Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 1,119: Say a Little Prayer for Me

I am not a religious person. Most people know that about me. I've always been this way. Sometimes, especially in these kinds of times, I wish for a fleeting instant that I was a different type of person--a person who could pray, a person who could cry, a person who could just react to things differently than I do. But I can't get away from myself, as none of us can. I know there are some people who prefer for others to respond to events in their lives in ways that they can understand, but I am not one of those people. I would rather people respond to me in the way that I know they would respond if such a thing had happened to them, because when people do that, they are offering you a little piece of themselves.

I have been very...touched?...that seems like much too mild a word--by the response I have received to my posts about my cancer recurrence. The thing that has touched me the most is the way that the KINDS of support and love I have received are such perfect reflections of the people who are offering them. And you know what? I love to see reflections of people.

I have always deeply appreciated the prayers others have offered for me. It doesn't matter that I am not the praying type. What matters is that most people are, and so many of them--many of whom I don't even know--have set aside time to pray for me. To talk to God for me, to get down on their knees and ask for salvation for me. When I hear people say that they are praying for me, I can literally picture them doing it, and the image that conjures in my mind brings a kind of peace and strength to me, as it is borne out of this human bond we all spend our lives trying to make sense of out of the chaos.

Other reactions, and responses, might seem off, but really they're not; really they just allow a window into the person who is setting aside time and energy and resolve for you, or in this case, for me. People have sent me hope for peace. People have held me in the light of God. People have offered me their best magic, their most prolific swear words, their food and babysitting and their company, their best attempts at hiding their true feelings.

I am also intrigued by the responses I have received from other breast cancer survivors. These responses actually vary less than those of the general population. They are filled with cussing, almost 100% of the time, regardless of the disposition of the woman in question. Women who have done this before hear that I am doing it again and say WHAT. THE. FUCK. They say things like "that fucking blows." "What complete bullshit." "This fucking cancer sucks ass." One woman who was sharing her experience of having a recurrence and going through the scans and tests I am doing now said the following to me:

"It's a shit storm. I'm sorry, but there's no other way to say it."

True story.

As I sit here waiting--waiting in a way I have done once and hoped I would never do again--to find out a little bit more of my fate, the humanity that I have witnessed in the wake of this bad news is not just a comfort, but a reminder. It is a reminder of what I am waiting to find out--I am waiting to find out if I will have more time on this earth to bask in all the glory of humanity or not. I am waiting to find out if I have a terminal, incurable disease, or if I do not, at least not now, not yet. This kind of waiting is different than other kinds of waiting.

Metastatic breast cancer is incurable. No matter how much we hope and pray and research, that is the reality right now, today. And a recurrence such as mine brings a higher chance of mets. So I have been spending my days scheduling and engaging in MRIs, CT scans, and bone scans. I am most worried about the CT scan, as I have had some breathing issues off and on, and that is scheduled for tomorrow.

Prayers, magic, mojo, crossed fingers, swear words, vibes, and whatever else you've got are much appreciated.

I did the breast MRI and bone scan today. I already know that the bone scan is clear. CLEAR.

There is relief, and then there is finding out you don't have bone mets. I hope you never have to understand the difference.I think every day of the people who do this kind of waiting all the time, and it is not to find out if things are ok, but rather to find out that things have gotten worse. I know I could be one of them--any day now. But today I am not, and that day is important.

These scans are arduous endeavors. They are claustrophobic, uncomfortable, seemingly interminable. The rooms are so sterile, the machines so loud, the air so cold and dry, and then there is this.

You do this alone.

Isn't that true with everything? People say you are not alone, and they mean it. And they prove it as they offer themselves in service. But when it comes down to the final analysis, the real deal, we each have to live our lives and experience our experiences ourselves. No one can take our place, not even those who gladly WOULD take our place.

In those moments, with my body inside a machine that is taking pictures of my insides in order to assess the likelihood of my near-term survival, I recognize the way that we are simultaneously alone and connected.

Someone has to perform these tests. Someone has to prepare you.

Some of these people are very cold and businesslike--I have experienced that before, and it doesn't bother me. Today, though, I had a very different experience. The intake nurse for the bone scan chatted with me for 10 minutes about my childhood car accident. She was so warm and bubbly and aghast, all at the same time. The woman who placed my IV before the MRI joked with me and told me I was skinny and gorgeous and she literally pinched my cheek. In the middle of the 90 minute bone scan, shifts changed, and a new tech arrived. He arrived just in time to take the final pictures of my chest and head. When he told me to move my head to the left, I tried--really I tried--to will away the single tear that fell, the only tear I have shed all day, but I failed. He saw it, and he did me the favor of pretending not to see it; he turned around and began to whistle a tune. I was covered in blankets and lead aprons and my body was inside a machine. When I came out, he was in the back of the room and told me I could get up, so I arose from the machine slowly and stood there in my street clothes. He looked at me, as if for the first time, and then he looked down, as if to say, I'm sorry. You don't look like someone who should be in here. He faltered. Um, OK. You're all done. I will show you to the bathroom.

