nerves were still not good, and my mood changed minute by minute.  I tried not to take it out on anyone.  I've been told that I did all right with that.  No one said that I did great.  I hope that I really did do okay.

All I can say to anyone in that position is that you have to do what you can and take it one day at a time.  Sometimes you have to take it one minute at a time.  It's not easy, but it's not impossible.  You have to find your way of handling it.  No one can tell you how to handle it and they shouldn't try.  It's just rude.  The one thing that I can say is that you have to think about it, no matter how much you don't want to.  It's the only way to start to cope.

I will continue to write this in hopes that it will help someone.

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