Crossing Cancer (Chapter 2)

Yesterday marks an end to something.  In just three weeks, the following events happened: I found a lump, was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer that has spread to my nodes and started chemotherapy today.

Of course, it’s more complicated than one sentence can uphold.  But to some degree: it’s that fast.  You’re living your normal, happy life—and in an instant you’re told you have cancer. I’m not sure if I can get the ensuing thick, ikyness on paper, but allow me to sift through the shock, information-deluge, sadness and vulnerability for a bit.

After I said: “I have breast cancer,” friends and family rallied around the most foreign words I’ve ever uttered.  People were giving advice on where/ from whom I should seek treatment, hair-loss and wigs, medication and where the “port should be placed”.  For the first couple of days, my phone took a beating because when I heard something I wasn’t ready to hear, I’d throw it across the room.  Unfortunately, that strategy doesn’t stop the truth.  What’s odd is that every word out of anyone’s mouth was depressing.  “Wigs are lifesavers,” sounded awful. “You won’t be going anywhere for a while,” and “No more play dates at your house so you don’t catch a cold,” sounded claustrophobic. “Cancer is depressing,” sounded, well, somehow the most depressing of all.

Processing new information is a schizophrenic experience that is both bizarre and ultimately ineffective.  I go into meetings with doctors and nurses and small bombs of unexpected information surprise me.  After a while my brain just stops retaining data.  Upon learning I’d lose my hair, I somehow thought it’ll all fall out and then start growing back immediately.  Nope, I lose it in 2 weeks and it’s gone until the end of chemo.  March.  People are so nice though—they’ve seen that pseudo-calm, defensive eye-lid blinking before and try to reassure.  “Your hair grows back though, as do your lashes and eyebrows.”  Wait–what?  My brain just got a tenth of the way around accepting I’ll be bald and now eyebrows and eyelashes are thrown in there too? Is this a horrible hazing prank?  Ugh.  Each time I hear a tiny injustice like that my body feels like it’s under attack, like I’m a zebra looking up from grazing in the savannas, freezing at the sight of lions nearby. I can’t think. I must flee.

My big sister flew out from Dallas and took me to a wig shop in SF. That’s when I realized a truth about cancer.  It’s insult to injury.  I’m going to be pumped full of drugs to attack the cancerous cells, but it also attacks good cells.  I’ll be “leveled to zero” (as the doctor says), physically and emotionally exhausted. Not to mention the toll that this will take on my family… and then just start slapping on other freakish appearance things– and Voilà!

So, I’ve let go.  Feeling badly, scaring my children and losing the way I normally live is so humiliating that I’ve released control.  That seems to be the one thing I can control.  I have one job now—to get this vessel through to the other side. I’m losing my hair? Fine- I just chopped it off anyway (see below) and had fun with it with a friend. Chemo?  Ok, they’re sending in the navy seals to wreck everything in sight so that cancer doesn’t stand a chance.  There’ll be collateral damage.  But it won’t beat me. No way.

You get by with a little help from your friends. My friend Kate rallied and got me a haircut. The only way I could deal with getting my hair chopped off was looking at her beautiful and strong self.

You get by with a little help from your friends. My friend Kate rallied and got me a haircut. The only way I could deal with getting my hair chopped off was looking at her beautiful and strong self.

Pixie cut done by one of the nicest men on the planet. Forever grateful.

Pixie cut done by one of the nicest men on the planet. Forever grateful.

Marin girls do a pre "Fuck Cancer" Soul Cycle ride. Lots of pink. Lots of "Roar" and "Guts Over Fear".

Marin girls do a pre “Fuck Cancer” Soul Cycle ride. Lots of pink. Lots of “Roar” and “Guts Over Fear”.

So touched by Marnaton's dedicating its largest open water swim to me and other women with cancer.  I was supposed to be there this year. Next year for sure.

So touched by Marnaton’s dedicating its largest open water swim to me and other women with cancer. I was supposed to be there this year. Next year for sure.

Marnaton Cadaqués swim briefing, Next year I will be there. Love you all.

Marnaton Cadaqués swim briefing, Next year I will be there. Love you all.

Related Articles:
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 1)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 2)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 3)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 4)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 5)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 6)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 7)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 8)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 9)



Categories: cancer

24 replies

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. As usual, this post is very well written and so strong. Just like you! You rock!!!!

  2. Your thoughts are strong and sharply focused. You have transitioned from being a scared victim to a fierce warrior. Or, at the very least, it is your new mantra! Take that sh*t down! You are stronger than you know. Peace & healing.

  3. Courage and strength you are! XOXO
    💜🌸💕🌞🌷

  4. So articulate. F*&k cancer. Love you.

  5. FKCA… You’ve got this. You will get through and we will all be here right behind you, beautiful girl!
    Xo

  6. FKCA! Love you
    xo

  7. Your friends words can be a great reflection and they all say…You are the strongest, most determined person they know! You can stomp this and we are right there with you. Lets do this!
    Love you

  8. Thank you for sharing your writing & your journey with all of us. Your ability to humanize something that seems so inhuman is incredible. xoxoxo

  9. No Way, is right! You have always been a fighter and it’s time knock another one down. Let the hair go for now but no touching your beautiful smile! You are in my thoughts and prayers. Stay strong and keep smiling.
    All of us back home are pulling for you! xoxo

  10. Love the doo! Stay strong gurl!

  11. Let me remind you,that spunky kick butt girl around the pool deck was just as beautiful with short hair as a child as your are now! It’s what’s inside that truly makes you Beautiful! Keep applying that winning attitude you have always had and you will quickly Win this! Record time no doubt! Praying for you. Debbie

  12. Susan, soy Lali, amiga de tu suegra. Te conozco a traves de tu blog y estoy segura que vas a salir adelante. Muchos mares que cruzar te esperan.
    Besos

  13. I expect to swimm with you In Cadaques 2015… and all the rest of Marnaton if you want till then stay focused to Kick away This crab

  14. Love you, Sooz! You’ll beat this! xxooxxoo

  15. You look beautiful with short hair! Beat it up Susan. TOY! Besos

  16. Susanita, sending you love. Como dice Lali, muchos mares que cruzar. Y siempre, siempre serás bella, inside and out.

Trackbacks

  1. Crossing Cancer | Swim4Good
  2. Running the Chicago Marathon with Susan | Swim4Good
  3. Corriendo la Maraton de Chicago con Susan | Swim4Good
  4. Crossing Cancer (Chapter 4) | Swim4Good
  5. Crossing Cancer (Chapter 5) | Swim4Good
  6. Crossing Cancer (Chapter 7) | Swim4Good
  7. Crossing Cancer (Chapter 8) | Swim4Good
  8. Celebrating and Movin’ On! (10th and Hopefully Last Post in Crossing Cancer) | Swim4Good

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