Old Pros

Do you remember the worst day of your life? Prior to this I didn’t. I had a vague recollection of a few really terrible experiences but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what day it was and the precise itinerary.

The day of the biopsy I told my boyfriend that I was currently experiencing the worst day of my life. But there was a worse day after that and an even worse day still.

I think now that we’ve begun treatment and that most of the shock has faded away I can catalog those earlier days as the worst. The way they described my illness and the way it would be treated was numbing and sharply painful at the same time. Learning about what would happen to me was far worse than what is actually happening to me. To be certain, the mind is far more capable of pain than the body.

I was in the chemotherapy room last week with my friend. We were cheerful, chatting and laughing. It was Friday. In walked a woman with her daughter. She was recently diagnosed and was doing what they call a “chemo teach.” Thinking back to my “chemo teach,” I felt enormous empathy.

She looked pale, mechanical. Her daughter was doing all the talking. Her daughter was carrying the binder full of terror the oncology nurse gives you and was taking notes. Her daughter smiled at us.

My friend and I felt like old pros. We both remember that day well. She had asked all the questions, carried all the stuff, and took careful notes that day. I could barely work a pencil. She had chatted politely with the other women in the chemo room. When I had opened my mouth to speak, tears came out instead. It was the worst day of my life.

It was a relief to know that was behind us. Here we were, in the very room that had scared me so much, giggling about nipple reconstruction and planning champagne for lunch. We had gotten past that terrible day.

I wouldn’t have been able to convince the woman having her worst day that it gets better so I didn’t try. Instead, I told her that I was using Latisse to try to keep my eye lashes during treatments. “I hear it works,” I said, like I know all about it. I saw a quick flash of curiosity in her eyes. I hope I was able to give her something to think about, instead of all the scary stuff, on her drive home. I hope her worst day is behind her.

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