Friday, April 26, 2013

When The Emotional Reality Hits You Smack In The Face

Yesterday, I received a package in the mail from a very kind and well-meaning lady from the local branch of the American Cancer Society.  It was filled with all sorts of pamphlets, informational booklets, and bits and pieces of useful stuff for someone who happens to be battling breast cancer at the moment.

The package included an especially intriguing and thick guidebook entitled "Sexuality for the Woman with Cancer."  I wish that I could say it is a naughty romp on 50 Shades of the C Word, but, alas, it is not.  Just scientific information which will likely prove useful, if not nearly as fun in the reading, and I shouldn't mock it because I'm certain that there are useful nuggets of wisdom within, especially in talking about side effects of various treatment options and how to manage them and not kill your marital intimacy altogether in one fell swoop.

However, that isn't all.

As I flipped through the materials inside the envelope, I found a glossy, printed catalog of wigs and turbans and various bra and other rebuilding accessories for the lady with her formerly cancerous boobs a'kilter.

I am here to tell you that it is one thing to intellectually try to come to terms with something in the abstract as a potential future bridge you may have to cross.  You can mull it over in your mind as a walled-off "a patient in this situation could do A, B or C, and these would all be good options if I have to deal with this" all you want, and should because planning and thinking about this sort of thing is important in a know your plan for a worst case scenario sort of way.

The emotional reality of these possibilities lowers itself like an elephant on steroids, hurtling its rear end toward the ground with you pinned underneath and no means to stop the oncoming, crushing mass when you get a visual that first time.

It isn't as though I hadn't thought about this because I really have, including the need for sensitive skin sunscreen for summer if it comes to that and all sorts of other permutations.   Nothing like the thought of a bare, sensitive scalp combined with my potential for sunburn and melanoma on the cusp of summertime to make a girl just a little more hypersensitive about getting her sun hats at the ready.

Honestly, thinking about it as an abstract, separate concept is one thing.  Actually seeing a catalog filled with possible options and then picturing yourself in them?  That is a whole other thing to have to internalize.

It is going to be a long few days until we get all the testing results back from my lumpectomy. 

If nothing else, I can flip through my newly acquired wig catalog and make up funny stories about each style to try and figure out which I'd want to try on for size if chemo happens.  Some of them definitely have some naughty storylines -- including one that I would swear came from the set of Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy.

You have to find a way to laugh, don't you?

PS -- The "50 Shades of the C Word" reference above was "C Word" as in cancer.  NOT the other C word, thank you very much.  I got an irate and hurt e-mail from a reader who was horrified that I would even allude to THAT word.  Given the context of the post, it never even occurred to me that anyone would think I meant any "C" word other than cancer, but here we are, deep in long-winded explanation territory and sinking fast.  Sigh.  Hope this clears up any residual confusion for any non-contextual readers out there. 

(Photo via Steve Snodgrass.  Love this shot -- fits my mood perfectly this morning.)

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