I often wonder how many people received the cancer call vs who was called into the doctor’s office. I’ll never forget the cancer call 7 years ago on September 14th. Back then, I was sitting in my cubicle at work when my whole world changed with that one call.
I’ve been struggling with writing lately. It’s not because I have nothing to say or am uninspired. It’s because I have way too much to say and struggling to get my thoughts written down in a cohesive way. The perfectionist in me doesn’t want to write something awful, yet I need to release some of what has been on my mind lately.
My six-year anniversary of getting the cancer call was on Tuesday, September 14th. I woke up that morning with mixed emotions. It’s one of those memories that will never fade. The flashbacks are clear and packed with emotion. I was working at iHeart Media sitting in my cubicle on 9/14/15. I’d had the biopsy at 4pm on 9/11/15 which fell on Friday that year and was told it would take 48-72 hours to receive the results. I’m always aware of the time because of all my years working in media and making sure the commercials were the correct spot length. I remember looking at my phone when it rang at 3:05pm and not recognizing the number but knowing in my gut to answer.
“Megan-Claire, you have Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer. We don’t know the stage yet. You need to get a pen and paper and take some notes because time is of the essence.”
The entire trajectory of my life changed in an instant. Yes, I’m still alive and “survived,”, but many other warriors I’ve crossed paths with during these six years have died. Why am I still here and they aren’t? They had husbands or wives and children. I don’t. Survivor’s guilt is real. It’s important for people to not negate these feelings because the guilt is just as crushing as the loss of friends.
I miss them.
I think of their families.
I wish I could’ve taken their place.
So yes, I’m still here but not physically or mentally the same. I’m chronically ill thanks to fibromyalgia, back pain, and neuropathy. I’m in pain every second of every damn day. Some days are manageable and other days it’s off the charts. I literally look like a different person (chemo curls are back) in a body I don’t recognize at all.
Being naturally resilient is a blessing and a curse. Even when I don’t want to show up for myself I somehow always manage to push up and just do it. I’m fully immersed within the cancer space. There are days where I feel passionate about my advocacy and days where I am utterly drained. I have to continuously remind myself that it’s okay to put myself first and can say no to various requests of my time. That doesn’t mean I am selfish or don’t care. That is self-care.
For the first time in six years, I did not completely wallow on that day. You see, cancer cannot take away the essence of me, you or anyone. Ever. The one constant that brings me pure joy is the arts, specifically the theatre. So, I went to see a musical with another theatre friend that evening. It was the first time I had done something that literally breathed life into me. I fully enjoyed myself and felt the familiar feeling of walking into a theatre and feeling like I was home. It was an evening that cancer could not touch.
Once you receive the “cancer call,” your life is never the
same. Every plan and dream become frozen because you’re no longer the person
you once were. That one call changes the course of your life.
My cancer call was 4 years ago yesterday, 9/14/15. I didn’t
think I would be contacted so quickly because I’d had my biopsy on a late Friday
afternoon on 9/11/15. It felt wrong and scary to have a biopsy of the mass in
my left breast on such a nationally tragic day. Yet, I wanted to have my biopsy
on a late Friday afternoon so I could go home afterward and not think about work
or anything else. I was told the results would be available within 24 to 48
hours. Since I was the last patient of that day, I was expecting results either
Tuesday or Wednesday.
So, when my cell rang at 3:05pm that Monday, I instinctively
knew I should answer it even though I didn’t recognize the number. When I
flashback to this memory, it’s like I’m suspended above my work cubicle watching
I see myself running down the hall into an empty conference
I see my eyes filling with tears yet widening in disbelief.
I see my hand shaking while holding the cell.
you have Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer. We don’t know the stage yet. You need to get a pen and paper and take some notes
because time is of the essence.”
Those words changed the course of my life.
Much has happened since that day. I had started to make a
list but got nauseous as the list went on and on and ON. Some have an easier
cancer path than others. Mine was not and is still not easy.
I’ve blogged about survivors’ guilt in the past, but it’s
never far from my mind. Once you’ve received a passport into cancerland, you
meet other patients across all types of cancers that you never would’ve met in
your non-cancer life. I will always be grateful for the friendships I’ve made
and continue to make.
The part I still can’t wrap my head around is death. I’ve
posted numerous pictures of me smiling through the pain and giving a bird’s eye
view into cancerland. The one view I’ve never shown is seeing a fellow warrior
die from their cancer. I’d never seen death up close and personal outside of
family until then. That’s why I struggle when people tell me I should be happy
I’m alive and not let cancer define me. Heck, I hear those comments from other
I have friends who have died and are currently dying. Some
have years or months. Others have weeks or days. I carry a little piece of them
with me. They have become part of my story, too.
Then I have friends outside cancerland who I never would’ve
crossed paths with if it hadn’t been for my cancer diagnosis. Some are still in
my life and others are not. Like that saying goes, some people are meant to be
in your life for a moment, a season or a lifetime.
I’ll never forget the days leading up to and the day of my cancer call. It forced me down a path I wasn’t ready for and continue to fight.