empathy

How being pissed off helped me win the fight with cancer

Artwork by  Milou Maass

Artwork by Milou Maass

In your 20’s you don’t have a lot of thoughts towards your health, most of us take it for granted and that was my case as well.  I never had any big issues so when I turned 28 I was planning to have a great year, with lots of travelling, sandy beaches and the plan to start my own company.

So I was excited to finally start and have something of my own.

Apparently fate, or God if you like, had different plans for me. In April 2015 I had a really ugly allergy that had me hospitalized for 11 days. In the hospital I noticed a small bump in my right breast that I told my doctor about.

It was the size of a grain of rice, but having really small breast I did notice. She recommended me doing an echo.

After finally being home I didn’t think about it, but the bump was growing fast. After a while you could see it with the naked eye. That had me worried so I went to a doctor. She scheduled me immediately for an echo. The result of the echo was “suspicious” and they recommended me to go to a specialist.

The surgeon told me that he will know for sure if it’s cancer only if he operates. He scheduled my surgery for 10 of July.

I had a whole month for myself so I tried not to think about it, I was busy making my business work, meeting with clients, signing contracts and being always on the run. I loved it! I felt alive!

Something amazing happened during that month too, I reconnected with my first love. He came back home and asked me to join him for a beer. I was really nervous because I hadn’t seen him in 10 years. When we did meet I could see that he wasn’t bald or fat as I was secretly hoping. He was as awesome as I remembered. We had a really great time and looking back I believe the Universe gave me a small break before all the craziness with cancer started. He was the last guy to see me” whole” and this makes me happy even today.

Going to the hospital was scary, I had ”the talk”, where the doctor asked me if I was giving my consent for him to remove my breast if the bump was cancer.

I laughed. I remember saying that I have nothing to lose, because my breasts were so very small. I asked about reconstructive surgery, he said I can do that after 6 months.  Short after he gave me a hug and smile.

I remember thinking that this is happening too fast. I was scheduled the next morning at 8 AM.

Drawings by Simon Prades

Drawings by Simon Prades

The nurse came for me, my hands were really sweaty and my night-gown was not properly closed, so I was thinking that everybody can see my butt.

Actually I don’t think anybody gave a rats ass about my butt. I arrived at the 4th floor, the operatory block. They told me to lay on the table and to think about something beautiful.  I remember having my mind blank. They put the mask on my face and I felt dizzy.

When I woke up I felt that something was wrong. If they were to take out only the small bump I would have only a small bandage. It wasn’t the case my breasts were all wrapped and I could tell it wasn’t good.

A nun started talking to me, saying I was in the intensive care and that I was ok. I started crying, knowing that she is lying. She tried to comfort me, but all I wanted was for her to vanish.

When my mom came I wasn’t crying anymore. I asked her what happened, even though I already knew the answer. I just needed the confirmation. Not knowing for sure was harder than knowing.

She danced around, telling me that they took out what it was necessary. I insisted and then she told that they took the whole breast out.

Later she told me that she met with the surgeon and he told her that the bump was cancerous and because he didn’t want to risk it and because of my young age he decided to take out everything.  She also told me that he was all red and sweaty, that he actually looked a little scared and surprised. She said that probably he didn’t expect it either.

He asked my mom if he wants him to tell me or she will do it. She said that she will tell me, but she wants to wait a day or two. He said that he is obliged professionally to tell me right away.

My mom was in denial, she told me that probably the doctor exaggerated, because she doesn’t think I have cancer.

During the surgery they examined a piece of my tumor and they saw it was cancer, but the result of the whole thing was supposed to come in a month. We would know if it’s in my lymph nodes, meaning if it spread or not, if it’s hormonal or genetic and how rapid it would spread.

I remember that they brought me back in the reserve and my dad came. I started cracking jokes, I don’t remember what I said, but I remember laughing a lot. I couldn’t stand seeing them so down, so sad.

During my stay I made a friend, she was scheduled the next day for a mastectomy.  I remember her looking at me with so much compassion.

I know she was really scared so because of her I tried to be brave.

The doctor came later that day and I asked him what happened, and he hesitated in telling me the truth. He said: “I took out what was necessary.” I think he thought my mom didn’t tell me.

The next day the idea started to sink in. I was alone in the reserve so from nowhere I started crying really loud. I never felt that angry and sad, I remember being so pissed at God!

For a second I thought my eyes will pop out from so much crying.

Illustration by Ilinca Mishkina

Illustration by Ilinca Mishkina

I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening. I was always the girl with a plan, and now I was face to face with a really black whole. Were my future once was now it was a question mark. I was telling myself I have to take every day as it comes. I couldn’t fully understand what happened so my mind was blank.

