Sunday, February 26, 2012

Not Belonging (Breast Cancer)

My next surgery is Wednesday.  Probably my last.

I read some breast cancer message boards, some blogs. Not a lot.

I don't belong there.

Many of the women who write about breast cancer talk about how they have been changed -- by their illnesses, by their treatments, by their mothers' and sisters' deaths. 

How they have become stronger, wiser, more compassionate, more aware.

But, you know . . .  my mother died a long time ago . . .  and my son died . . .  of suicide.

I don't think I'm  any of those things as a result: neither stronger nor wiser nor more compassionate nor more aware.

Maybe even less?

I learned when I was seven that the universe is a chaotic and restless place in which terrible things happen.   That nothing is guaranteed and that life is hard and full of loss.

And then Josh died and I moved to another universe. 

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I kind of thought, Really?  Another thing?  Oh, well, of course, why not.

It was difficult to digest.  One night as we discussed treatment options, The Quiet Husband said, "You know, it is breast cancer." 

"Oh, yeah, right," I responded vaguely.  "I keep forgetting."

I haven't absorbed it, not at all.  Three surgeries, a breast gone, months of discomfort and pain.  Whatever.  None of it comes remotely close to the loss of a child. 

The main thing that has been a problem for me about breast cancer is that I need all my children and one of them is gone.  I mean, there have been other problems, especially with pain management.  But at the end of the day, none of them matter much to me.

So, there's no real place for me in the breast cancer community. I've talked to some incredible and wonderfully supportive women.  But I don't feel much connected to their particular ordeals.

I wonder, sometimes, if this disease had demanded more of me, if my chances of survival were at all diminished, whether it would seem more real.  I don't know, of course. But I kind of doubt it.

Perhaps women with breast cancer live in yet another universe, yet another one whose inhabitants share experiences from which outsiders are excluded.   But it seems light years to me from the one in which children are dead.

I wonder how many kinds of experiences there are, exactly, which so distance us from one another.

Image here.


  1. I honestly don't understand how people make it to adulthood-- late adulthood, even!-- with the idea that they are somehow immune to tragedy and injustice.

    I learned early, too, that life is hard and full of loss.

  2. Thoughts and prayers. I really think you'd be helped/encouraged/validated by reading "Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life" by Philip Simmons.

  3. I forgot that this was written before, but you are still in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. I have no ideas, answers, or useful comments. Instead I prayed and asked God to give you peace, community, and direction. You have lost much. I am so sorry for your pain.

  5. Robin, you are in my prayers and I will pray for you at our Scripture Study on Wednesday evening as well. May you experience the peace and comfort of our gracious and merciful God.