Two days before my bilateral mastectomy I threw a farewell party for my breasts - a Ta Ta to My Ta Ta's Party- with my friends in Jersey. Only in Jersey can such an event take place and for this I am grateful, because when you're diagnosed with breast cancer you can just disintegrate into a puddle. My framily and friends raise me up.
After my diagnosis in January I became the recipient of open-hearted love I never knew existed. When I told folks, their eyes opened up to show me the deep down shining love of their souls, just like that. I mean, it's too bad I had to have cancer to feel this kind of love but honestly, it's amazing and almost worth it. How often do you just get to see the actual human heart like that?
And when it comes to a cancer diagnosis in an Italian family, I have one word for you: fuggetaboutit. My brothers and sisters rallied around me, just wrapped their big arms and hearts and enveloped me. Tony, a surgeon, basically said Just get on a plane to Philly and stay with us and I'll take care of you. Because I was in the middle of a divorce (yep, you heard that right) I was scared about losing health insurance. My sister Dee said Well, if you don't have insurance we will all chip in and take care of you. We are family, and I am not alone.
My co-workers - ER nurses docs, X-ray techs, housekeepers - to a person showed me compassion like we showed our patients. It was like bathing in the River of Jordan. Nothing but love. ER nurses are a tough bunch, let me tell you, but they understand gallows humor and helped me laugh at this stupid disease. On one of my last shifts when I told my friend Mindy that I was going to "play the cancer card" for all it was worth she decided to help, and literally created a bunch of Cancer Cards that said stuff like:
"I have cancer. What's your excuse?"
"Yes officer I was speeding. I have cancer, and there's not much time."
"I have cancer and yes, I like first class."
And my favorite:
"I have cancer, bitches."
I've never cottoned to depedency and helplessness but here I was, completely dependent on the love and help of others and there they were, just holding me up. Every night and every morning through this part of the journey I was overwhelemed with gratitude. My son John said "Ma, you got the best of a worst case scenario," and he's so right. I have a loving family, great friends, the best medical care in the world, resources, smarts, and an inside track in health care. We probably detected this early because I was getting divorced and knew I'd be losing my health coverage so I thought I'd get the ole mamo done early. The divorce might have saved my life. Go figure.
The best of a worst case scenario.
Every day I think about the other women, the ones who have no support, or little kids and no money, rotten families, no resources, no insurance. They wait weeks or months for appointments and may ever truly understand their options. I am so grateful. My cup runneth over.
The day I was diagnosed I called my friend Diana and asked her to get me a plane ticket home. She did it, paid for it, done. Then she dook my dog until his permanent home was ready. Later, she would pack up my place in Colorado so someone could take over my lease and I could just heal. She took my burdens from me, and my cup runneth over with love.
So we had that breast-themed part which was a once-in-a-lifetime event and my buddies made bad boob jokes and filled out more Cancer Cards for me to play. There was food and wine and pink balloons and then two days later I submitted to the medical system and got that disease out of me, hopefully for good. Then, without worry or fear I began to heal because my family and friends without fanfare or noise, stepped up and took care of businesss.
On the day I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy my oldest son Billy and his wife Morgan had their first baby - beautiful Colette Rose Boyle. I lose a physical part of me and them am awash in the love of a new being in our clan. How can life be this big? I am crazy with gratitude for every part of this.
I may never wear a bra again but still, my cup runneth over.
"Life is an adventure, or nothing at all." Helen Keller
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