When I mountain bike, I often get fixated on the rocks in my way.
I see them in the trail. They’re big or they’re sharp or they’re at the top of a hill and I’m running out of steam. These rocks have been known to derail me, especially if I’m not looking forward, planning for the next ascent, curve or drop.
Last week, I hit a derailing rock. This rock stopped me cold, in total 100% surprise. This rock pretty much left me exposed, with nowhere to hide and no alternative route.
And since this rock has pretty much stripped away any pretension, or posturing, there’s no point in being coy.
This rock is cancer.
Listen to Your Friends
Two and a half weeks ago, I was having coffee with a friend.
I questioned her about something going on with me and she advised me to see a doctor.
The next day I did.
The day after that, I had imaging and then two days after that I read the imaging report. (NOTE TO HOSPITALS: You might wish to rethink giving patients access to results before their doctors get to see them.)
My report was unremarkable, so I felt reassured.
But when my doctor called me after the Memorial Day weekend, she suggested a consult. The consulting physician saw me the next day. I had biopsies. On Friday afternoon, I answered my phone.
“Hi Mrs. Lummis,” the doctor said. “Are you alright talking on the phone?”
With those words, I knew.
There really is no point in being coy.
The Diagnosis Roller Coaster
One of the remarkable things about receiving a diagnosis, of any sort, is how predictably we react. You know the “stages of grief?” They’re real.
That first day, I was all business. Here in Western Colorado, we have fine medical care, but not high volume medical care. While my doctor reassured me that the procedure would be “routine,” I decided to go elsewhere, to a hospital where doctors do thousands, not hundreds, of these procedures.
So for two hours, I made phone calls, scheduled appointments and canceled summer vacations. I had so much going on in my head, so many to-do lists, that I barely slept that night.
The next day, I was angry. Why did I have to do all of these things? Why should I have to cancel our summer vacation? Why, indeed?
By Sunday, that mood had passed, to be replaced with predictable sadness.
Since then, I’ve been both manic and depressed. Running miles and miles has helped a lot. But it isn’t enough. I need to write.
To Share or Not to Share?
While the stages of grief may be predictable, our individual reactions to bad news are not. Having been through diagnoses with friends, I know that we each react differently according to our situations and personality.
Not surprisingly, I’m not good with secrets.
This morning, I woke in the wee hours. Even in June it was still quite dark.
I realized that if I didn’t let this out, I’d regret it.
Not because I need to be confessional. Not because I need attention of any sort.
But because these thoughts, the ones I’m writing right now, were clogging my head and making everything worse. Just as I need to get the cancer out of me, I need to get these words out, too.
One of the amazing, amazing benefits of writing this blog is the community we’ve built together. Many of you have stuck with me for almost five years and we’ve become correspondents and friends, sharing our skiing adventures, as well as the ups and downs of raising outdoor children.
Some of you may have never read a word of mine before.
But as I balanced keeping news of my cancer in versus letting it out, I realized that out suits me best.
It also gives me the opportunity to beg a favor.
So here goes. Should you feel inclined, please send your thoughts and prayers my way on Wednesday.
I’d love to have each and every one of you on my side, helping me get past the rock, to look ahead to the next curve in this beautiful trail.
- The (Not At All) Brave Ski Mom, June 22, 2015.
- Holding You in the Light, July 6, 2015.
- Lessons Learned, August 3, 2015.
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