Seven years ago I spent Memorial Day weekend preparing for my bilateral mastectomy even though, of course, I had no idea how to do that. Who would? One thing I vividly recall about that weekend was going to the movie, Robin Hood, the one with Russell Crowe, and the whole time I sat there, I was able to concentrate for just minutes at a time before my mind would wander into the land of fear. I have no recollection about whether that movie was any good or not. Have you seen it?
June 2nd was the date of my bilateral mastectomy. It’s one of those dates seared into my memory forever.
I decided to share this unedited journal entry from a day or so prior to my surgery. It’s very personal, but I’m sharing it anyway because often patients get screwed up messaging suggesting if you just remain positive, display a brave persona and somehow keep on smiling, all will be fine. It’s not quite that simple. Or necessary. I am hoping someone who’s facing a mastectomy and feeling afraid might run across this post. I’m hoping you share about something you’ve been fearful of in the comments below, cancer related or not.
After all, just knowing you’re not alone can sometimes do wonders to reduce your fear, right?
Fear is normal when you’re facing scary things like cancer, surgeries or whatever it might be. To face your fears, first you have to admit you’re afraid. So, don’t be afraid to do that. Remember, be you. Be real. It’s enough.
I am afraid
I am afraid of having a bilateral mastectomy.
I am even afraid of the words. I am afraid of how I will look the first time I see my new reflection in the mirror. David (my husband) tries to reassure me, but I am still afraid.
I am afraid the doctors will find more cancer in my lymph nodes. I am afraid of the pain which is sure to come. I am afraid of reading my pathology report. I am afraid of chemo, losing my hair and feeling sick. I am afraid of being treated differently by everyone around me.
I am afraid I will cry (I did) when I get to the hospital for my surgery and they ask me how I am doing. I am afraid I will not be able to speak.
I am afraid of drain tubes which David must empty. I am afraid of scars and having fake silicone-filled objects implanted in my chest that are to be replacements. I am afraid my breasts cannot be so easily replaced.
I am afraid David might see me as less desirable, or worse, not desirable at all. Again, he tries to reassure me, but I am still afraid.
I am afraid of being weak and wimpy. I am afraid of becoming a poor mother and a poor role model. I am afraid I’m already both.
I am afraid of having a male surgical nurse. How dumb is that?
I am afraid my cancer has spread already. I am afraid of dying. I am afraid of a slow, miserable death like mother’s.
I am just afraid.
I am afraid of moving forward into the unknown-ness of my future. I am afraid of moving too fast. I am afraid of standing still too long in the present because cancer’s tentacles are already attempting to take over my body cell by cell. I am afraid of moving too slowly. I am afraid to look back because all I see is mother lying in a bed covered with sheets that cannot disguise the cancer beneath. I am afraid of not moving at all.
No matter where I look, there is fear and I am afraid.
I must look forward to the future because along with the fear that is also where hope, happiness and life glimmer.
Yes, that is where I choose to look.
But I am still afraid.
When have you been most afraid during your cancer experience?
Cancer or no cancer, what are you afraid of today, if anything?
Have you had a mastectomy, lumpectomy or some other surgery before which you felt afraid?