My cousin wrote the most amazing book. Actually, it was her third one. This one was called “I Have a Question About Cancer.” And, I read that book with my young daughter on many occasions to explain to her that I was going to be losing my hair. And, that I had a boo-boo called cancer.
Cancer is on its own timetable. I was preparing for a speech to University of Maryland theater students. I am an alum of U of MD and I studied and love theater. I couldn’t wait to give the speech. My prep was interrupted by a call from my doctor who uttered the terrifying words, “you have cancer.” But, you know, I was determined to give that speech, so I somehow compartmentalized for the next 12-18 hours and gave the speech before heading straight to the doctor. The cancer was moving right ahead at its own pace. In rapid succession I went through chemo, then I had surgery, a bilateral mastectomy, then radiation, and reconstructive surgery.
I didn’t really process much of what was happening to me because it happened so very fast. I was fortunate that I had wonderful medical care and my cancer was caught very early. I was mending nicely from a physical perspective by the time I began to understand the emotional toll that the entire process had taken on me.
When I did start to process everything I again realized how fortunate I am to have an amazing support system surrounding me from my family to my co-workers. And, Hope Connections for Cancer Support. You can get lost in your thoughts sometimes, and to have outlets, and to have places you can go, people that understand what you’re going through, I can’t even explain how helpful it is. Because if you’re just left to your own, it can get pretty dark and scary. And for me, I had a pretty positive outlook most of the time, and I was lucky that I was being told my prognosis was good. So, I felt really good about that. But it’s still just a scary diagnosis. I needed to be able to be myself, and feel like I could still have fun, and also still feel like I could cry sometimes, but that I didn’t have to be one thing all of the time.
The best way I heard Hope Connections described is that it’s like drinking a warm cup of
hot chocolate, and that has stuck with me because it’s just this really comforting place where a lot of people have been through a lot of things and have seen a lot. Everybody is just still really positive, and supportive of each other. It’s a really nice place to feel like you can go, and again, get whatever you need in that moment, whether it’s you need to talk to somebody in a quiet corner because you’re having a bad day, or you feel like you need to yuck it up and laugh about, I don’t know, how many cookies you ate or something. It’s just a really nice welcoming place.
So, here’s the way I see it. The physical part is only about half the journey. At least it was for me. Getting through the emotional part was hard. Really hard. Having Hope Connections was a saving grace for me. And, now I’m still involved by being on the board of directors.