Once You Know You Can Never Not Know Again

I was having trouble saying it out loud. It sounded like a lie, and I felt like a malingerer. It didn’t feel surreal; I know reality, but maybe I just misunderstood. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. Dr. F. called it a “pre-cancer,” but all the google sites are calling it breast cancer. Maybe I just misunderstood.

I don’t think I misunderstood the treatment, though. Lumpectomy with radiation or a unilateral mastectomy. No, I understood that loud and clear and began to cry right there in the examination room. The nurse hugged me, while Dr. F. repeated, “I know this is not what you wanted to hear.” I wish he’d stop saying that. I wipe my eyes with the tissue the nurse hands me, and I resume control. Under-react.

I came to the appointment alone. I was was alone when I found out I had cancer. I’d briefly considered asking my sister to come along… just in case… but as the days separated my mind from the biopsy procedure, I settled deeper and deeper into the haven of denial. Chronic under-reactor that I am, I didn’t want to alarm anyone, so why tell people when it wasn’t a big deal in the end?

But here I was. Alone. Wearing this god-awful ugly green and teal paisley half gown, trying hard to listen and think of important questions to ask. Working hard on my composure, working hard to under-react. I set up a Q & A appointment for the following week at the doctor’s suggestion. He tells me to bring whomever I want to bring to the session. I smile and thank the doctor. Control. I smile and thank the receptionist as I walk out the door, digging for my sunglasses. Out in the sunlight I shield my eyes from the sunlight and my newfound reality from the invasive gaze of strangers. I am completely numb.

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