September 15, 2011, I got THE call. The one that told me a detour was coming. I told you there would be a lot of “anniversaries” coming. Well this is one of the big ones. A year ago today, I was told I had invasive ductal carcinoma, grade 3, stage 2 or 3 depending on which report you read. Triple negative breast cancer. You know, the one that black people get. The one that can kill you.
If you troll the Internet, you can find a million articles or posts on how people reacted to the life changing news. If you have been following me, you know I cried for about 5 minutes and then bucked up and prepared to tell folks. Prepared to fight! So today my post is not about me. It’s about my caregiver, my knight in shining armor. The love of my life. Below is an “UNEDITED” excerpt from my book. (You knew I had to write one!) Hopefully it gives an insight into the task he faced from the moment we got the news. It is a bit long, but it is just an intro into how he was thrown head 1st into Life in the Cancer Lane. Here we go…
last picture of us together before diagnosis
“It was official. We had to tell people.
B first called our parents. I was not there for those conversations. I knew that I could not emotionally handle hearing our parents’ grief. I did not know how that grief would present itself, (Tears, screaming, denial, silence?) But I knew I had to focus on me. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for my husband to share that news with our parents. At the time, he only spoke to our mothers. Both fathers were out. He had to be strong for my mom and reassure her. We don’t really “do grief” well in my family. My aunt had breast cancer 10 years ago, and we never really talked about how it affected her or my mom. So I had no idea how she would handle this!
But B also had to be strong for his mom, so she wouldn’t be worried about him. After all, his dad was a prostate cancer survivor. They had been down this road. When I asked how the moms handled it, he responded that they were “as expected”. I didn’t ask more because I didn’t want to know, and I didn’t want to have him have to tell it.
Next, we had to tell Lil B. We were just going to tell her, no subterfuge. She knew we were waiting for the news. She is a very astute little girl. There is no way we could have kept something like this from her.
B met her at the bus stop outside our house. She was her regular perky self, talking about her day, and asking where I was. Daddy didn’t usually meet her at the bus stop. Walking in the door, she saw my face, and said, “Did you find out?”
“Yes, Mommy has breast cancer.” My husband said before I could answer.
“NOOOO! Mommy” she screamed as she burst into tears and tried to run to her room.
That kind of sadness and pain is something no mother wants to hear coming from her child. My heart broke right then into a million pieces. Tears! More tears! I ran to the bathroom to wipe them away while B held her in a bear hug. This was the baby girl I had dreamed and prayed for! This was the girl who kept a smile on my face…most times! The love of my life! Watching her cry, knowing she understood the severity of this news, broke me in two! I had to go to her. I came back and joined the hug. I told her it would be ok.
“Think about all the people you know who have survived breast cancer. Miss Maureen. Aunt Mona, Dr. Lindell. We will be ok. You just have to help me.” I tried to reassure her.
Amazingly, after about 5 minutes, she was calm and sat down for a snack and to start on her homework. I snuck back into my room and cried a few more tears. All I could think about was how I was ruining her 4th grade year! Who would take care of her? How would she manage? B knew I was having a “moment”. He knows me so well. He came back to hug me and bring me back out front. We HAD to be together. We HAD to fight this together. We HAD to be strong together. With a sigh, I held his hand and walked back out front.
That night we all slept together, holding each other tight.
But not before he sent “the email”…
Family and Friends – Today we learned that Barbra has breast cancer. Many of you will recognize this as ironic because she has done so much volunteer work in the fight against breast cancer. However, it is a fact and we are going to fight it together until she is cured. I apologize for having to inform you in this fashion, but there are so many people who deserve to know that I couldn’t possibly call everyone. It’s my fault and not Barb’s if anyone is offended that I didn’t get to them directly. Know that Barb has handled this well. It’s heavy, but she’s strong and has demonstrated that through what’s been a very fast diagnosis. This came out of nowhere. We’re only beginning to form the outline of a treatment plan, so I don’t have much more to share, but I ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers. This email is not going to a long list of people, so you are free to share this information with those whom you feel should know and would care to know. We’re not going to post it on Facebook or any social media, so I’d ask you to refrain from that as well. We’re also not going to do a lot of blast email updates – we’re just going to focus on our family and on what’s to come. Please be patient with us – we might not call, text or email back as quickly as normal. We’re happy to talk, but please give us a couple of days to digest this and to make sure Blayre is ok. We love all of you and thank you in advance for the support we know you will provide.
And so it began…