When my sister Linda discovered a large mass in one of her breasts last summer, we all hoped for the best. Indeed, the news was first bad. ìYes, she has cancer.î And then good. ìThe cancer is contained in the one breast.î Then bad again. ìChemotherapy for a year. Surgery in about three months.î
As Linda began the chemo treatments she told everyone that she was in denial. This was not happening to her. She was just going through the motions to please the doctors and her family. She has vacillated between denial and depression since then. Her body has protested. It does not like whatever is being pumped into her. She has had constant problems with eating, with digestion, with lack of energy, with depression.
The time came to talk to the surgeon. Last Friday. I was there. Once again, the news was good and bad. The good, ìThe size of the lump has decreased significantly.î The bad. ìThe breast needs to be completely removed.î Linda asked, ìWhat about my other breast?î The doctor replied, ìWe recommend that you have it removed also. True, there is nothing wrong with that breast at the present time, but the odds of developing cancer there are high. Do you want to start this whole process over again?î The good news. ìYou will have a better sense of balance and you will not need radiology treatments.î
Linda moved from the stage of denial into the stage of anger. ìYou told me that if I had chemo for 18 weeks that the lump would be small enough to remove and leave the rest of my breast.î The doctor shook his head a bit, but did not reply. He allowed her to vent more anger ñ anger against him, anger about losing parts of her body, anger against her oncologist, anger against her family, anger about having cancer.
The surgery is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. next Monday. I will be there. Her family will be there. We will come through this together.