I have had a graced life, and rarely had to share bad news with my sons. The bulletin that I had breast cancer was a message that Steve and I wanted to manage.
Our first instinct was to have Steve call a family breakfast summit to lay out the treatment and the positive prognosis. A Father/Sons moment. Steve is an excellent communicator, and has steely resolve in staying on message. I knew he could explain and reassure. In my absence, there would be a limit to the overflowing emotions.
But…it seemed unfair for him to effectuate a bait and switch from omelets to cancer. It might wreck the deep affection we have for our breakfast mecca, the Honeybee, staining it with bad memories. So I revised. I would craft a letter and send it at a time of day that would find the boys settled and calm.(Late. All 3-kid families, parents are paralyzed by 10pm) They could process it, gather resolve and we’d talk about it in the morning. Excellent plan.
This is what I sent:
May 3, 2018
To my circle of life:
I am sending this at a time where you can let these words marinate and mellow. I hope you are in a calm space, with kids tucked in.
I want to let you know about a detour that Dad and I are navigating, and rather than have Dad summon you and share, (my first plan, not a great one) I decided that this was the best option so you are not blindsided. I know that you are aware that I have been fiddling with my zippy heart- and THIS is not about that. But it is about another medical test I flunked. Yep, mammogram. But breathe. It will be ok.
I have had 2 mammograms and a biopsy, and got the funky call that I am hosting an invader. I saw a surgeon today. These things I DO know:
I will need surgery. The sooner the better. The cancer seems to be on the right side, is called ductal carcinoma in situ. This is the best possible descriptor- it is contained, not branching yet. (note…this changed slightly) The post treatment will depend on too many variables to discuss in detail- probably lymph nodes will make it clear how invasive this is. I will need some sort of post surgery treatment- most likely radiation for 4-5 weeks. That is the best hope. I will need to take an oral estrogen inhibitor. Some side effects will attach. In the rosiest configuration, May-June will be busy with daily radiation/physical therapy. I can have this surgery next week, on Friday (sorry Pat and Rachel) (*I was supposed to babysit) if the heart guy says I can. Best goal is to get it before it starts creeping out of the duct. ASAP.
I have been the luckiest of wives, moms, sisters, daughters, mom in laws and grandmas. Family is my lifeline, and my reason for being here. I fully intend to be a battle axe and continue my good fortune. This is a curable disease. It will not reduce my lifespan. Your Dad and I are a cohesive team, and I cannot minimize how much support and comfort he has given me. We are indomitable.
I know you are with me in heart and mind, but I would really appreciate if you could kind of step back and let Dad and me navigate the nuts and bolts. Please do not refer us to new doctors or question our choices. Do not panic or fear. I think the hardest part will be the absence of the squishy grandkid hugs and the bouncing that I will probably need a time out from. But on the other side, that is the best motivation to fight robustly, rehabilitate like a savage and resume the bright side. Soon.
We haven’t figured out all of the details. You guys and Dad are the only people that know at this moment. (Not even Alberta, Bonnie or Jenny…I am a sphinx) I have to get my narrative straight, and make my plan before I am public. You can certainly share with those you love and trust. I’m irritated, not scared. We have no idea how this particular reality will intersect with Dad’s show. We have lived in the open; I imagine this will be a similar branch of the journey. Time will tell. It is our tale to share. Or not.
Now- Aren’t you glad I did not wait till Mother’s Day to drop this? I love you, and can already feel your concern. We are gonna be fine. Onward.
XO Mom/Mils (and her co-pilot, Fils) *(father-in-law)
A work of art, right? Levity, information, resolute action plan.
Late on May 3, I asked if it was time. Steve nodded and I pushed SEND and took a deep breath. Steve handed me the phone and remarked that all bets were that Mike would be the first to call. I drew a breath, and prepared to calm the seas.
Over the years, you may have met my sons via Steve’s radio show, my blog, and through interaction at their various jobs. Pat was a fetus update in 1981, and was heard entering the world by thousands as a culminating activity. Many people reading this know them well, have followed them through life.
So….what happens next? Who does what? Says what?
It’s your chance to know how family sustains, distracts and supports, and maybe to love my boys like I do.
(I cannot believe what a bitchy move it is to break off this story. But my blogs go too long. They ask too much of the reader. So I will make a mosaic instead.)
I’ll update in the next few days. You’ll smile, promise.