Breast cancer. My mom warned me that one of the strangest parts after being diagnosed was simply having to tell people she had breast cancer. And I get it. Just saying those two words, feeling them work their way out of my mouth, the harsh sounds in the middle like biting down on a piece of gravel and then choking on it. Yeah, I know exactly what she means.
Yesterday for Mother’s Day I was given the opportunity to line the bases with other Breast Cancer survivors. My mom wasn’t able to fly down for the game but was completely on board with me taking Alyssa. I wanted a breast cancer shirt that wasn’t too pink (I’m still embracing that color) and meant something to me. “Like Mother, Like Daughter” expresses not only the connection of many mother and daughters with breast cancer, but also that I hope to be like my mom in so many ways. Alyssa’s shirt read “My best friend HAD cancer”, a verb tense I remember her pointing out to me in the hospital after my surgery.
It was an absolute blast. We made friends with the two women next to us (also in education) and were even able to wave to Alyssa’s little nephew who was there for the game (I think we were more excited than him!). Jesse managed to snap some pictures from the stands and random people asked to take pictures with us. It was a great day.
Disclosing something medical isn’t often a comfortable feeling. Unless its something hilarious like how I had to have stitches in my butt check after a basketball game when I got a giant splinter in said buttocks while my coach was taping my sore ankle. Or how I have a giant scar on my ankle from forcefully stepping on a friend’s cat in middle school who was hidden in a pile of clothes and shared his wrath with a five inch scar I still wear to this day.
I’m not embarrassed to tell people I had a double mastectomy. But like a shy actor hiding their true personality behind a larger-than-life character, or all inhibitions falling away when a little kid puts on dress-up clothes to become someone else, I can hide behind my blog and use the screen to shield myself from those conversations. Talking with friends and family is mostly easy. The hardest part is telling acquaintances or people who haven’t seen me in a while. There is the inevitable look of shock, the subtle but obvious glance from my eyes down to my chest where, thanks to these terrible expanders, I look more like a botched boob-job than anything else. I find myself glossing over the hard feelings and making sure they know I’m ok. What I don’t usually get to do is talk about how hard it all is. How I feel guilty for not looking like a cancer patient. That I feel bad in a sense because I got the “easy” breast cancer. That I have intense anxiety because this all feels really surreal and very big in scale. That I cry when I think about it too much and have started going to a Wellness center to help reflect on these emotions. Or that while my pictures on instagram show me out with friends enjoying life, its usually after days of resting in pain after an expander fill because my back experiences sharp aches and my skin feels like it is on fire.
Like the back of my shirt says, I am oh so over cancer but beginning to realize that it will always be a part of me.