Sometimes I think I talk too much.
Take my breast cancer, for instance. I don’t seem to have any trouble talking with anyone about the process. At some point in polite conversation with friends, or strangers, I slide in the comment that my second surgery is around the corner. “What’s the surgery for?” they ask, innocently. “Breast reconstruction,” I blurt out, as though I haven’t a bashful bone in my body. Often, I’ll cup the gestating breast, handling it as though it was alien from the rest of me. I don’t feel the least bit embarrassed. And I wonder why. Could it be because the breast-yet-to-be isn’t really me? That perhaps the process I’m going through is so strange, so frightening, amazing, uncomfortable and just plain weird that to divorce myself from my self is the only way I can manage any degree of sanity. Or composure.
So I talk about it. A lot, I fear. Maybe it’s a way to wade through some of the mystique surrounding cancer of the breast, or a way to integrate what I’m going through. Maybe it’s a way to identify familiars, others who have walked this path who may have experienced something similar. Then again, maybe I talk about it as a way to educate myself and others about what happens after a breast cancer diagnosis. Whatever the reasons, I seem to be quick to share what others might consider too personal.
Several weeks ago I met up with a few women on the Village Green, all of us drawn to the meeting because of our experiences with breast cancer. Five women, four of us with the diagnosis. One, though never receiving a diagnosis, knew others who had; two of us at differing stages of reconstruction; one was recently diagnosed; and another, a survivor of many years. We all agreed how empowering and comforting it was to share our stories, and promised to meet again.
There’s a lot to be said for shared experiences. Though I’ve never had children, I can only imagine the pain of losing one’s child is so overwhelming that sharing that grief with another parent who lost a child can be a source of enormous solace. After all, no one could possibly know what it’s like to experience such a loss unless they know it firsthand.
It’s like that with breast cancer. More than once I’ve chatted with other women who have traveled this path, and the observations are the same: You have to really go through it to know what’s involved. Still, it can be lonely for many of us, and reaching out, even on a Saturday morning on the Village Green to a handful of women, makes the journey a little less daunting. So is writing about it. Long recognized as a path toward healing, sharing our journey through the written word is empowering and, perhaps, even educational.
I understand how difficult it is for some of us to share our stories. I do. I also hope that by relating my experience, either in line at the market or on the pages of The Sounder, those who choose to keep the experience private will find comfort and camaraderie.
As for me, I’ll keep sharing my story, hoping the next person who receives a breast cancer diagnosis knows a little more, and knows there’s a sympathetic ear in the neighborhood.
This much I do know: I’m ready for the process to be over. Seriously, over. I’m weary of being constantly aware of the orb that sits at numb attention on my chest, sporting a seam that runs left to right, the cut line for the next step, a silicone implant. And, as you read this, I’m in Seattle getting that implant, along with a cosmetic tuck of the remaining original breast. Oh! And some liposuction so the doctor has fat to fill what was removed when they removed the cancerous one.
I’ll be back on the island this weekend. Feel free to ask me how it went. I’ll be happy to share.