This monday I am going in for exploratory surgery. It all started with a routine visit to my OB. I complained of pain along my c-section scar and she says, “did you know you have a lump here?” I sat straight up, “No! What?” and then my mind said, “SHIT.” Off to the Oncologist who said, “when you walk out of this room, you’re standing on a cliff. It will go one of two ways, but I’ll be with you on either side.” “CRAP.” And then to the surgeon’s office who said, “Oh yeah, this thing…. its a herniated scar. I’m 98% sure. You can wait 4-weeks, you could wait 3 months to fix it. it all depends on your pain level. Your cancer isn’t coming back.” “UM, OKAY, GREAT! WAIT, ARE YOU SURE? WHAT ABOUT THAT 2%”
So in a matter of three days I went from healthy and fit with some ab tenderness from all the awesome crunches I had been pounding out in the gym (wink, wink) to a cancer survivor with a new lump, to a freak who blew out her c-section scar doing all of those awesome crunches in the gym.
But the differentiator for me is that middle reality: I am a cancer survivor with a new lump.
There is a support group I frequent on Facebook (believe me, I know how that sounds) but it is a place where those surviving melanoma can go and talk and share tips and provide support when it gets crazy. Most of the conversations are about medical tips or surgical outcomes. The occasional person who has to admit to someone that they went back to the tanning bed. Then one day a guy asked what no one could answer, “how do you deal with the mental side of this?”
I’ve been struggling to answer his question, but since that day in my OB’s office I’ve determined the answer is, “you don’t.” It will always be on your mind and in your heart. It will always be there pushing you to a healthier life or reminding you to live harder, fuller, happier. And it will always be there, even in routine doctor visits.
The good news is you can handle it if you surround yourself with great support systems. I have three: the ignorers, the fighters and the huggers.
The ignorers are all of my friends and loved ones who are the first to say, “you will be fine.” They don’t want to hear about the lump or the surgery. They can’t. It’s self preservation. I know they love me and that is why, “it will all be okay.” These people are so important to my life. They keep me normal. They treat me as if nothing changed or will change. They help me ignore and just live.
Then there are the fighters. The oncologist who say, “I’m here no matter how this turns out.” The friends who ask the details, call when they know I’m covering, offer to take the kids after surgery. The friend who drops off a to-do list and the #1 item says, “beat cancer”. These are the ones you turn to when it’s time to fight and you are feeling weak.
And then there are the huggers. These are the ones who break me down. They see the tears, they feel the pain. They walk in my shoes. A simple hand on mine when they see the wetness in the eyes or the full bear hug when it becomes more. The ones who get that now that I finally have what I fought for I have to live with some fear of losing it all. They usually don’t say much, it’s just the open ears, arms and hearts that do all the work.
So, I’m scared as hell for Monday’s “exploratory surgery.” Not because of what is known but the fear of the unknown. But tonight I will dance and laugh at my dear friends’ wedding and on Monday I will have surgery, and I know “it will be okay” because I have great support systems. I have those who help me ignore it, those who help me fight it and those who just hold me when I cry and say no matter what “it will be okay”.