It's just as fucked up as you think it would be. There is a moment, scratch that, hours where there is nothing but white noise. Fog. No ability to hear or even see. There is an echo in your brain that keeps saying, "You are going to die". There is a nothingness that consumes you. A quiet. I can't even describe it right. It is its own void. A vacuum. Your face is frozen. Your voice isn't actually your voice. Your movements are purely functional. There is no real sound. You are going to die.
My doctor held me by the shoulders. "Let me call someone for you", she said. Silence. Blank. Just blank.
"I'll just go to my mom", I finally said. "I'll go to my mom. It's ok. She's home. I know she's home", I said. And my doctor took her phone number down to be sure that I reached her. She lived just ten minutes away. She asked me to call her before I left.
"Mom? <silence> Something bad, mom. I want to come over. OK? I'm coming over right now. Ok? Mama?"
I left out of the back door of the office. My doctor hugged me, so tight, and promised that she was going to guide me through kicking this Cancer out of my body. She kept saying that I could "do this" that it was "early" and that I would "beat it".
I thought to myself, 'I am going to die". Over and over again.
She opened the back door of the office. My keys in my hands felt like bricks. My feet, numb. My eyes, so blurry. I remember thinking that this must be the way all women leave this office when they are told they have cancer or that they have miscarried or some other horrifying news. "This is the easy way out. So that no one sees the pain", I thought to myself. No one knows this kind of fear. It goes out the back door.
I reached my car. I turned the keys. It hit me. My mom! I have to get to her!
I drove straight to her. I had no idea that there was anything else that I could do. I needed her. I needed her to tell me that I wasn't going to die. I will never forget the feeling of her words whispered in my ear as I sobbed into her breast.
"You are NOT going to die. You. Are. Not. I swear to you, my love. You will NOT"
Her words saved me. I said to her in a voice almost inaudible, "Mommy, I am so scared. I don't want to die. Mommy, I'm so scared."
"You will not. You won't."
She held me in her arms for so long. I never wanted her to let me go. I felt safe. I felt like she could take away the word. Cancer. Fucking CANCER. She could destroy it. She is my mama. She can take this away. Please, mama, take this away.
I was 30 but I felt like I was 9. Her arms created a bubble of protection that is only possible from a mother to her child. And in that moment I trusted her. It was easy. She made me believe. She made me believe that I wasn't going to die.
Before my final surgery, I knew that this was "it". If they couldn't get the cancer, my dreams of being a mother naturally were over. Because the next surgery would mean a radical hysterectomy. My anxiety had me in a vice grip. I was suffocating the morning I walked into the hospital. I could not breath. I lay in the bed with my brave face on and my mom came to me. She held my hand and said to me, "They will get it. They will."
I wasn't so sure. My brothers were there. My dad. My grandparents and my godmother. All there to tell me that it was going to be ok. All I could think was "What if I die. What if it's too late? Oh my God, am I dying and I just don't know it yet?"
They hugged me and held me and joked with me and smiled at me and kissed me and promised me that no matter what, we would kick this Cancer's ass. I wanted to believe. Then I was under. When I came to, the anxiety came flying back with amazing speed. There was no forgetting. Not even in an anesthesia haze.
I was to wait for 2-5 days for the results.
I was lucky. SO FUCKING LUCKY. I came through. They got it. I wept so many tears. Releasing the throat gripping fear. Rejoicing the margins but unable still to wrap my head around the fact that they found fucking CANCER in my body. Unsure that they were right when they said it was gone. What if they were wrong? What if they missed something? Happy that I could still carry children. Unsure that I would. Praying that I really could. Knowing that if any ONE of the tests (every 90 days) came back even slightly off, the next surgery meant the end of my dreams for motherhood the way I wanted. Not because my doctor would force me to have a hysterectomy, but because I wanted to live and to have peace of mind. That was the next step. Take my legs, arms, a kidney and my breasts. Take my uterus and my hair, Dye my skin purple. Whatever it takes. Just do it. JUST TAKE THE CANCER RISK AWAY. Away from me. From my LIFE.
So I come to this post, with some anger and sadness over the bullshit I have read on these here internets about Angelina Jolie's decision to have a double mastectomy because she carried the BRCA 2 gene. And I am more than incensed at those of you waxing like you know what you would do in that situation. Making some kind of joke about it or pretending you know what it's like. Let me tell you from someone who knows what it is like to hear "You have cancer" from a doctor that they trust. The only thing you are thinking is "get it out" and "do what you have to do" That's it. If it means you take my boobs, my uterus and my legs, then do it. They are things. They are not all of me.
To those so willing to joke at her expense or to judge her for some imagined slight against the common woman, please listen up. You most definitely DO NOT know shit unless you have been in her shoes. Or mine. I live every day knowing (waiting?), for the day I will have to say goodbye to my uterus and ovaries. I will say goodbye to them without a thought or regret because I want to be here. I want to live. I want my children to not have to bury their mama before her time. I want to live this life with my beloved husband for as long as I can. I want to be here. And I suspect that is all that Angelina wants, too. Not because she is a celebrity and wants publicity but because she is a woman and a mother and a wife and she wants to live her life and be here for her children. I get that. And if you do not get that and are busy judging her (or me) for "mutilating" her body, well then I say to you that I sincerely hope you are never in the position to have to make that decision. I really do. Because it would mean that your life is on the line. I wish that on no one. Not even assholes on the internet.
Please let go of your positions. Let go of your opinions and ideas and assumptions. Stop arguing the decision that Angelina Jolie made for her body. I promise you that you just. do . not. know.
And I hope you never do. I really do.