Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Timing is everything

Since being told I have breast cancer, I've been doing a lot of reading. I want to learn as much as I can about this gawddamned disease to help me get through treatment and ensure I never have to endure it again. One thing I've noticed over and over is that the literature urges me not to feel like I have to be superwoman. I'm advised that I shouldn't feel like I have to do it all myself, that there's no shame in asking for help.

This confuses me. Of COURSE there's no shame in asking for help! Of COURSE I don't have to do it all my self. And besides, do what, exactly? There's nothing in my life so urgent that it needs to be done if I'm aching all over and can barely keep my eyes open. How silly of all these people to even suggest otherwise.

Not all of my reading has been so serious, however. I just finished a book called Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto. My friend Cake gave it to me shortly after I told him about my cancer. It's fabulous. It's a graphic novel all about the author's journey through breast cancer. Even though her life is vastly different from mine (she's a high-powered career woman living a glamourous life in New York and I'm...not) there are so many similarities with our stories that it's like she's writing about me sometimes.

Nevertheless, one thing about the book annoyed me throughout. She is constantly fretting that her fiance is going to wake up one day, decide that he can't take it anymore, and leave her for someone younger and healthier. She can't see how lucky she is! She's with a man who clearly adores her and wants to support her every step of the way, and she can't even see her good fortune.

But then I realized that no one really knows how lucky she is. It's never a good time to have breast cancer. A woman doesn't think, "Oh thank goodness it's now when I have a caring, loving partner and children to help me get through this." No, she thinks, "What if this is too much for him to deal with and he leaves me? What if my children can't handle it? Why couldn't this have happened when I was still single?"

Just as I don't think about how lucky I am that I'm going through this now when I only have myself to look after and worry about. Instead, I've cried myself to sleep thinking about how women with partners have it easier. They've already found someone to love them and stroke their hair and help them. They're not stuck being single, hoping that one day they'll find someone who won't shriek at the sight of their Frankenboob.

I realized that's why the cancer literature urges us to not feel like we have to be superwomen. Many women who get diagnosed with breast cancer are wives and mothers and grandmothers. These women have people who rely on them. They have responsibilities and obligations.

Once I had this realization, I sat down and made a list. The following are things should make me writhe around on the ground with joy:
  • I have a wonderful family who I know is here to help me get through everything. My mother is alive and young enough to be there beside me every step of the way.

  • I have more good friends in my life than I've ever had before. Probably in all my previous years combined.

  • I have an adorable and cuddly cat that provides me with sympathetic mews and purrs.

  • I have a very low housework expectation level. Not only am I able to live with myself if I don't do the dishes for 2 weeks or clean the bathroom for a month, but that's just business as usual around here.

  • I have no one who's relying on my for income or care.

  • I have a job that provides me with benefits so that I can take months off to focus on my treatments, and a boss who has encouraged me to do so.

  • I'm young and strong and probably in the best health of my life.

  • When I eventually do find someone to love me, he or she will know exactly what they're getting into - Frankenboob and all. They will love me because of what I've been through, not despite it.
It turns out there really is a good time to have cancer!


  1. That is a great attitude to have. I know you're going to rock this out. You're amazing!

  2. You truly are a superwoman. In fact, instead of calling it a Frankenboob, we should start calling it your Superboob. Because it has special powers. And can fly.

  3. Aw, thanks guys. My boob can fly? Who knew? That explains where it goes at night, at least.

  4. I have that same Cancer Vixen book and I got it while I was out "retail-therapizing" myself! LOL! It is definitely a good read for someone going through breast cancer treatment. I'm sorry you are going through this but I'm glad to see that you have such a positive outlook and that you are taking the time to be grateful for all the good you are surrounded with. I see some very special commenters here too! :) You write very well about this tough subject. Hugs to you!