Within the past year and a half of my life: I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I have had tests and scans, radiation and chemotherapy, and various medications for pain, nausea, etc. I have gone through a pregnancy and given birth. I had a total hysterectomy and am going through menopause. I am married, the mother of three daughters, and I have now returned to work to ensure our health insurance coverage.
I face my fear of pain and death and living day to day with cancer as it comes. I have been touched by the compassion and love of friends, family and even strangers. I have laughed and cried and when I felt the darkest clouds surrounding me, swallowing me- I have tried with all my being to hold the golden thread of joy close to my heart. To choose joy. To not let anyone or anything keep my joy from manifesting in this world...
The people close to me have their own fears and sadness and anger and sometimes these feelings sneak up on them unexpectedly. In a flash of cold sweat, they suddenly picture their world without me in it and nothing- absolutely nothing- makes sense anymore.
I know this is hard for Mark. His attention is pulled in many directions as he focuses on his business and our family and all the things about me that have changed. He feels a deep sense of loss and an uncertain future. I love him. He gets the best of me and the worst of me. I want to promise him I will be with him forever, but I can't lie and it frustrates us both. Instead of focusing on cancer, I just want to keep going, keep living. Cancer does not get all of me- every thought, every feeling, every breath. I want to move, find a new car, enjoy my family as we had planned. I want Mark to get on the same page and just live with me.
Mark scans the drug websites, convinced my feelings and thoughts and behaviors are a side effect of some drug or another or a dreaded combination of drugs. My mom says she would need help to make sense out of all the things we have been through in such a short period of time- Amy agrees, anyone would. We talk to Dr. Laudi. We talk to a counselor. We talk to a psychiatrist... Mark feels they are distracted by my bald head- that I have tricked them somehow and he feels they have all ganged up on him.
The psychiatrist listened to me complain about our townhouse that doubles as a business site and my car that is falling apart and how Mark is oblivious to this. He listened to Mark complain about how unreasonable my demands are and Mark's theories about hormones and drugs.
The psychiatrist said frankly, "If I were in Mark's shoes and my wife were in yours, I would do anything I could to make things happen for her."
He was surprised that in all our complaints- neither Mark nor I mentioned cancer.
Cancer is not the problem. Cancer is my reality. There is no Sarahwithoutcancer. As hard as it is- Mark needs to accept this. As Mark spends his time going off on tangents- searching and seeking and pointing at me and drugs, filling the pot to overflowing with possibilities- he fails to consider one obvious thing- himself.
That's a hard thing to stare down. Believe me, I know. I am not led willingly to that mirror myself, but I have learned that most of life's answers are in the reflection- the problem and the solution are within the image before me, the image before each of us.
It says a lot about Mark- his strength, his character- that he let down his defenses and let the words reach him and sink in. It takes a brave soul to make the choices he has made- to risk breaking his own heart by loving- not the Sarahwithoutcancer or the Sarahwithcancer- but Sarah. To choose to be my partner in this life, my partner in joy- to let go, to let it be, to just keep living....