The Little Voice
September 28, 2023
This year has been a big one for my family. There have been so many wonderful things that have happened for all of us, but in particular for Adrienne. I’ve been struggling because despite all of the joy, my reaction to it is tinged with grief. Not at any losses Adrienne or any of my other loved ones have experienced, but rather at a loss of a very special part of me.
Because there is always a little voice in the back of my mind that whispers…”There will be a reckoning.”
I miss the part of me that could fully experience life’s wonders without hesitation. Now, as a self-protective mechanism I suppose, I check myself before I go all in. I have always been a planner, a person who would venture down all the possible paths looking at potential outcomes of a decision or scenario so that I was as ready as possible to take that first step regardless of the result. Prior to March 15th, 2019, none of those paths had a directional sign that said, “If one of your children gets breast cancer.” Sadly, I find that as we are closing in on four years of NED, not only does it exist… It stands out like a Las Vegas neon monolith.
I have always known that Adrienne’s cancer’s complete response to the treatment she underwent – three surgeries, chemo, radiation, targeted therapy – had just as much to do with luck as it did with science. Oncologists have medical research and experience behind their treatment decisions and do their best but sometimes it’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall hoping something will stick. In 2023, I can SEE all of these amazing events in our lives, I can FEEL the good stuff as they happen, and then that neon sign starts blinking madly and I can’t help but turn my attention to the path that leads to each good thing being the last one before all the chips fall. Because as any gambler knows, luck can change on a roll of the dice.
At first I thought I was catastrophizing, assuming that the worst will come true and that the situation is worse than it actually is. If I think about this day, this hour, this moment in time that might actually be what I am doing, so when I start down that dark road where one thought piles onto another I do my best to counter them with positive self-talk about how she is doing so well and that the NED is holding. But here’s the thing.
A while back I wrote a blog from Adrienne’s perspective in which she asked for triple-positive long-term survivors to put up their hands. The response was…
I kept going back, looking for someone to say, “Yes, that’s me. I’m triple-positive at ten years out.”
It’s been a rough couple of months. Good things just keep… on… happening and with them the little voice just keeps… getting… louder. I couldn’t write this blog without a plan, without some way that I could fight back when the weight of it gets too heavy, some way that I could end this with hope instead of despair. And today, I finally got there.
My daughter has always been a medical outlier. One of the first to gain access to a game-changing asthma medication that completely turned our lives around when she was two. The first to have a peanut allergy in her nursery school and elementary school, turning us into advocates whose experience was used to create policy that it still in effect in at least one of those venues. Since things supposedly comes in threes, I’ve decided that her third and final role as a medical outlier will be that she will be the one who will hold up her hand when young women in the future ask that question. She will be the one who will say, “Yes, that’s me. I had triple-positive breast cancer at twenty-seven and I got married, had a baby, lived a full life and now in retirement I’m hitting the road in an R.V.” Or whatever folks hit the road in when it’s thirty years from now. Could be camels for all I know.
That sounds like a great visualization – a grey-haired Adrienne riding off on camel. I can be all in on that one.
Mother…Grandmother…Librarian…Military Spouse…Caregiver…Family Life Educator…take your pick! Debbie Legault was born in British Columbia, Canada to a former RCAF airman father and a Scottish War Bride mother and has lived in other Canadian provinces, Germany and California. She has been married for 36 years to a Canadian Air Force Veteran and credits him with filling her life with adventure. When Debbie Legault’s children look at family photos they often comment on how many different hairstyles she has had and that pretty much is her story, that her life has taken as many turns and led her down as many paths as her hair has changed! Her latest role is as the author of Mom…It’s Cancer, the story of supporting her 27-year-old daughter, Adrienne, as they experienced breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.