I sent a version of the following as an email to my family last night, explaining why I've been a bit out of touch. It's not the whole story, but it may shed some light on why I've been out of touch with you all as well. Please don't judge me too harshly.
Dad called me after the holidays saying, "You're not answering your emails. What's wrong?"
I was a bit defensive, admitting finally that I was maybe a little depressed, but it was true, I wasn't participating in the family chatter. It wasn't until after I got off the phone that I realized there was something behind that depression and that it hadn't occurred to me to tell any of you, or indeed, to admit to myself.
And then it just seemed really sad to me that I went through the holidays burying this awareness.
And then I realized I do this all the time, which seemed even sadder.
So, in an attempt to break my habit and to have you all a bit closer, I want to tell you two things—first the thing that was bothering me then, and also the thing that is bothering me now.
Because of Tamoxifen, the drug I take for breast cancer, I am at increased risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining). It's a numbers game and the odds are better that it will help me, so I'll likely be on this drug for ten years. In the two years I've been on it so far, my endometrial lining has gotten very thick, and I've had three endometrial cancer scares. They've done ultrasounds and sonohysterograms (a more invasive ultrasound) and finally, this time, most invasively of all, an endometrial biopsy.
I wasn't as worried about the risk of cancer this time around, which everyone thought was small, as I was troubled by the biopsy itself. The procedure has similarities to an abortion, which is connected to traumatic memories for me, as well as the fact that I never got to have children. Over the holidays I was anticipating that experience but trying not to think about it either, and then waiting on biopsy results, which in spite of not worrying, got me worrying. Luckily the biopsy was negative.
Tamoxifen is hard on me in other ways as well. After ten years, there'll be another drug and its side effects to contend with too. I won't get into details now, but suffice it to say, it can be depressing. Anyone you know who has breast cancer seemingly in their past - just know that it's never really over. I know I'm not the only "survivor" who feels like I shouldn't complain, like we're supposed to feel lucky because there are life-saving treatments available to us now that didn't exist before. I do have a lot of appreciation but that doesn't take away what's hard, or the worry about what will happen, in my uterus and otherwise, in the next eight years.
The new thing bothering me is very different, but I've been crying about it all week, ashamed, and embarrassed and, I don't know, just feeling heartbroken and terrible. Here's what happened:
I was trimming the fur around my dog Millie's mouth. I have been grooming her every couple months for four years now without major mishap, but this time, I messed up. She tried to lick the scissors, which I had recently sharpened, and before I knew what was happening, I had sliced into her tongue. There was a lot of blood for about an hour but nothing the vet could do about it.
She's doing fine, fully healed already, not in pain or having any trouble at all, and yet, writing this out, I'm crying all over again. The split in her tongue remains and will remain forever. Every time I see it, I feel rotten.
When I called the vet I was in tears. The woman I spoke to told me she had a similar accident with a dog she had years ago and she, too, felt terrible.
"Did you ever stop feeling terrible?" I asked.
"No," she admitted. "I feel kind of terrible right now." For a moment, we laughed and I cried some more and we felt terrible together.
On the bright side, life goes on.
A belated thank you for all the holiday cheer and thoughtful gifts.