I feel as though there is so much pressure for my first email on this mailing list, so much expectation, and I am not really sure what to say. I mean, what can I say except for Thank you, thank you all so very much. I have become a believer in the idea that it doesn't take very much to brighten someone's day. Just a phone call or a note telling me that I am in your thoughts and prayers, and the other tokens I have received, has helped me through this stuff so much. How can I wallow in self-pity and depression when there are so many sweet notions coming my way? Thank you, thank you all so very much.
This experience is truly unbelievable, and at times I still don't believe it is happening to me. One of my cancer books entitles its first chapter "Facing the Diagnosis", and it describes the moment of hearing the 'c' word as causing the mind to become blank... all those nagging fears that had been pushed to the back of consciousness landed in a huge lump in the throat; the mind raced with dark thoughts of death and wills and horror at the possibilities of dreaded treatments and a limited future. But I can't really relate to that. For me, it is always the next step. Wonderful Dr. Shoemaker told me my mole was melanoma as I sat alone on his examining table, and my immediate reaction was a nod of acceptance and then my mind questioned what would happen next. I am sick, what are we going to do about it? And that is the way I continue to deal with this sickness, and why I am so comfortable with Sloan-Kettering. There is always a next step, and they always tell me how we will deal with that next step. Often, as Mom and Dad can tell you, it involves waiting, but I appreciate these interim periods. These periods guarantee that things are not going to happen at an overwhelming pace, a pace that moves so fast that I am shoved from doctor to doctor, treatment to treatment. There is this time that I can take to digest what has happened and what will happen.
I can't say that I am this calm all of the time. On my commute from Patti and Tom's 14th floor apartment to the empty one on the fifth floor (my own pad), I rode with another female resident. The residents had been informed that the water would be disconnected for so many hours that day for emergency repairs and the woman saw me carrying a jug filled with water. She complained about how she had already bought so many jugs and how the building better soon hook up the water or else she should be reimbursed for all of these jugs of water, and blah, blah, blah. I honestly don't know what else she said because I looked into her eyes and the only response I could think to give her was Yeah, well, I have cancer. I had to focus on biting my tongue and give her a nod. When I think of what is actually going on - this war with an invader I can't see or even feel - I become muddled in a wash of tears. I don't feel like the same person, I don't know who that person is. I have always been the one to push myself and never accept an excuse for inadequacy. And now... and now. Now I sometimes feel as though I am below that level that I have always pushed myself to attain. How do you achieve your goals when there are things going on inside of you that are beyond your control?
And it is this whole control thing that is probably the most difficult aspect of cancer to grasp. I no longer have control over my life - I discuss with doctors what should be done, but what happens is what is the best, and sometimes the only way, to tackle that step. There really hasn't been any decisions to be made yet. And who knows what will happen in the future. I can't make plans to tour Europe after graduation because I don't have the control to say that I will be available to vacation during the summer. For a while, I couldn't tell my friends when I would be back at school. This is so very difficult because I have never been the person to sit back and let whatever happen - like a leaf getting caught up in a sudden flush of a summer's breeze. I have always taken action and planned my futures. I have always been in control. And even at school, I have different comittees I am involved in, but this is also a way for me to have some control. For example, doing public relations for the fourth year formal is a way for me to have some control in what it will be like. When I was first diagnosed, I realized that I needed to relinquish my tight grip on my life and sometimes just let things happen, maybe allow myself to be cought up in some random breeze that happened to pass through my life. Holding on so tight prevents me from being free, from being fluid, and how can one stop to smell the flowers when their life is so stringent? Yet, after seeing doctors and undergoing surgery, I know that giving up control is no longer a choice I can make - its gone. I give my faith to my doctors and I have to sit back and patiently smell the flowers, as I travel down this meandering path.
I have regained some of my immediate control being back at school, and I am grateful for it. As Mom and Dad pulled away, I looked around my room and I didn't recognize the girl as to who it belonged. I was no longer that pusher and cheerful young woman that had left it for Christmas break- I had been molded into a washy, yes-girl that followed wherever I was suppose to go, a child smiling appreciately at the myriad of people I am dependent on. It was extremely confusing. But now, after a couple of days, and seeing my friends, making appointments with profs and other such details, I feel more like myself- that young woman on that level. And very soon, I feel I will be bubbly - I am ready to loosen my grip. Yet, I need to still maintain a focus so when I have the power to push myself on, I will be going in the direction I want to go in and I won't be able to let excuses, such as this sickness, marr my way.