Saturday, May 28, 2011


I am relieved that my mom finally knows I have "The Big C." Now I just have to tell my siblings. I don't want my mother to have to make those calls — she's had to do that before, and I can't ask her to do it again. 

Back in 1984 (when I was 25), I got a call from my mom telling me that my 31-year-old sister had breast cancer. To say we were shocked is the understatement of understatements. There was no history of breast cancer in our family. 

As the mother of three kids under the age of 5, my sister was floored to find out her cancer was Stage 3. She opted for a bilateral mastectomy (highly unusual at the time) and had 31 lymph nodes removed as part of her radical mastectomy. Four nodes tested positive for cancer; that meant months of CMF chemotherapy. She lost her hair and her energy, and despite the fact that her hubby traveled for business more than half the time, she got through it — thanks to the good graces of friends and neighbors and family. A year later she had [then] cutting-edge microsurgery to reconstruct two new breasts from tissue in her buttocks. She is alive and well today and a happy grandma of two. 

So it's with a heavy heart that I have to make this call that cancer not only has my address but is ringing my door bell. My sisters  take the news with surprising calm (this is familiar territory; they've been through it before). There is emotion, yes, but we don't break down. I brief them more extensively than I do my mom, yet not as thoroughly as I do my BFFs. The info I dole out at this point in time is on a need-to-know basis; if no good can come of it, I don't share it. I am a believer in not giving people more to worry about than is necessary. Why drive everyone crazy when I am already going there myself? Crazy doesn't need company. Really.

I call my brother, but he doesn't phone me back right away. This is not something I can leave on his voicemail, obviously, and I decide to let my younger sister do the dirty work. I ask her to keep calling until she reaches him. Another bullet dodged.

Then there is the matter of my stepkids, from whom we are deliberately keeping the news. Initially my husband wanted to wait until after I had my surgery to tell them. (It's complicated: Their mother died of breast cancer when they were teenagers.) Once I have my surgery date set in stone, we'll tell them. Once we do, we can tell the rest of our friends. 

It's time to finally let the cancer cat completely out of the bag.

(For more, see Managing Chaos.)

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