Breast cancer- telling the men in my life
Breast cancer- telling the men in my life
By Maria Lucas
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 50 in 2010, there were three significant men in my life; my husband, my son and my father. After we are told that we have breast cancer, the next step of our journey is to tell the ones you love. So I had to figure out how to best share, with these three men, my diagnosis. What was the best way, what was the best time, the best place? And being so vulnerable, how did I want them to react? What did I need from them? How was their reaction ultimately going to affect me and start me out on my own personal journey?
My husband and I have been married for 27 years; we met as teenagers and had our share of fun. We weathered through raising our children, financial ups and downs, and all the things that life has to offer- both good and bad. Our foundation was solid- so he was the easiest for me to tell. Of course I cried, but he comforted me and he accompanied me every step of the way, went to every doctor appointment and appeared solid as a rock. I knew though, that underneath, he was scared of losing me, as I, like most women, tend to be the glue that holds things together. But he never faltered, and to this day I remember when I went for my testing and pre-surgery, his patience and how he followed me from one doctor to the next, carrying all my bags and materials I was given. He never said “You’re going to be fine”, instead he said “We’ll get through this together”. You have no idea how huge that is, because in that moment I wasn’t going “to be fine”- I had breast cancer and knew it would be a long time before I would ever be fine again.
At the time of my diagnosis, my son was 22 years old and a junior in College. Being my first born, we had a special bond as so many mothers and sons do. I called our family into the living room and very calmly told them that I had breast cancer. My husband already knew and my daughter, then aged 20, reached over to hug me with a tear in her eye. But I will never forget my son’s reaction, it was anger. Anger at me for not being healthy in my life, anger at me for smoking for so many years, anger at me for not exercising as much as I should have. Anger at the world that there could be a possibility that someone could take his mother away. As a woman I was looking for understanding and sympathy, but as a mother I knew this was a son’s natural reaction. I knew that I was the most important woman in this man’s life and the fact that I had cancer shook his world.
Ironically, as time has passed, my son and I have bonded the closest with regard to my cancer diagnosis and subsequent survivorship. Together we have embarked on a journey together which has proven that there is a silver lining to every dark cloud. He read, he researched, he learned all that he could about the diagnosis, disease and treatment and approached it thereafter with a clear and level head. He was the catalyst in our decision to embark upon a partnership and to start a business that stemmed from my breast cancer.
The third significant man in my life was my father. Then 79 years old, he was no stranger to breast cancer. My mother was first diagnosed in her thirties, and had five reoccurrences in her lifetime. When I was eight years old, my mother had a mastectomy. I don’t remember much, but the one thing I do remember is overhearing my parents talking behind closed doors in their bedroom. My father was telling my mother it was okay, he wanted to see it. She was crying and said that she was “so ugly, how could you ever want to look at me again?” My father gently said that she was “the most beautiful woman in the world to him- no matter what”. I’ll never forget that, the pure love and commitment they had for each other, the way my dad just lessened her burden. So when I called my dad long distance, both my parents were on the line. I told them “Not to worry, but I want you to know that I have breast cancer”. There was silence, and then my mother started to cry and dropped the phone. Then my dad, this wonderful, kind and wise old soul calmly said, “Let me talk to your mother and we’ll call you back”. By doing that, he instantly relieved all of the anxiety I had in telling them; he took the burden off of me and left me with a sense that he understood and he would do what was necessary to take care of what he could.
So three different men, three different reactions; one was scared, one was angry and one was wise. But to me, they all showed, in their own different way that they were there for me and knew that they couldn’t make it better, or make it go away. They knew I just needed them to be there- and just knowing that these three men were there for me was all that really mattered, each in their own way.
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