The weight of breast cancer

metastatic breast cancer

Some days the weight of it all is too much.

Here we are nearly halfway through the month of October and my self appointed task of a ‘post-a-day’. Well, I have to tell you I’m actually finding this quite hard. Hard, as in difficult. Yes, the admin of scheduling  the posts, even though I do have a plan, but things change. You know life happens – or death – so Steve Jobs gets an impromptu post. And I am indebted to Ronnie here, for his help and guidance as we look at the schedule and decide what will work.

And then there are the comments. Moving. Sometimes achingly so.

I’m saddened that there’s even enough subjects for a post-a-day, in fact there’s more than enough. I’m moved by my friends’ reactions, by what they write. By how deeply this touches people around me. Oh, but the weight of it all.

Yesterday I was having a chat with my friend Rach (more about her tomorrow, she wrote yesterday’s post) and we talked about the ‘how do you talk about it’ side of things. I was relating how difficult I find it now in new social situations, and whether I disclose the fact that I am a breast cancer patient or not. Because once you say it, you can’t take it back. You get that ‘look’ from some people, the pity or the fear. Then they don’t talk to you as much as they used to. Sigh.

And then the comment today from ‘Jack’ on The well trodden path about his partner Adreinne. It was so moving, I’m posting it again here:

Adrienne lived with metastatic breast cancer for 6 years. She hated the idea of being treated as either a victim or a hero so she kept her condition a secret from her family, friends and work colleagues right up to the end.

We maintained the story that her progressive disability and bone pain were related to osteoporosis or something similar. The fiction allowed her to lead a “normal” social life, being treated with respect and affection at work as a teacher, as a mother, daughter and as a friend. No triumph, no tragedy, as they say in the disability rights movement.

After her mastectomy in ’96 she was given the All Clear and given no cancer related drugs – the mistake was found a year later by which time the disease had metastasised. Whether earlier treatment could have saved or extended her life we could never know and it never concerned her. She took the view that she was living with cancer, not dying from it.

Adrienne died on 12th October 2003. I’m sure she would have appreciated this blog and wished all its contributors strength and peace.

I just couldn’t believe it. She kept it a secret so she wouldn’t be stigmatised. That, to me, says so much about this crappy disease.

The things that come from the pain. The distress I feel about my friend Rach dealing with metastatic breast cancer, my sadness about her situation. My guilt that my life is opening up while hers is shrinking. Here I am, I can run, box, play squash, work, dig… and yet she can’t even leave the house to walk up a few steps to her mail box for fear that she will fall as she is so weak from the treatments that are keeping her alive. I hate it. The weight of cancer. This burden.

I’m grateful to my other friend who reassures me that I am not selfish to want an ‘after’, an ‘after breast cancer’ life (thank you G). I want an after. But I know it’s not guaranteed how long it will last. I know that.

I skipped home yesterday from training at the boxing gym, the drops of rain on the grass shining in the car headlights like diamonds and everything felt amplified. Today the weight of breast cancer is on my shoulders. It feels like the proverbial albatross, and I need a break.

My new editor is Ronnie Hughes. You know him. You will be in good hands.

I’m not disappearing, you’ll still hear from me sometimes. But right now I’m going for a rest.

11 thoughts on “The weight of breast cancer

  1. Sarah, I feel that weight too. And I totally know what you mean about telling others about my cancer and then there is my own family…

    Cancer is a very heavy thing to carry around and sometimes I, too, feel guilty for having a life to live when others do not. Like you, I hate “seeing” Rach and others struggle so. Why should they have to and not me? But none of us knows our future, so we have to just live the best life we can each and every day.

    Lots to think about here. Thank you for sharing and I hope you get some good rest.

    • And thanks again for joining the conversation Nancy.
      Sometimes the heaviness takes you by surprise, doesn’t it? And it’s been cumulative for Sarah over the last few days, So, she’s fine – in the next room, on her beloved chaise-longue. Listening to some relaxing soul music!

  2. It must be challenging to think of a new post every day. I don’t know if I would be up to it. Adrienne sounds so special, but that did make me sad, since she died on my birthday. I’m so glad Ronnie will be spotting you for a while.

    • Thanks Jan – and happy birthday!
      And I feel nearly as emotional as Sarah about what Jack posted about Adrienne today. I respect what she did, but wish for a world where cancer doesn’t stigmatise all of us whose lives are so changed by it.

  3. Sarah,

    I’m a relatively new reader. I just wanted to say first that my heart is with you, with the weariness and the weight. And second, I’m so grateful that you, with this public space and visible voice, are modeling such fantastic self-care. That you’re on the chaise, recharging, and trusting that the burdens will be waiting when you’ve rested enough to shoulder them again. Sending warmth and gratitude your direction (and in Ronnie’s–it was actually his original “Being Ronnie” post that led me here).


  4. Oh Sarah, you touch on so many things I can relate to. Mostly, not wanting to tell new friends or parents at my sons’ school about my diagnosis, especially at the time it happened. I never wanted anyone to think of me as “sick.” I didn’t feel sick and I wouldn’t be able to stand the pity in their faces. And now, two years later, I still don’t say anything. I’m not sure what the point would be. My heart goes out to you on these heavy days. I, too, hate the unfairness of it all.

    • Thanks Stacey, Sarah’s feeling much better today. But on the down days it doesn’t help at all to think that mentioning breast cancer is still so taboo in so many social situations.

  5. I’m so touched and so moved by Adrienne’s story. Thank you so much for sharing that. Cancer is such a heavy thing, and some days the burden seems much weightier than others. I’m thankful to have other cancer-chicks blogging away about their thoughts & feelings so I know I’m not alone.

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