This weekend I spoke to a cousin of my father’s I had not spoken to in a long time. My second cousin. We used to see each other a lot as for a decade we were literally in the same office building. We did the whole catch-up including the I-spent-my-summer-with-breast-cancer. It’s never an easy conversation to have, even if you are open about it.
Then today I was out and when I came home I had a message from my Aunt, my late father’s sister. She had come across this blog.
Wince. I had asked another family member at the time I was first diagnosed and planning my surgery and all that good stuff to call her and let her know, because she has three daughters of my generation, and I wanted them to know because we shared a grandmother who was a breast cancer survivor of her day.
My aunt filled in some blanks with my grandmother’s breast cancer. Grandmom discovered her cancer (if I have the timeline correct) around 1942. She had a radical mastectomy and was done with breast cancer after that point. Grandmom lived into her 90’s and it wasn’t a cancer that took her. She was an amazingly strong woman, my late grandmother.
I also found out that another couple of cousins of my aunt’s (and my late father’s) also had breast cancer, and maybe some of their kids as well, and they would be my generation. Families get scattered over generations, so these are people I may have met at funerals or a wedding or two, but I don’t know. But apparently there are some wonky genes skipping around.
I think in some regards it is harder telling people now after all is said and done and I am starting Tamoxifen, which will hopefully be an uneventful chapter in this story. Even when you are open about having breast cancer it is not exactly a conversation starter, you know? To some people being realistic yet positive almost sounds glib. And there is nothing glib about it, but I can’t exactly un-ring the bell and I will be positive. I am so far, knock on wood, in a very good position as the rest of my life post breast cancer unfolds.
I have been thinking of my father and late brother-in-law a lot recently. My father is gone six years in a week or so, and my brother-in-law a year close to Christmas. They were two remarkable men who loved their families and we loved them.
Life is a cycle and a journey. We just don’t necessarily know all the pieces until they start to unfold.
Life is also a gift we aren’t supposed to squander. Part of treating life with reverence I think is being honest about how you feel and not being afraid to tell people what you believe in.
Maybe it’s having had breast cancer, or maybe it’s the Tamoxifen messing with my moods, but I know I am being more direct than usual. The funny thing is I don’t feel bad about it. I feel liberated. I have survived a hell of a lot. I am not going to make apologies for how I feel about certain things.
I am a different woman today while still being the same person. Some of you need to get used to that. And a special thank you to my sweet man – it is quite a gift when someone accepts and loves you for who you are.
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings, 1955