The only thing that learning I have had breast cancer has proven to me so far is simply how melodramatic I really am. Picture me sitting in the back of a small town coffee shop literally hiding while watching an angst-ridden television show about fairytale characters and simultaneously skyping with friends about said show. Suddenly, my phone rings and I realize that I have missed a call. I check the voicemail and learn that the results are back from my biopsy. I haven’t been too concerned about this, as everyone thus far has assured me that the strange, funky shaped lump on my breast is but a common, unwanted, non-cancerous guest to many young females. I call them back. I am immediately put on hold, which is completely absurd considering I had just missed their call less than one minute before.
After being on hold for a while I finally get to talk to the nurse. She’s a nice lady, with frizzy blond hair and a kind smile that I met at my previous appointment. She hesitates. I am immediately put out of funk. She asks, “Are you somewhere where you can talk?” I respond, “Sure, of course I can talk (sounding blasé as I overlook my Skype window).” I then hear the words, “I’m sorry, but they found (seriously unnecessary pause here) a cancer.” I pause as the thoughts, “What exactly does that mean, what time is it? 1:38 p.m., and Oh, Dear, God” run through my head. I manage to utter an, “Oh, okay.” She goes on to say that she’s sorry and that no one really expected it because I’m so young blah, blah, blah. . . To which I start crying, sobbing really, but I’m trying really hard to be as quiet as possible because I am in the coffee shop for goodness sakes. It certainly would not do to be seen sobbing in the coffee shop. She asks me if I’m okay to which I, attempting to stifle my crying, respond that I will be fine in about ten minutes, but that I am currently in shock. She then goes on to inform me that I have a number of appointments the next day that it is imperative that I go to them. Luckily, some part of my brain was still functioning and I pulled up a word document and typed what she was saying. I really have no memory of what was said from this point on. I hang up the phone.
Now, picture me sitting in the back room of a coffee shop staring blankly ahead holding a rather lovely coffee mug full of delicious coffee. I am no longer crying, but I am definitely shaking all over. Come to think of it, I probably looked like an over-caffeinated, crazy woman. I put the coffee mug down and my first real thought is, “I should probably tell someone.” My computer is sitting right in front of me and it just so happens that I have had a running commentary with friends going on about my current health situation. I write out the phrase, “Hey, so my results from the biopsy came back positive. It turns out that I have breast cancer... I meet with the doctors tomorrow. I love you.” Honestly, really? Could I possibly have told them in a more blunt way? It’s followed by a short mini conversation with a friend of mine ending with the conclusion that I should probably tell my parents. I also come to the conclusion that I should let my friend know that I can’t make it to her dress fitting the next day. I tried to call, but she didn’t pick up so I sent a text somewhere along the lines of, “I can’t make it to your dress fitting tomorrow because I have breast cancer. I’m sorry.” Dear, God! The poor thing was terrified. To my dear friends, I would like to point out that I am really sorry about scaring you all to death. To my poor mother and hairdresser I owe an even bigger apology.
It just so happens that my mother is about a two-minute walk away on the other side of the town square getting her hair done. Once I have come to the conclusion that I should tell my parents about the whole breast cancer thing, I immediately state this in my conversation with me friend online; shut down my computer; and put away all of my things. I take one very deep shaky breath and stand up. Everything seems very weird at this point as I walk my mug over to the counter. It’s like I’m looking into some sort of glass enclosure where people are sitting on couches laughing and others are conversing over counters and small tables. I catch some weird glances as I walk by. I’m obviously acting strange and probably have a wide-eyed doe look and creepy, must look normal smile on my face. Even weirder, I step out of the coffee shop into the fifty-degree, December day and am immediately hit by the loud streaming of Christmas music playing to a town square practically devoid of people and filled with empty cars. Acknowledging that I must be in some sort of Twilight Zone, I then get into my mother’s car and drive around the square and park it in front of the hair salon. Never mind that it was completely unnecessary for me to drive somewhere I could walk in five minutes or less. I take a moment to compose myself, fix what must have been a slightly manic smile on my face and walk into the salon. I enter the salon and politely yet forcefully indicate that my mother is getting her hair done and that I am going in to see her. I then pass our regular hairdresser, smile and say, “hi.” I walk up to my poor mother covered in tin foil and a smock and bend over resting my hand on the arm of her chair. Here, again, I burst into sobs. My mom is immediately concerned and at the same time can in no way fathom what I am trying to say. I finally sputter out a halting, “I, got, my, re-port, back.” Somehow, from seemingly nothing my mother looks at me and goes, “You have cancer.” She stands up and hugs my sobbing self and asks the poor distraught hairdressers if there’s somewhere we can talk. They send us upstairs, where we sit for five minutes, make a plan, and I compose myself. I then walk out of the salon, not smiling, but seeming perfectly okay. Well, except for my puffy, red face.
You would think that the madness stops here, but it doesn’t. I have a brief telephone conversation with two shocked friends, the one I sent the text message to and another from the newsfeed. Feeling much better, I then proceed to think that I would like to stop by my aunt’s house and talk to her since she has had breast cancer and it might be helpful. Again, I feel that I am completely composed and will have no problem simply stopping by and informing my aunt that I have breast cancer and would like some information. My poor, dear uncle . . . I arrive at my aunt’s house only to realize that she is a teacher and will not be home until after 3p.m. My uncle, it so happens, was taking a nap in the living room. I waltz into the house and, standing politely on the doormat inside their door, ask if I can talk to my aunt. Sadly, the man was asleep and I only managed to wake him up. He responds, “what?” To which I again, a bit louder, ask if my aunt is home. He is still not awake and again repeats, “What?” At which point, for the third time within the last two hours, I break into sobs. My dear uncle is immediately alarmed and comes over to hug me and ask what’s wrong and why I specifically needed my aunt. To which I explain to him I just found out I have breast cancer, which is indeed followed by more hugs and a very strange repetitive conversation about cancer and how I can’t make it to my friend’s dress fitting the next day. I abruptly compose myself and take my leave.
So you see, even though I’ll be perfectly fine in about 6 months, I had to make a terrifying scene at not one, but three different locations. I made a mad-eyed, crazy woman appearance at the coffee shop, I broke down in front of my foil-covered mother at the hair salon, and I marched into my aunt’s home and practically pounced upon my poor uncle. Perhaps, having cancer will teach me to be a little bit less dramatic either that, or, it will only make me worse. Let’s hope for the former.