Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Crying in the closet...

Back when Alan and I lived in Middle-of-Nowhere, USA, we hit a few rough patches. I had a hard time finding a job in our little corner of the world. Apparently, playing bingo for a living and hosting karaoke on cruise ships were not marketable skills for a small town. We had money problems. I occasionally asked myself what I was doing moving to this place so Alan could finish school. I was getting chubby and couldn't fit into my size 4 BCBG formal dress. All in all, I felt inexorably out of control. I used to walk into our closet- which was disproportionately big compared to our apartment- and I would cry. Just sit in the dark and sob among the pile of footwear. Occasionally, the offending garment would be spread across my lap. Alan and I had more than one "discussion" which led to him searching the apartment to find me in my little corner. A few friends knew of this odd habit... "was it bad or crying-in-the-closet bad?", they'd ask.

Funny enough, even with cancer, I haven't cried in the closet in a long time. Not even my big brand spanking new closet. And I haven't felt compelled to...

Until today.

A few people in my life have expressed concern over my still very active stance in breast cancer support groups, organizations, etc. I'm guessing they probably wonder why I'm not "moving on with my life." A couple have expressed worry that by still being so involved, I'm setting myself up for more pain. Sick friends, drama, recurrences, etc. That perhaps my time would be better served with non-cancer related things. That the longer I stay in the trenches, the harder it will be to dig myself out.

A friend read me something recently. She described finishing treatment for cancer as like coming back from a long, horrible trip and getting off the plane. You walk out only to find your friends and family have already left the airport. Just when you're done, and you need support almost more than you ever did, many in your life will assume it's over. That it's time to grab some dinner at Chili's and talk about other things.

I consider it my duty - actually, my honor, really - to be there waiting for people when they get off that plane. It has become so much a part of who I am that I cannot imagine my life without this. But for every blessing this gives me, there's a struggle.

Then there are days where that double edged sword cuts right through you. Today has been one of those days. I have a friend from my young women's group who is fighting this battle. And she's losing. As members of her group, we have visited her a lot this past week or so. And every time we walk out the door, our hearts are a little heavier, the grief a little closer. We get a drink. We process. We get mad. Mostly we just look at each other and say, "this sucks."

Cuz it does. It fucking sucks.

I have another member of my group who is having a hard time with her chemo. She is also stage four. She's currently in the hospital. I'm sure this scares her and she feels like shit and I wish there was more I could do to help her. And, yes, I could be "moving on" and maybe then this wouldn't be so hard, but this is our life. This is who we are. And while some might say they'd sleep better at night if they weren't around cancer, I couldn't. I couldn't look at myself in the mirror each morning if I wasn't offering myself to those people who have been there before me. Or those who come after.

This is by no means a slam to those who aren't capable of giving more. Not at all. I just know I am. I am able to offer medical knowledge that many don't have. I am able to offer a bit of humor to otherwise crappy stuff. And unfortunately, in the case of this group, a group that has never lost a member before, I am able to offer my still very fresh experiences with losing Candy. And I am happy to offer all this and more.

But there are moments, and I'm sure there will be more in the coming days, when it gets hard. When it seems so out of control. When it's just so damned sad. These moments have me walking to the door of my closet... These are the moments when I look inside, thinking that corner looks so inviting. Wishing my husband hadn't installed that damn motion light thing that makes it impossible to sit in the dark. And let out some tears. Take care of my fears, my worries.

Then it's time to strap on the big girl pants and check on my friends...


Anonymous said...


I have to say.....being a breast cancer survivor now myself I struggle with every little thing you said. I want to move on with my life and not be so absorbed with cancer. Lets face it, I am totally sick of living and breathing it!!!!! But...hmmmmmmmm I will not turn my back on the people along this journey that are still struggling.....I want to be there for them like others were me. Because being through it we know all the support in the world cannot compare to those walking the same walk..................

Lildee..........Love ya girl!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The analogy a friend of mine used one time was that when we are diagnosed we have to move to a new house on the other side of the fence. We can never go back to the other side. We can look at the other houses, on the non-survivor side of the street, but we can't go there, not again.

So we have new neighbors on our side of the street and we do what we can for them, always.

Anonymous said...

Courtney - Oh how your words echo my own sometimes. Don't you freaking hate how people expect you to "let go" of this like it was appendicitis? You walk away from any experience with breast cancer forever changed. I love the comparison above about the other side of the street. Most people walk away with a sense of duty - just like you. You make people like me proud to know there are others like you out there.


Melissa said...

You really struck a nerve with this one, says a gal who was losing her hair just about this time last year. We can't just get into the car and go home from the airport. Home is not the place it was, in every sense. (Got both of those analogies in one swoop LOL)

Sister Study said...

How would you like to make a difference in breast cancer research? The Sister Study needs your help to determine if breast cancer is caused by something women come in contact with at work, at home, in their communities or in the personal products they use.

The Sister Study is looking for 50,000 women to help discover the environmental and genetic causes of the disease. Women ages 35 to 74 are eligible to join if their sister (living or deceased), related to them by blood, had breast cancer; they have never had breast cancer themselves; and they live in the United States or Puerto Rico.

ENROLL TODAY or simply help spread the word to women in your community! Either way, you can help find the causes of breast cancer!!

For more information visit www.sisterstudy.org or www.estudiodehermanas.org. Call toll-free 1-877-4SISTER. Deaf/Hard of Hearing call 1-866-TTY-4SIS.