My sister knows how devastating the stroke has been, for me and my whole family. She’s been a rock of strength and support. But every so often, when we’ve talked about how hard it’s been, she would also remind me: I’m on the upswing. It’s not like, say, cancer, she would say.
Well, in January I was diagnosed with cancer—sort of. It's a
kind of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (D.C.I.S.), often called
stage 0. It’s not one of the kinds of scary cancer my sister was thinking about.
There is even some controversy about if it should be even called cancer (I like
this NY Times article). D.C.I.S. is almost never life-threatening.
But it’s been a long four months since the diagnosis, and figuring
out what to do about it. The fear that comes with the word “cancer” is one thing.
The fatigue of entering back to the medical (and bureaucratic) world is a whole
different story. It has felt so cruel: finally I had enough energy and fluency
to chat with other parents at the playground, but now I needed to put my energy
in talking to doctors about treatment options. Also, most of the doctors and
medical people have been nice, but they haven’t seen many mid-life stroke
survivors. At the appointments, sometimes I wanted to say: do you know how much
energy this is costing me? Do I really
have to change into the examining gown this time? Because I might have the
energy to change into and out of the gown, or make dinner this evening, but probably
Fortunately, this chapter of my saga is closed for now. I
had minor surgery, and I can go back to focus on stroke recovery.
The really weird thing is this: I seem to be getting better
all the time, despite everything. Maybe the diagnosis forced me to talk and
write even more. Maybe my brain fog has been better because I've had to
strategize about how to explain my issues before every appointment. Maybe I
have even more of a sense of urgency about my stroke recovery.
Who knows? Or maybe my brain was just ready to get better.
26 minutes ago