I was watching TV and this thought crossed my mind that monkeys must feel like this: totally unaware of their being, with no emotions or feelings. I thought of how blissful that might be.

I must have made an impression on my surgeon because he asked me if I want to talk with the psychologist. I said yes.

She came in the reserve. She asked me how I am. I was looking at her wondering if she’s a nurse. I said I was ok. Then I asked if she is the psychologist. She said yes. Then I replied: “Then, no, I’m not ok.” We started talking about what will be the next steps medically speaking, we didn’t talk about feelings or emotions. The whole conversation was about my physical recovery and about what to expect.

It felt good to know what to expect in the near future. I was still scared to look in the mirror, so when the time came to change the bandage I asked my doctors not to show me anything. I asked them how it looks and they said it looks fine.

I remember being really close to crying, but being proud stopped me from crying in front of them.

Six months passed from my surgery, my results came back and I feel lucky. I went in time, so I am in stage 1, the cancer didn’t spread anywhere. I did start chemo as prevention so my hair is gone and my eyebrows and eyelids are not far from that either.

I did look at my scar finally. I remember being alone and just staring at myself in the mirror, thinking that I will look until I won’t feel that my scar is so ugly.

I accepted my scar – which changed a lot in these 6 months, but so have I. The anger and frustrations diminished in time. My question: “Why me?!” did receive an answer: “Why not you?!” We feel so special, above all that we don’t actually grasp the idea that bad things could happen to us.

A priest came to my house after some time, he is some kind of a family friend and he wanted to see how I am. I think he was the only one that asked me how I am and if I learned anything from this experience. I had no clue what to answer him. I felt so intensely the anger, the frustration and the rage that I never asked myself if I did learned anything from it.

I didn’t learn anything vital and I don’t think it’s fair to be asked this question. It’s like I was punished for something I did and now I was learning my lesson.  He actually told me that because God loved me he gave me this truly horrible lesson so I can change something that I was doing wrong in my life.

Painting by Piot Brehmer

Painting by Piot Brehmer

I didn’t tell him to go screw himself. I don’t believe God to be this vengeful prick that is trying to punish me for my life choices. I don’t see this as a lesson to be learned, I see it as a life experience. It made me stronger, made me realize that bad things can happen, but it’s up to us to transform it in something positive.

Being bald, with no eyebrows or eyelids and without a breast can make you be bitter if you let it, but I choose not to.

My love life is nonexistent, but I was never bothered by the idea of being single and I know I need time to heal.

I have met some really fucked up people in my life, men I mean, but I always had the power to laugh about it.

Today though, in the light of the recent events I’m not as keen as before to swipe the stupidity under the carpet. I don’t have patience for assholes, I already feel vulnerable and I can’t let bad comments affect me.  I’m aware that more than anything I need support and friends. I need people that can understand how traumatic is to lose something that is part of you that is part of your femininity.

I might make it look easy but it’s not. It’s hard to look at myself in the mirror and smile, but I accepted myself and I learned to love myself again. That doesn’t mean I don’t have moments when I feel broken. I won’t for sure jump in nobody’s bed, I’m not eager to show myself to anybody just yet.

Like I said I need more of an understanding friend and maybe with time I will have the power to pass my trauma. When I was asked to be somebody’s fuck buddy, oh well no matter how flattering that was, it felt plain stupid. Why would I want that?! Why would I put my vulnerable ass on the stand? I know how traumatic it was for me to get my clothes off and stare at my scar. I don’t know this man so well, I don’t know how he will react. I don’t know if he will be as gentle and understanding as I need him to be. Being somebody’s fuck buddy is more for strong and independent individuals. It’s not that I’m not strong, but I’m not strong enough to handle this kind of situation. I’m more in a state where I want love to be able to get attach to that person, to be able to laugh and cuddle. This kind of scar is not just outside and it needs time to heal.

When I was asked to be the fuck buddy even though I am a straight forward girl myself the tact was totally lacking.  This man didn’t understand how fragile my state of mind is. So anger kicked in again. I felt anger at its best because there was nobody to take my side. So I had to protect myself from being hurt.

I don’t need to feel used. I want love and I want a relationship where we can build trust, where I can feel safe.

So once again anger saved my ass. Even if it’s being labeled a negative emotion, anger helped me. Anger was better than feeling numb, it made me feel alive. It made me revolt and question everything. It helped me pass one of my ugliest states of mind.

If I didn’t let anger in my life I would probably still feel numb and confused.

The trick is when to let it go.

I did know when to let it go.

And this made me a winner today.

Written by Ivo Macovei