Benign is a pleasant word. It rolls off the tongue so easily and smoothly and has a truly warm and pleasant quality about it. So does its meaning. First – gentle and kindly. It all sounds like a peaceful day by the ocean with a close friend, balmy breezes, the sound of lapping waves and pleasantly picturesque scenery. The second definition is medical – not harmful in effect, in particular, (of a tumor) not malignant.
Benign was the word I was hoping for last late September after having a mammogram that resulted in six biopsies (yes six, definitely not a pleasant experience). After the biopsies I had a full weekend to stress about the possibilities before receiving the results. On the one hand most lumps or areas of concern are benign. Yet the fact that I had six biopsies seemed like a large number, and what were the chances that ALL of them would be benign. Sometimes being a glass is half empty kind of a gal, I had a queasy feeling in my stomach when the doctor called me with the results – two malignant tumors and one in question. Malignant. Not such a pleasant sounding word. In fact sounds a little gnarly.
Needless to say much has happened since September, as it is now early March. Several friends have asked me since the diagnosis if I was going to write about my experience with cancer. For many months, I just couldn’t write about it. I tried a few times and stopped mid-pen and mid-type. It just made it all too real, even though it couldn’t have been any more real.
So I am writing now, and it feels cathartic. In sum in the last five months, I have had two outpatient surgeries to remove the cancerous areas. A second surgery was needed after the first as the necessary clean margins weren’t obtained. I couldn’t have asked for a better surgeon doc lady for these procedures. She had absolutely awesome energy, humor and a positive attitude – and she shared my love of all things purple. I have had a PICC line placed (yep, it’s purple, a good sign I think), and I had my first chemo treatment this week, one down and seven to go over the next four months. Chemo will then be followed by radiation.
The first thing people generally say when I tell them I have cancer is that they are sorry, which is an understandable reaction. Trust me, I’m sorry too. However the thing about breast cancer is that it is very treatable, and statistics are there to back that up. I have been sent quite a few cards and gifts from friends and family since my diagnosis. One card sent by a friend said that she had another friend going through cancer who said she was fixable. I like that. I am fixable too, and am currently in the process of being “fixed.”
Back to those cards. In addition to them I have seen an outpouring of love and support through them, as well as via social media posts, text and email messages and phone calls. The calls have been particularly wonderful, as I have become rather hermit-esque over the years. I have reconnected with so many friends, including those I had not spoken to in years or on a very regular basis for some time. It’s been a blessing and true joy to have these regular conversations. They are sustaining me. Many friends and co-workers tell me I am strong, but I would not be nearly as strong without these calls and all the collective support.
Still being single and living alone I have my moments, especially at night in the dark. I worry about money, as in not having enough to support myself and pay all my regular bills, much less the mounting medical bills. My income is my sole source of support (there is disability which only pays half of your salary, which is simply not enough, not even close). I worry about the effects of chemo and/or radiation making me unable to work enough or not at all. I am hoping some of you could help in the fixing process by perhaps giving a small donation to a GoFundMe account set up by a dear friend of mine (which required some cajoling on her part to get me to agree to it.) Any little bit will help. If it’s not within your means, I equally appreciate your support and prayers.