Last month the breast cancer support group I had joined finished the structured meetings. I found the whole thing very helpful, it probably helped that we were all relatively young for a breast cancer diagnosis. But one thing that came out of the meetings is that I realized how angry and guilty I feel about my diagnosis. It’s one of those things that intellectually you know is silly but you can’t help feeling that way.
I’m angry that I had the chance to avoid this altogether – I mean I was actually scheduled for a prophylactic mastectomy almost 4 years ago and cancelled it because I was pregnant with M and since then I’ve been pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, the surgeon thought the cancer had only been growing for a few months so I keep thinking I almost made it. I mean a cancer diagnosis is a surprise for almost everyone but I actually had a way to avoid it, but missed my window. I guess the upside of the whole thing is that without knowing about the mutation I wouldn’t even qualify for screening yet, in Ontario screening doesn’t start until you’re 50 years old, and the cancer would have been much more advanced by the time it was discovered. But I’m finding it very hard to get over the thought that I almost didn’t ever have to worry or deal with a cancer diagnosis.
I feel guilty because my prognosis is actually pretty good – with chemo (and the double mastectomy) there is about a 9% chance of a recurrence. My sister never had a chance, but I do, and I hate that my family had to deal with this. Particularly my husband and parents. Fortunately the kids are too young to really understand what’s happening. M knows that I’m sick for a few days and then better. I’m not sure what E thinks, she’s definitely a daddy’s girl, but the other day she cried when I held her and seems to want people other than me. It’s hard not being able to do and be all your kids need. My husband currently has a lot of stress at work – his company isn’t doing week and are talking about potential layoffs. He is currently the only income earner, not to mention the insurance, as I only worked about 2 weeks before taking a leave of absence so I’m getting nothing. So with the treatment for a few days he is working and dealing with the kids basically by himself. Plus he’s worried about me and there is nothing I can do. I just wish that I could take away his stress. But I think I feel the worst for my parents – they watched one daughter die and then their second be diagnosed with the same disease. I haven’t really even spoken with my dad since my diagnosis – he took my sister’s death hard, the mutation comes from him and I know he’s struggling. My mom is trying so hard to help, I mean she was driving me to work every day while I was working because she didn’t want me on the bus and this took over 3 hours out of her day. The guilt comes from knowing I could have saved everyone all this stress and worry if I had just had the mastectomy right away.
And all this leads to how I feel. I think I could have avoided all this – BUT THEN I WOULDN’T HAVE M, E and Ava. They are so much a part of me that I can’t imagine who I would be without them, so I end up running in circles – I should have had the mastectomy sooner but then I wouldn’t have my kids. This means I’m a big pile of twisted emotions and I find it hard to actually pull out how I truly feel. Everything is so intertwined that I’m finding it hard to even describe things. I’m angry (could have prevented this, didn’t qualify for testing until my sister died), guilty (could have prevented this – good prognosis after everyone else in my family diagnosed with breast cancer has died), grateful (cancer detected early with a good prognosis), sad (lost time with my kids, E seeming to not want her mommy), sick (chemo makes me ill for almost a week after), disappointed (I feel like I’m missing out on things – we aren’t really doing things as I don’t want to catch anything with my weakened immune system), and probably a bunch more things. If you’ve read all this thank you, I’m sure it’s a bit muddled but I’m not going to go over it, this is how I feel and I’m afraid that I’ll make too many changes if I try to make it better.