“I hope everything will be ok.”
I was sitting on the bed next to Mum. She was holding my hand, and looking at the floor. I was getting teary.
I’ll get a free boob job!?
She quickly looked at me, slapped my hand, and I laughed. I had decided to tell her once the diagnosis had been confirmed. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
From the beginning, when all of this started, I’d tried to be selective on who knew. I couldn’t go through the tests on my own. It just wouldn’t be possible. After the first GP appointment, I’d called Delphine and Fiona. They were two of my go to people. They knew me. They knew how I would think, and how I would be. Next was Chris. Mum had just come out of hospital, so to keep something like this under wraps would have been hell. We were both managing her recovery, and if I would suddenly disappear, or be gone for a day, questions would have been asked, and stress levels would have been at an all time high.
As each week went by, and the diagnosis became more and more clear, I would decide who would know that week. The routine would be the same. I would sit down for 30 minutes, and try to breathe. I’d go into one of the booths at work and text my “nominated” person; and I would wait.
Where are you? Can I call?
I’d usually be met with, “I’m at work”, or “just text me and I’ll call you back”.
Can I call? It’s better that I call.
Sometimes, I’d be met with “erm, ok sure”, but more than often it would be “is everything ok?”
You see, that’s the thing. Nobody really calls anymore. Everyone texts. Texting is the form of communication. Long gone are the days that you just randomly call someone unexpectedly. Texts have replaced this. So when you do receive a call unexpectedly, you know it’s important.
Are you sitting down? Are you by yourself? I’ve been to see the doctor. I’ve had a biopsy…
And so it would commence. The update. By the time I would reach the word “cancer” I would already be teary. Every time I’d say that word, it would solidify and confirm that what was happening was real, and this was happening to me. The responses would vary:
“I’m sorry” Yea…me too.
*sobbing on the phone* I know, it’s sh!t!
“Ok…ok…” – apparently nodding dog was contagious.
“Oh f*ck. Sorry…I’m not very good at this…f*ck.” – I think this has been my favourite reaction so far!
Within the second week of everything, the important people in my life knew (mainly family). I’d personally told them over the phone. I hadn’t seen any of them face to face. Call me gutless, but I felt better doing it on the phone. Hidden on the other side of the conversation. Not having to see their facial reactions. It just made it that bit more manageable and easy.
Once the surgery and chemo discussions were starting, I made the decision to tell people at work, and my wider group of friends. I did this face to face where I could. The reactions were as I predicated they would be. As I told more people, it felt like I was getting lighter and lighter. That the burden of the news was not as difficult. That it would be easier for me to talk openly about my treatment, my surgery, without it being awkward with anyone.
The problem was, I never accounted for how people would take the news. Not once did I think about how they would handle the information. Some people wanted a hug; others would get visibly upset for me.
“But you do yoga, you hike mountains, you eat healthy” – *I also like sleeping all day, eating a dirty burger, and drinking a glass or two or bottle of wine. Nobody is perfect!*
The fact is, cancer doesn’t discriminate; it really doesn’t. You could be the healthiest person in the world, and just be sh!t out of luck, and you get a diagnosis. You could be the most unhealthy person in the world, and get away with it. Cancer does not discriminate!
Some people would call me back and say “be positive”, you have to “be strong”. Or, I was the “strongest” person they knew, and I would get through this, because “you got this!” I understood the sentiment, I appreciated the support; but it threw me off slightly. Were they saying this because, if they saw me “positive” and “strong”, then they would be too? That it was a coping mechanism for them also? What if I was having a bad day? Did it mean they would struggle seeing me cry?
Telling people is never an easy scenario, and you just have to be ready to open up. To share something so personal, and to reach out for the support. I guess you have to be equally prepared for the reactions, because they are suddenly dealing with it as much as you are.
Not once did I ever think I wouldn’t get through this. It had just never crossed my mind!!!