The thing Daughter wanted the most for Christmas this year was a microscope. As fortunate people, we were able to make that happen for her and she was beyond thrilled. In a quiet moment on Christmas morning, after she ran outside to gather a few specimens for examination, she and I got to chatting. After she drew the same conclusion that I had as a youngster, I told her that the greatest thing about getting my own microscope as a child was the new view of the world I had as a result. I saw how important and complex and powerful all of the small things around me really were. I was mesmerized.
As I grew up, I think I stopped seeing the world this way, at least in my day to day, to keep my sanity. I had to stop micro-examining everything but stay reflective at the same time. It was a difficult balance to strike. I managed well for quite a while, and then I got told, “You have cancer.”
Now, my micro-examiner is back and looking into everything with a magnifying lense. What will this look like? How will I feel? Why do I feel like it’s such a big deal when it’s “run of the mill breast cancer?” What if I do, as my doctor now suspects, need some sort of mastectomy instead of just the lumpectomy? What if I need chemotherapy? How do I manage every day? Who will pick up Daughter? How will I make dinner? Who will remind the people I love that I do, in fact, love them every single day? What if I wake up one morning and just don’t want to do it?
While all of these micro-thoughts are racing in my brain, it is Christmas. I am trying to be present and part of each moment. I am trying to smile and laugh and let my mother know I love her and I’m fine. I’m trying to pretend that I’m really, completely and perfectly, adjusted to everything. Really, I’m not.
I struggle with wondering if that’s ok. I feel like it is somehow unfair to my family, immediate and extended, to feel overwhelmed in each moment. I feel guilty to have taken a moment alone today to breathe hard and hold back tears. I feel sorry that I was angry. Right now, I see how important and complex and powerful all of the small things around me really are. I am terrified. I hope it’s ok.
One thought on “Micro views ”
I like to be self-reliant. I like to be helpful. I do not like to need help, and I don’t like to express weakness. However, I also have problems that make it impossible for me to always be self-reliant, and there are days (like today) when I just think, “I don’t know what to do” over and over as I walk around the house making little noises of distress. It has been a big challenge to deal with my illness, but I feel like being honest about my limits and how awful I feel sometimes may actually be a good thing for people around me. I am _not_ always okay. I will not be offended if someone else is also not okay. I met a friend a few days ago and asked how he was doing. He said that he was having some trouble, and I said I was too. Then, we went off and had tea and hung out. It was good to be able to be honest and not have it be a big deal. I had one friend who couldn’t take this. She said, “We’ll hang out when you get better.” I had told her that the damage was permanent. I didn’t spend time with her after that, and that was probably for the best, as I need to be around people who understand that some days I can’t function, that I will cancel plans because I don’t feel well, that I’ll show up looking like death, that I may need to ask for a ride because I can’t cope with getting someplace, or that I might suddenly be unable to speak. You have cancer. If it is “run of the mill”, that’s great, because I think that makes your chances of surviving it better, but it is still cancer. You are allowed to be really upset. You are allowed to worry. You absolutely don’t have to be okay with it all the time.
Since I love to make lists and plans, I finally pulled myself together enough to make a list of things I can do today while I wait to hear back from our lawyer about Stressful Things. If you are worrying about what might happen, maybe it would make sense to figure out now how you will handle some things, like setting up rides for your daughter and yourself and making plans for what you can do to get through days were you don’t feel well enough to move. There were people who were thrilled to give me a ride places when I felt sick. Anyway, I wish you the strength to get through this.
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