My second to last Herceptin treatment is this Friday. I desperately want to believe that come September 16, I will be done with treatment for breast cancer. I want to believe it’s not going to come back, that I’m going to be cancer free for many years, that I’m going to see S and AJ grow up, that I’m going to live.
A friend told me I have to change my mindset to that of expectations. I expect September 16 to be my last Herceptin treatment. I expect to be done with breast cancer treatment. I expect I’m going to be cancer free for years. I expect to see S and AJ grow up. I expect to live.
But, a small part of me, no, that’s a lie, a large part of me feels like saying “I expect…” is really tempting Fate. My friend, though, told me that instead of feeling that way, I have to feel confident in my expectations.
Isn’t that setting myself up for failure though? That’s how it feels…
Feeling like a failure is one part of being diagnosed with breast cancer that I can’t shake. I feel like a failure. I developed breast cancer at 37. While I know there’s no genetic explanation as far as my genetic testing goes, I still blame myself. I feel like there’s something I could have done differently, done better. But, as another friend reminds me, there are people who live the healthiest lives they can lead and develop cancer…then, there’s the opposite, the unhealthy, who never develop cancer. Still, I feel like I failed. I failed A. I failed S and AJ. I failed my parents, my family, my friends. I’m 38 with breast cancer. I’m 38 and wondering if I’ll live to see 40. I’m 38 and wondering how long I have to mother my kids. I’m 38.
I expected to have a long life. Now, I don’t. I didn’t think twice about eating or drinking something sugary. Now, I beat myself up over every candy bar or Dr. Pepper. I felt like I had all the time in the world. Now, I don’t. I didn’t think twice about staying up way late. Now, I beat myself up because I know being sleep deprived affects my health.
I never expected to have breast cancer. I was one of those arrogant women who thought, “That’ll never happen to me.” How stupid and egotistical of me. So, how is expecting my cancer treatment to end and the cancer to stay away not egotistical and arrogant?
This is what I grapple with right now as the anniversaries keep rolling by me.
I wore a pair of pants to work today that I haven’t worn since the second day of school last school year. Today’s the second day of this school year. Last school year, on the second day of school, I went to have a biopsy done. I was told it was 70% likely the tumor was going to be cancerous. I felt my whole life slip away from me last school year on the second day of school. And, even though today is not the same day, date wise, it still feels the same. I’ve had to tell six class periods of 30 or more students that I’m still in treatment for breast cancer. Many of the students in my classes are students I had last year in my honors class who are now in my AP class. They know. They were there for most of it, but not all of the kids are students I had last year. I believe students have to see their teachers as human beings, so I share my life, somewhat, with my students. I could hide I’m still in treatment, but what’s the point? This is my life…until September 16. Then, I expect to be done with treatment. I expect Dr. O to tell me I can say I’m in recovery from breast cancer, or I can finally say I had breast cancer.
But, in the back of my head, there’s a little voice that whispers, “Yeah, but with your luck, it’s just going to come back and kill you as soon as it can.” Thanks scumbag brain. You’re a peach for that.
What happens when my expectations don’t match my reality? What happens if I have all these expectations only to be crushed by the whims of Fate? What happens?
So, I whisper, “I expect September 16 to be my last treatment. I expect to be done with breast cancer treatment. I expect to be cancer free for years. I expect to see S and AJ grow up.” I whisper it because I’m afraid to say it too loud. I whisper it because it’s too hard to say it louder. I whisper it because it’s my deepest hopes, and I’m scared of having my hopes crushed.
I’ve spent a year having my hopes crushed and rebuilt to be crushed again and rebuilt. I expect this year to be different.
I hope this year is different.