I had to wait 4 1/2 weeks until my surgery, on top of the 3 1/2 months I had already been talking to doctors, having tests and waiting. I was so sick of waiting. I have this deadly disease and had been told by my oncologist that it’s one of the most fatal on its own, but add in my age – 35 is young to have cancer (yay! someone finally called me young again) – and my family history, I was essentially a ticking time bomb – at least in my mind.
My entire family lives in Kansas. It is my choice to live in Maryland and I do so because there are so many opportunities for me and Aiden. When I chose to move here six years ago from Germany after getting out of the Navy to begin the next chapter of my life, I never expected to stay. However, over the years, I finished my master’s degree – graduating Phi Kappa Phi -, I’ve grown as a professional and have an amazing career at a Fortune 500 company, I volunteer in my community and for my son’s football team, and felt that I had built such a strong network of friends. I felt that after 12 years in the Navy and moving every 3 years, I finally found a place I could call home, so I bought a house in Waldorf in September 2014.
I never really considered what I would do or who would take care of me if I was unable to do so myself. I am blessed to have such a caring, supportive and loving family, but they are all halfway across the country.
I had no one at home to talk to. I was struggling with my cancer diagnosis. I was struggling with the fact that I was going to lose both my breasts. I was reading over my Will to make sure it was still accurate, I was getting my important paperwork together so I could provide everything to my mother, I was thinking about my funeral arrangements. None of which any young person, let alone parent, wants to think about it – but I was faced with my own mortality and I had to make sure Aiden would be taken care of and my family could seamlessly handle arrangements if anything happened to go wrong.
Now, I know some of you are thinking this is dramatic; however, I have a deadly disease and there are always risks with surgery. So, as a meticulous planner, I had to make sure I had a worst case scenario plan. I tried talking to some of my friends about how I was feeling. But no one wanted to talk about it. I am a woman of faith. I believe in God and pray daily; I may get upset with God at times – this being one of them – but I know that He has a plan for me and I am going to be better after all this. However, when wanting to have real discussions, being shut down and told everything will be fine and to keep my faith, isn’t what I needed to happen. What I really needed was just someone to sit and listen to me and give me a shoulder to cry on.
I was a broken record in my own head; I kept thinking about everything I was losing and how this disease was going to permanently disfigure me, maybe even kill me. I cried every night, I could hardly sleep, I was so tired all of the time, after work, all I would do is go home and lay on the couch and stare blankly at the TV. I was anxious, depressed, scared, and just wanted someone to listen. Yet, no one did.
No one let me express my concerns. I really just needed to talk about them, to let it out, to have a shoulder to cry on. But no one gave me that. I assume it’s because they were trying to make me feel better, or maybe they didn’t want to be faced with their own mortality, or maybe it scared them? I’m not really sure why no one let me talk about everything? I wanted to write, but I was so tired and after a long day at the office I didn’t want to come home and stare at a computer screen. I wanted to workout but I couldn’t muster the energy. So I didn’t do anything. I just worked and laid on my couch, ate and cried. I did this all the way until my family got here a few days before my surgery.
I think that is where a lot of the depression came in. I was not able to get all of my concerns out. If I could offer any advice to anyone going through this, or really anything for that matter – you need to let it out, cry, talk, share your fears – no matter how rationale or irrational -, yell, share your feelings, don’t give people control over you to tell you what you should think or how you should feel.
If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would tell my friends who tried to silence me:
“I love you and consider you to be a good friend. I understand you are trying to make me feel better and keep my mind off things – but this isn’t a bad break up or reprimand at work. This is a deadly disease that I have; I can’t ignore it and hope it goes away. I am scared and right now, I need you to just let me get this out. I need you to listen. I need your shoulder to cry on.”
But I didn’t do that. Please don’t make the same mistake that I did. I am still hurting from the inside and praying for inner healing. I spent a year bottling everything up, making jokes, and trying to make sure everyone else was ok – except myself.