To you, she who was just diagnosed.
First of all, I am angry. I am livid you are joining me here. I am pissed off people are telling you to be positive and hopeful. I am astounded they continue to tell you you will be OK, when really, we don’t know if you’re going to be OK and mostly, what you need is for them to acknowledge you’re in the most unstable, unknown, unpredictable, absolutely terrifying land ever.
Second of all, I love you. Sure, we haven’t spoken in years. Maybe we never even really talked much back when we shared the same space. Maybe we were besties. Maybe our lockers were near each other. Maybe we knew someone in common. I don’t care. Somehow we knew each other. Somehow, you reached out. Somehow, we connected. And I know it wasn’t easy, to reach out, to connect, to ask for help and support and love. For that impulse you had, that tiny glimmer of knowledge you had that maybe your harrowing cancer news would be a teeny tiny bit less harrowing if you reached out, for that enormous risk you took in contacting me, I am eternally thankful. I believe this earth holds a wisdom deep inside, and I think that you accessed our earths’ wisdom when you reached out, and I am glad you did. Glad isn’t even the word. I am heartened. I am hopeful. I cannot imagine you not having connected. We need each other. We do. Badly.
I’ve learned nothing from breast cancer, but from my cancer friends, I have learned we have to stick together. Together with a young adult here and there, I made it through treatment and I’m trying to make it through the aftermath. We lost our hair together, we cried about our fertility together, we lamented being the only young ones, together. Then there were the friends who I met who could relate, because they were diagnosed before me. There was one in particular, and she was steady. She was still vulnerable and she was still pissed off but she was real, she was present and she was able to show me what could be. It was different than getting it because you were losing your hair at the same time. And it was comforting. I hope I can be like that friend who was diagnosed before me, to you who was just diagnosed. I hope I can acknowledge and never diminish the wild fear, the never ending tears, the incredible misunderstanding.
So you, she who was just diagnosed. Barely 48 hours ago, you were diagnosed.
When you messaged me on Facebook, time stopped. Goosebumps rose. Tears filled my eyes, and my blood pulsed with anger. My heart broke in a million pieces. I had an incredible urge to hold you tighter than tight, to never let you go, to keep you safe and warm inside my arms. All I could do was call.
Your voice was heavy with fear. In each question, each comment, each admission, I heard myself. I heard my own quavering voice, asking about radiation, mastectomy, hair loss, telling family. Each time another part of the story unfolded, I remembered the familiar creases in the fabric, the familiar not knowing, the familiar grasping at anything, something, anything that made sense.
I’m so glad you messaged me.
To you who was just diagnosed, I wanted to tell you. Advocate for yourself. Preserve your fertility. Ask a million questions. Stop googling. Stop google-scholar-ing. Take the ativan they offer. Stop researching. Trust your oncologist. Call the people you know, the ones who you aren’t sure about, but who maybe had something like this. You need a tribe. Don’t be ashamed to text like mad. Call all the time. Stop googling. Hydrate. Stop researching. Hydrate. Trust your oncologist. Ask questions. Reach out to any person who looks youngish. They are your tribe. We are your tribe.
I am so sorry.
People will say crazy things. They will bring you green powders and tell you to be positive. Fuck them.
People will come out of the woodwork. They will bring you dinners and movies. Love them.
Tell whoever you want. Don’t tell the rest.
Hide under the covers. Ignore phone calls. Only eat ice cream. Watch re-runs of the worst TV shows from your childhood.
Wear cowgirl boots, if they make you feel powerful.
Tell. Don’t tell. Tell part. Don’t tell the rest. You get to decide.
Find the colours the are comforting, and build them into your life. For me, it was aqua and warm, knit blankets.
Get a naturopath, if you like. Listen to their advice, sometimes.
Watch a lot of movies. Distract yourself. Distract, distract, distract.
Color. Draw. Make friendships bracelets.
Go to yoga. Lay out of all the postures, because, chemo. Go anyway.
Crawl under the blankets and cry. Demand your doctors tell you something about their lives before you show them your tits.
It’s a decision for you, and only you, the mastectomy or lumpectomy. Trust yourself. Its a decision, only for you.
Reach out. Keep reaching out. You already did it. It’s so important. It’s so hard. Keep doing it.
It’s not positive. It’s not pink. It’s not happy. It’s cancer. You don’t have to be any of those things. Promise. Fuck them.
So to you, she who was just diagnosed. Call me. I’m here. I want to shake you and tell you, I’m here. You’re taking all the space up in my heart and I can’t stop thinking of you, so please call, and please text. Don’t not contact because you think its too much. It’s too much to have breast cancer when you’re this old. It’s too much to be the only young one. It’s too much to consider mastectomy. It’s too much when every single person tells you to be positive and it’s too much when everyone tell you you’ll be fine. It’s too much to wait for more information. It’s all so fucking much, and it’s not too much to call or text. Promise.
To who, she who was just diagnosed. I’m here. All ways, and always.