I’ve been extremely upfront and open with my diagnosis and what E calls my CJ (Cancer Journey). Why shouldn’t I be? It’s helpful to share my CJ with my friends and family especially as we embark on unchartered waters.
I had naively thought I could put my breast cancer diagnosis away in a box when I needed to – you know, compartmentalize – and go on living my life with it carefully tucked away in the corners of my mind. But it’s way easier said than done.
The truth is – and I guess I’m hesitant to admit this – I’m different now. This CJ has, and will continue to change me. It will rear up its ugly head in the middle of a vivacious GNO, knock me off my feet during a routine trip to the mall, and creep into my thoughts while carelessly turning the pages of a glossy gossip magazine. (Kim is desperate to lose the baby weight! Kim wearing skinny jeans! Kim not eating carbs! Fuck – Who cares about Kim?)
I’m now moody, sensitive, quiet and afraid – adjectives I don’t think accurately defined me before. And I don’t think I like “the new me” as much as the old me – and I’m not just talking about the old me with no TTT in my left breast. I’m so beyond grateful to be loved and supported by so many wonderful people in my life. I know you’re rooting for me. I know cancer is fucking scary and difficult and struggle with the right words of comfort. I’ve been on the other side before and I shudder at some of the things I’m sure I’ve said or done. So no judgement – honest. But now that I’m on this side of the disease, I can’t help but be affected by many of the well-meaning, best-intentions words of support:
And so I present, JG’s CJ Do’s + Don’ts:
Do: Feel ok about asking me questions. I’m happy to share, but sometimes please accept that I’m also happy to be quiet too.
Do: Be understanding of my changing moods and increased emotional fragility. It comes in waves: one minute I’m totally fine, another minute it’s all darkness.
Don’t: Share with my about your friend/aunt/cousin who had breast cancer who died. It’s just hard for me to hear that.
Don’t: Offer support by saying that “things happen for a reason”. I find it extremely difficult to figure out what that reason would be.
Don’t: Put me in the position of breast cancer spokesperson. Breast cancer is not one size fits all and I’m hardly an expert.
Don’t: Wonder aloud if stress is a trigger for breast cancer around me. I know it’s not meant to be a dig, but it kinda feels like one.
Don’t: Be upset or offended if I don’t call you back right away or respond to your text or email. I’m so touched by all of you who have reached out, and there’s just not enough time with everything else on my plate to be diligent about returning calls.