My Fear Is a Broken Dam

One week ago today, Josh and I met with my new surgeon (the old one being out of commission for awhile because of her own hand surgery). I wasn’t expecting the appointment to be emotional, rather just a “Hi, good to meet you,” and a standard check-in as I near the end of chemo and get ready for surgery (which is yet to be scheduled but should be sometime the week of May 18th).

It was just a “Hi” and a check-in, and yet, as soon as Josh and I were alone, I cried. I’m often surprised that I don’t cry more often, seeing as I am not only a deeply feeling person, but I also tend to wear those feelings openly. And yet, I’m not a big crier, can count on one hand the number of times I’ve cried through this experience. I admit, the crying feels good. (I also admit that though a full-blown cry-fest is rare, it’s not rare at all for my eyes to fill with tears; as my children will attest to, it happens almost anytime I read aloud a good book, for example.)

It feels good when my body makes tangible the inner emotion. It also feels good to cry with Josh, to feel his arms around me, to feel how much we are in this together.

Like earlier in the month, which was a second time I cried. (Twice in one month!) Josh and I were propped up in bed, side-by-side with computers on our laps, him studying away, me surfing breast cancer blogs as I got ready to launch my own. In the last few weeks, it seems I have suddenly been flooded with stories of recurrence: of women who, like me, were diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age. But then years later, they were diagnosed again, and for many of these women, recurrence came with metastasis.

Sitting in bed with Josh the night of my first March cry, I was reading about Lisa Bonchek Adams, mother of three who passed away a few weeks ago of metastatic breast cancer, several years after she survived breast cancer the first time. And I burst into tears. (A full-blown cry fest this time.)

Mostly, I am not afraid. Mostly, I don’t think about death and dying and leaving Josh behind and most heart-wrenching of all heart-wrenching thoughts, leaving my children behind. Mostly I don’t think about not seeing them grow up, about not watching them fall in love and about missing their first broken heart; about never seeing their first apartments, never knowing what they’ll do for work, not watching them become parents themselves.

But in moments, like the other night, the fear rushes through me like a pounding river, like a broken dam, like a flood. And in its wake is a tremendous grief. Grief about something that hasn’t happened yet and hopefully never will happen, but it could, it could. And Josh and I know that more than ever now. That life is tenuous. That this moment really is all we have for sure.