The day after my diagnosis I had plans to meet a friend at the Toy Library. We had met at a library storytime in the fall. Our daughters are 6 weeks apart, her daughter being older. When we first met, as often happens in the East End of Pittsburgh, we realized that we had several friends in common. I was surprised that we hadn't met sooner. Pittsburgh. Two degrees of separation away from just about anyone.
I knew her husband was a doctor. The week before she had told me that he worked with head & neck cancers. At the time I silently thought to myself, this could be helpful. But I hope like hell I don't need the help. So much for that.
We met for coffee across the street before heading over to the Toy Library. In the back of the restaurant I told her my news with a shaky voice. Her first reaction was 'Shut up!'. And then when she realized that I was upset she added, 'You know this isn't a death sentence. Right?'. Yes, I did know. So why couldn't I stop crying?
Since this is what her husband does for a living, she told me that I should talk with him whenever I wanted. She gave me his cell # and email. No worries, I was told. He does this for friends and family all the time. She asked me some questions about what my next step was, and proceeded to tell me about two women she knew who had had the same diagnosis years ago and were doing just fine. I felt much calmer and we went to play with the kiddos.
When I got in my car to go home I realized that I had a message on my cell. It was the surgeon's office. The surgeon who I was supposed to meet with that week did not deal with thyroid cancer that had also spread to lymph nodes, which is what I had. She only operated on the thyroid. They were changing me to another surgeon in the practice, but I could keep my appointment time. On the phone I started to cry again. It was becoming exhausting. The woman on the other end was kind, but surprised. 'Your doctor did tell you that this isn't a big deal, right? That thyroid cancer is more of a nuisance than anything?' No, they hadn't. But it was the impression I was beginning to get. I needed to pull myself together. I was so worried about not seeing my kids grow up. So worried about not growing old with my husband. So worried that there were many years worth of photos that needed to be organized. Who would do it if I died? The endless to do list that would never get done if I was gone.
Yes. Yes. I needed to get a fucking grip.