Recently, a woman started writing to me who had been reading my blog - referred to it by a mutual friend.  She's been through cervical cancer, too.  Only hers came back.  Or spread.  Or something.  I honestly cannot tell you the details because the further into her last email I got, the less I was able to focus until finally all I was seeing was, "Words words words, words words words words." on my screen.  Nothing was processing.  My brain literally turned off.  It was like a red light was flashing that just said "NOPE NOPE NOPE".  I could not sit here, less than a month after hearing my own "all clear" and absorb that someone had been through my same treatments and had a recurrence.  Or that someone else she knew, someone younger than me, had DIED after a recurrence.  I was not prepared for how reading those intimate, open words, shared by a sweet and kind-hearted woman just looking to make a connection... would make me feel.  Because they made me feel not just terrible, but like a terrible person for not being able to cope with what she was so openly sharing with me.

As she told me her story, the parts I had been through I was able to read.  To relate to.  To understand.  But then my story ended.  I am cured!  I don't want the story to continue past that point.  I can't relate to it.  I don't want to think about ever HAVING to relate to it.  It makes me nervous.  Makes me upset.  Makes me close my browser window without making it to the bottom of the message and run away to work.  Recurrence is a word I have tried to think about VERY LITTLE over the past 6 months.  Sure, I had my freak-outs.  My fears.  How could one not??  But from the very moment Erin Naso stood beside my bed in Fairview Hospital and told me the results of the biopsy were positive for cancer... from that very SECOND, I was (obviously terrified but) completely sure that this was just something we were going to fix/kill/conquer and move on.

Not that I think this gal got HER diagnosis and went, "Oh.  OK.  I guess that's it, then."  Because I am certain she did NOT do that.  (Although I have no doubt that there are a LOT of people who do NOT survive who DO do exactly that - people who let the very word "cancer" kill them before treatment even begins...")  She already promised me she plans on sticking around and I believe her!

Anyhow, when I tried to explain to this lovely gal this evening via email that I just shut down while reading her most recent correspondence with me it really got me to examine what was going on with me and WHY I was unable to process what she was trying to share with me.

I am highly sensitive.  Because of this, I knew I would never feel at ease in a support group situation.  I tend to "take on" other people's fears, emotions, moods, etc. and let them overpower my own.  And as part of keeping my PMA through this whole shenanigan, I was just not up for hearing others' woes.  Nevermind that I also just did not fit in with the groups I saw out there.  I'm young.  I'm not religious.  I'm not a hippie nor did I want to be massaged or reikied.  I didn't want to talk about my feelings with a room full of strange old ladies and then make some sort of bunk pottery or construction paper emotional collage while singing Kumbaya.  I wanted to just hang out with my husband and parents and sleep and watch movies and blog and say "fuck" a lot and eat grilled cheese sandwiches and BEAT CANCER.  If there is a support group that does that, I have not seen their pamphlet laying around in any of the Cleveland Clinic waiting rooms.

That having been the case, though, my new email pal's stories were really my FIRST intro to someone else kinda like me's cervical cancer experience.  And it scared the friggin' buh-jeezus out of me.  And the fact that it scared me made me feel like kind of a creep.

I am happy to report that as of this moment (I have been going back and forth between writing this post and emailing this girl) we seem to be all sorted out.  And she promised not to talk about cancer or dying if we ever meet up.  And I was like, "You mean WHEN we meet up."  Because she seems like good stuff.  Except for that whole having cancer nonsense.  But she'll get rid of that soon.  Right?

Xxo, Phoebe


Jim Dustin said…
Wow Phoebe, you sure are spot on and have hit on yet another aspect that people don't think about. (that would be people with or without cancer btw). Since Linda has been cancer free, she fleetingly thinks about the possibility of recurrence, but not for very long. I would describe it to people as the act of thinking about getting cancer. It's just not something anyone wants to do or dwell on. Whether you never had it or you did. So we just don't talk about it or give it credence. Denial? Maybe, but who cares? It gets no attention with our thoughts —probably because it Bogarted every waking thought for two years. I'll probably have a hard time getting her an I beat stupid effing cancer t-shirt, because she's so over it, on so many levels. Anyway great post, and yes, I'm sure you will convince your new friend that she'll get rid of her stupid cancer soon!

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