It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.
– Robert W. Service
My Rock and I had just enough time to eat our sandwiches in the waiting area when we were introduced to Michele Speer, the Breast Center Nurse Navigator at Stamford Hospsital and brought to her office. The room was bedecked with pink ribbons, pink teddy bears, and all things pink. We sat on her sofa and she brought up a screen with what looked like the outline of a breast and then a bunch of little white spots forming a crescent. Each dot looked like a grain of salt. They were somewhat sporadic, but clearly there. Michelle explained that they were likely just calcifications, is where calcium salts form and build into hardened grains, and nothing. However, because they are they and the hospital wanted to rule them out, they wanted to have me come in for a biopsy.
I was told to stop taking any and all supplements I’d been taking as part of the D’Adamo Shift plan, as some herbal remedies prevent blood from clotting, and since this is an invasive procedure, it would be best to refrain. The biopsy was scheduled for the following week. And timing stunk. It was just a day or two before a day-long drive up to Maine for a mountain-bike race weekend.
Being the control freak that I am, I asked Michelle to describe the procedure in explicit detail. When she got to the part that my breast would be dropped through a hole in the table with me facing down, and I’d have absolutely no visibility to what was going on, I slammed on the brakes.
“No way, Michelle. No way. That’s not going to happen.”
“What do you mean? You don’t want to see this.”
“The hell I don’t.”
“You must have control of the authorship of your own destiny. The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand.”
– Irene C. Kassorla
As most women in their late 20s, (in my case, really late 20s. I’m 29 and several quarters) turning another 4 quarters older was not very exciting for me. In fact, it was pretty depressing. Especially when I factored in the fact that I was still single, in debt, with 2 kids with an absent father who marginally fulfills his legal financial obligations, and not without a fight, working for a start-up company and still struggling hard to make ends meet. I’ve long said that I refuse to enter into my 30s on the record until I was re-married, out of debt, no longer dependent on the supplemental income from child support to provide for my children and being able to afford a one-week Disney/cruise vacation once a year. To me, that’s the definition of an adult life. I’ll forego the white picket fence and the remaining 1/2 kid.
But, I wasn’t there yet. To boot, the previous year was brutal for me. Yes, there were many victories along the way, including becoming a successful fundraiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LIVESTRONG), a regular and passionate cyclist and a new mountain biker, all attributed to the passion for the sport of cycling inspired by an old friend. In fact, my very enthusiastic involvement with LIVESTRONG was primarily the result of a bet issued by this friend to ride 200 miles in one day. Along the ride, I met a LIVESTRONG Leader who was also a fundraising mentor who convinced me to get more involved with the cause – for the rewards, incentive to perform etc. It had far less to do with cancer survivorship. I rode for people I loved, of course, but it was more about this amazing community of passionate cyclists, at the time.
The previous year was overwhelmed by the sorrow over a devastating fight with that same friend who inspired me to ride in the first place, his perpetual, and at times, cruel, silent treatment and my constant battle against my own metabolism. Friends pointed at depression over this broken friendship, and me being too “emo” for my own good, as the reason I was sleeping abnormally, moody and not myself. Part of me believed this to be the case — this certainly was what kept me up at night — I was afraid of dreams of reconciliation and waking up to the disappointment of knowing that, apparently, there was a brewing hatred on his end. Something else was wrong.
I feel like I’m miss the experience of a Betty Handelman putting her hand on mine over a cup of tea and sharing a quote from one of her scrapbooks. Sure, Betty could easily post it onto my Facebook wall, but is that enough when you’re fighting breast cancer?
Are a breast cancer patient’s tissue expanders a viable threat to national security? How far is too far?
The reality is, that financial anxiety can throw a terrible wrench into recovery. After all, we fight and fight and fight to survive, but survive and, then, face what? Terrible financial sacrifices our families have made? Not being able to afford health or life insurance again? It’s bad enough that we have cancer, face losing our breasts, what we identify as our femininity, etc. How would you handle it?