The first tech who did the bone scan was the same one who placed the butterfly in my arm to prepare the solution to pump into my veins. He told me I had great veins, and I laughed and said that I was always told the opposite, usually when the person failed to place the IV. Then he said, "You should always come to me then. It's not your fault. It's their fault. They just aren't good at their jobs." And we smiled at each other and I began to stare off into space, trying not to think about what I was doing and why I was doing it. This man, who was probably around my age, short and stout, had a quiet, almost a lilting voice. He looked at me and did not look away. And then he said:

"What are you doing? Thinking? You know, you can't change it by thinking about it. Think about something else, something happy."

He was trying to comfort me in the same way that he must try and comfort dozens of people a day, every day. He said it knowing his words were hollow. And yet, something happened.

All of a sudden I began to think about people like him, who do this for a living, and the things they say and do to try to make their piece of the awful puzzle a little less cruel. I started thinking, then, about all the things--all the things.

The way people are, the way they do things, all the people who are

speaking softly, joking, whistling, swearing, buying you a beer, praying, crying, trying their best not to cry, looking away, doing their best to look you in the eye, calling on their best magic, calling out the unfairness of it all, reminiscing with you, reminding you

that this is what you are trying to live for, more of this, all this humanity that you see.

This soft-spoken man said a few words to me to distract me away from myself. And it worked.

Because for hours from that point, I was thinking of something else, even as my body was visible to me on a computer screen as nothing but a collection of bones.

I thought of him, and of all of you, and in my mind, I began writing this.


  1. Stop being such a freaking good writer. It's annoying.

    I've been thinking about YOU all day. xoxo

  2. I'm sending love and gratitude for you and your body and your words and all of it. And I hardly know you. But that's what you and your words bring out.

  3. Okay, you know I'm more of the ones who swears out loud on your behalf, though I do pray silently for you all the time. So, at the risk of getting shmaltzy, let me just say that this blog ... this one is beautiful. I'm glad you know how much we are all gunning for you. So when you are trapped in tests, waiting rooms, exam tables, or your own head, close your eyes and remember all of us. Because we are indeed swarming... SWARMING. Around you. Always.

  4. I often wonder about the people who do these jobs. How their paths brought them where they are. If they know how much they effect people.

    I'm keeping you in my thoughts.

  5. Sh*t! You have been in my thoughts a lot lately.
    1. Thank YOU for being such a candid person and a beautiful writer.You have given me a perspective that I have never had before.
    2. That MOMENT in the technician/doc's office? I understand YOU!
    3. That kindness and sensitivity (or not) of the technician? I feel YOU!

    Mostly, I remember meeting you (& Gabe) and Webster's Wine Bar and thinking, "What an amazing couple!" I send you strength and healing and all things positive!
    Much LOVE, you Beautiful MFer!!

  6. I have chills. Now, you don't know what it means for me to say that, so I'll tell you. I am a writer, and a damn good one, someone who has been passionately reading and writing my entire life. And I'm a blogger. A blogger who has been reading other blog posts for years and years and years and years. And this thing you wrote right here is one of the most boldly humane and beautiful pieces of writing that I've had the honor to read. And despite the frequency you might read the phrase here and there online, I've never said to anyone ' i have chills. ' I am saving this in my email file entitled 'inspiration', not because you have cancer, but because you wrote THIS.

    1. Thank you. I don't really know what else to say.

    2. Hug. Mom to mom, woman to woman.

  7. "this is what you are trying to live for, more of this, all of this humanity that you see."

    Wow Katy. Thank you for including us in your journey, for allowing us to try to support you, for being brave and being candid. You do have so much to live for, we all do. I hope and pray you get many more days/months/years to experience and be a part of humanity. Hang in there. xoxo

  8. It seems, lately, whenever I think of you, which is often, my thoughts start with "I wish ..." - and then the litany of things I would wish for you, and by extension your lovely family, run through my mind. Again. And I know the cruel reality is that nothing I can say or do or wish for or imagine is going to alter the course of things to come. The only person in this that makes any difference is you.

    In a perfect world, I'd be able to wrap my arms around you and Gabe and Lenny and Augie and hold you all safe from hurt and harm. The world isn't perfect and neither am I. But I would, if I could.

