Sunday, October 28, 2012

Running into people

I want to tell myself it is nice to run into people.  I live in a very small town, in which it is hard to go anywhere and not encounter someone you know.  This, for me, has always been a nice thing.  I would say exceptions have been during controversial school board stuff, budget cuts that upset people, etc.

Now, I am amazed at the energy drain that is running into people, and have been making some effort to figure out why.  I guess it is not that hard.  People ask me how I'm doing, and I say pretty well, when I have a disease that forces me to think I might not survive.  This is the reality of cancer, really, any cancer.  In 1996 Jon saw a mole on my leg and forced me to have it looked at.  It turned out to be melanoma, a tiny one, stage 0 or maybe close to 1.  It was excised, I did follow up (still do, in the form of every five year or so blood work and chest x-ray), and that was it, sort of.  Ani was a baby when I was diagnosed with what can now be seen as my, um, practice cancer.  I was scared and horrified that I might not see her grow up, that my amazing life with my new baby girl might be cut short.  As unlikely as it was that I would die of melanoma at that stage in that circumstance, I was afraid that I would.

Now, I am again in a situation of fearing I will not live to see things I want to see.  Like, as a Jewish mother, where my daughter goes to medical school (or when I am really anxious, even college).  Seeing my son graduate high school.  As much as I am told by experts and others who have survived my exact circumstances, there is no way to avoid the fear.  As I have said here, I have tolerated more difficult physical circumstances, but not the difficult things rolling around in my head.

When I run into people, don't get me wrong, excellent people who I like, respect, and in a normal life would love to chat with, I feel the need to hide all this.  I reassure people the way doctors have reassured me, that this is a rough patch of road, that I will come out the other side of it, that I have a "garden variety" treatable breast cancer, that I just have to stay focused (ha) and get through what I am doing.  And it is this reassuring that drains my energy,  because it is not really that close to what I am forced to think about a lot of the time.  Who is forcing me to think these thoughts?  I could say me, and I could wish I was more relaxed, trusting, and centered, or whatever, but it is the cancer word.  I really don't think that anyone with cancer avoids the fear, and I'll bet every one of us spends time trying to reassure the people around them.

I know I keep referring to the anxious person that I am (or was), and really it's true.  Before the end of August I had so much floating around my head.  I can't even tell you any more what I was worrying about then.  It disappeared with the diagnosis.  I'm not saying that's a good thing, since those worries have been replaced with one large knot of a pretty powerful worry.

So, another thing that cancer does, for the weak like me at least, is make you want to hide out.  Encounters are difficult, and tiring, and why bother?  Except that not leaving the house is not an option either.  I have a friend who told me during her cancer she pretended to the world that all was fine, would be fine.  She went about her life in as normal a way as possible, through surgery, chemo, radiation, etc.  (She did, thankfully, have a great outcome, and I am thankful every day to have her to talk to.)  I think we all do that, because what choice do we have?  But I have not gotten completely there yet.  It is still hard to show up at things.  Jon did the school conferences, and brought me reports.  I will forever think I was pretty weak not to show.  I also know the kids are fine, I can email teachers, and Jon chatted with all 13 or so of them.  I have now had half my treatments, and wonder if I will be better able to manage the outside world during the second half.

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