But You’re Good Now, Right? Actually, No I’m Not.
It’s the morning of my son’s (who will be referred to as The Toddler from here on out) third birthday and we have been invited to our first birthday party from daycare. As the “new” family in the group, I figured we would go and meet some of the other parents. As an extra bonus the party was at an indoor playground. Being the frugal mom that I am, I think this is perfect, we’ll go spend three hours of fun for The Toddler’s birthday, have some cake and I won’t have to spend any money. This is great! Our son chose what he wanted to do after the party for his birthday, which consisted of going to the farmers market (where he could pick something special out) and a family lunch date.
I picked out some nice clothes and styled my super short hair as best as I could because I don’t want to look like I’m a cancer patient. Being only five months out of chemo, only the director and caretakers at daycare know my cancer history. I want to look like a cool hip mom who has short hair (that I don’t think suits me but everyone else does).
So, I’m talking with one of the moms for a bit and I hear The Toddler yell “Mommy! Mommy! Come climb with me.” I immediately think back to the last time this happened where I did go and play and ended up falling and pulling the stitches of my expander out…oops. So I yell back to him “Sorry bud, remember mommy has owies from surgery and last time I hurt myself really bad.”
Then, the other mom goes “Oh, surgery, what for?”
Shoot, I’ve slipped up and in a split second have to decide how much detail I’m willing to give. I keep it short and sweet because we’re at a birthday party and it was my son’s birthday and I didn’t want cancer to outshine that. I wanted one day where my son could have a carefree day. Normally I wouldn’t mind telling my story as it helps brings awareness to the topic but I wanted to keep the day happy. So I just responded with, “In the last year I’ve had two lymph node removal surgeries and a double mastectomy with reconstruction.”
I decided not to go into the whole chemo and radiation details, I figured the short hair would point to chemo.
Her response? “You’re all good now, right?”
I think, “Nope, not at all. But I’m seeing a therapist to help me handle recurrence anxiety, scanaxiety, and not having any more children because I’m BRCA1+. But besides that absolutely, I’ve fine, doing fantastic.”
Instead I said “Yup, all good here.”
I wasn’t and am still not prepared for that question. I have the deer in headlights look of panic on what I should say. I wasn’t prepared for the “after” part of treatment and how much harder it is to live beyond cancer with all the “what if’s”, but I’m slowly working through that.
If close family members and friends ask me how I’m doing, they will get an honest answer for that day. Sometimes I’m doing awesome. Some days I’m not and feel extremely lonely. But, I will always tell my friends and family exactly how I’m feeling so they are able to help if needed.
When a stranger asks, they are going to get the auto-response “Yup, doing great”, but what I’m really thinking is *No, I’m not okay*. – Cassandra Johnson