  9. Lovely, Katy. I hope you continue to be surrounded by the goodness.

  10. I came across your blog this week from a friend of mine. I want you to know that there's a mom here in Michigan rooting so hard for only good news for you! I'm not the most religious person either but I will send prayers your way because you seem like an awesome person and prayers can't hurt right? I'll be thinking about you and hoping for the absolute best.

  11. Katy,

    I've survived triple negative breast cancer twice and so can you! You are stronger than you know! I continue to be amazed at your poignant posts. I agree with everyone here...you were meant to write. Wishing you clear scans, dammit.

  12. Katy, I know what you're going through as I've lived through those terrible words, "you have a recurrence". I love your posts and honesty. Cancer just sucks, period!

  13. Last summer I had a mammogram and something came up so I had to have another mammogram at a breast clinic. The first mammogram had just had a shadow or something on it. At the breast clinic they do your mammogram and then you wait for the results. If the results are good, you leave. If they aren't good, you have to stay and they immediately start doing other tests. The lady I was waiting with had just found out she had breast cancer. I have kicked myself 1000x over for not reaching out to her, but I didn't know what to say or if she would be offended by my speaking into such a hard private moment. She was there alone. :(

    Thank you for sharing your story and for being so open and honest and letting us support you. Thank you also for giving me a glimpse into your heart. If I'm ever in a moment like that again, I will say something. I will be praying for you.

  14. Yes, I know, I'm one of the annoying ones that asks the Universe to send you bright healing love. I'm the cheesy one that puts you in my heart and asks the Universe to heal you. I'm the quirky one praying for you. And of course...I'm also in awe of your writing.


  15. Katy, once again, your courage and reflection and incredible wisdom are truly an inspiration. I have been very touched by your story, and am holding you - and your family - in my heart. Thank you for sharing this experience - it has illuminated my heart and mind. Karine

  16. Hi Katy! I don't know you, but I work with Gabe. I know about you through him, and boy have I never met a man so in love with his family. I want to just say it sucks you are going through this again. It sucks for you, Gabe, and your kids. I don't have any awesome words of wisdom to give you. All I can do is say you have a ton of people out here thinking about you, praying for you, and offering whatever they can of themselves. I didn't know Gabe your first battle with this disease. But I believe that you will beat this a second time around. Stay positive. Stay hopeful. For all we have in this world sometimes is hope.

  17. I have the swear words for you even though I am not in the situation to understand. Your life and words serve as an inspiration for people to realize that life IS precious and fleeting. I pray for you and keep you in my thoughts. Your candor and truthfulness are truly inspirational. My heart aches for you. And for your family. I wish you the best. I pray for good results. But I am inspired by your courage and willingness to STEP UP and face what life is dealing you. Faith (even if from others) Hope and Love are powerful things. Stay Strong.

  18. ok. I am seeing I was NOT logged into blogger for that last comment. So here I am again. :)

    I have the swear words for you even though I am not in the situation to understand. Your life and words serve as an inspiration for people to realize that life IS precious and fleeting. I pray for you and keep you in my thoughts. Your candor and truthfulness are truly inspirational. My heart aches for you. And for your family. I wish you the best. I pray for good results. But I am inspired by your courage and willingness to STEP UP and face what life is dealing you. Faith (even if from others) Hope and Love are powerful things. Stay Strong.

    Double posts mean double encouragement right>

  19. Katy, we don't know each other, but someone had tweeted (or RT'd) you on #bcsm and it brought me to your blog and this post. I'm sorry to hear that you're going through this (again), but thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. You may not be a religious person and I'm not super religious, but what I do have a lot of, and always have, is faith in a higher power and belief in the power of prayer and the mind. I will say a little prayer for you and send you lots of love and healing energy.

    I really loved your post. It moved me and made me feel a little less alone in my own journey, even though like you wrote, "You do this alone." We do "do this alone," especially those damn scans. Your description of scans is so perfect because they are so eff'ing arduous and then they're followed by the horrible waiting. I'm so happy that your bone scan is clear! That's good news in this sea of unknown.

    I also liked your part about the tech who said, "What are you doing? Thinking? You know, you can't change it by thinking about it. Think about something else, something happy." Even though he probably says that to lots of patients and they may be hollow words, but it's a good reminder to all of us to not think too hard about the "what ifs" and what's coming around the corner. Of course, easier said then done. Right!?!?

    When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer (January 2012) I couldn't stop thinking about it. It consumed me. It's the only thing I thought about, day and night, and day after day for months. But I'm slowly learning to not let it consume me, regardless of what happens. Of course, getting one clean follow up scan sure would be nice in helping me worry less (but that's a whole other story for another day).

    Even though we've never met, my heart goes out to you and I'm sending you lots of love and healing thoughts your ways.

  20. Ever since my bloggy friend Kathy linked to this post on FB I can't stop thinking about you. Sending you lots of love and strength from across the pond.