I Hide My Tears / But Not Very Well

I am a very stoic individual. I don’t like to express my pain or vulnerabilities publically.

I was at work when the doctor called. He did not ask me where I was or prepare me for the news. He just said hello, told me who he was and said, “I have the results from your biopsy. You have cancer”

I was sideswiped. I had been so happy to have the biopsy surgery done that I had almost forgotten that there were results to come.

I ducked into a nearby office and exploded in tears. I was full of fear of the unknown. What is cancer? Is it death? Destruction for my family? Is it the loss of my hair? Is it painful? I had no answers.

I needed to hide my face and tears. I could not face my coworkers. I was trapped in this office. I contemplated climbing out the window. Nope. I needed my coat and bag. I sat there crying for a long time. I called my husband. I called my sister. I slowly pulled myself together and slipped out the front door. I emailed my boss later that day. They love me. My health was their only concern. I was ok.

But tears kept quietly flowing. Every day I would get up early, before my husband was awake, and write here with you. I had to cry but did not want to subject him to it. My friends got used to the idea that I would not pick up the phone. I could not have the conversations. But I used this blog to express myself and wring my eyes out for the day before I would have to go to work and be strong. I’d put all my feelings into these post and gave them to you.

I can see the analytics. I knew that if I expressed them here you would show up and process them with me. You’d collectively write comments and send me little notes. I got emails and messages from people who have survived the process, from people in the middle of the chaos of cancer, and from people who work in medicine and cared enough to experience this with me. My words and tears have been serving more than just myself and that too has kept me writing.

One by one packages started to arrive on my doorstep. Fuzzy blankets, bath bombs, books, and chocolates. You stepped into the unknown with me, to live in this place where we sat together in fear of the unknown. You sent me things that soothe my heart and remind me I am not alone. I wrap myself in these things and they emanate you. I can feel you. I kept writing to you so I could hide my tears in public.

I had some horrible days trying to schedule endless medical appointments. The person on the other end of the phone might ask me why the procedure was being scheduled and I would be forced to say out loud, “I have uterine cancer.” And then I would fall apart in tears. It was hard to say those words out loud to a stranger. I’d have to apologize and fight through the tears to finish the call.

I got in contact with a short-term free counseling service. They only had counseling hours during my workday. I said to the woman, “I have to work, I can’t make any of the times you have available.” She asked if I could speak with a counselor during my lunch break. I said, “I can’t spend that time that I should be caring for myself with lunch on the phone– crying. I can’t then go back to work and behave as if all is well.” Counseling was not an option for me.

Instead, I came here and I have processed my tears with you. You allowed me to express them at 4am or 5am. I was able to make it to work. To make money for my family. To hold it together most of the time. To use my experience and my pain to write and help others. I was able to give my tears to you. I opened up. I said yes to your help. These are no small things for me.

Try as I might, I still could not control the tears.

There would be little tears that would spill out during a tough medical procedure. The medical professional might exclaim, “Why are you crying? You’re covered in tattoos! This doesn’t even hurt!” Or a more empathetic professional would say, “I’m sorry. We’ll get this over with as quickly as possible.”

Afterwards, I might get very quiet in the car as tears slipped down my cheeks. If I could pull my heart out of my throat I would tell my husband, “I don’t want to have cancer.” My husband is a silent person. The bullet he took through his neck, that exited out his mouth only encourages his silence. I have learned to listen to what he does not say. A gesture, a lack of gestures, the tension in his jaw or hands, the flush of his cheeks. He did not want me to have cancer either.

I had one uncontrollable outburst two nights before my surgery. I tried to hide in the bathroom but my husband pulled me out and I sat in his arms and bawled. As hard as I tried I could not stop the tears. The only words I had to explain them were, “I am scared.”

That was the last time I cried. Until yesterday.

Last night I was feeling physically weak. I had just finished my first week being back at work. It was not easy, but I needed to get back to making a living. We beat cancer (YES! YES! YES!) but every day the mailbox is full of bills. Big, ugly fuck-me bills. Bills that illustrate how hard it is to be in need of medical care in America.

And then this happened. Thank you Lilly and to each person who has donated or shared the campaign. Your love and support feels like you are pulling wreckage off of me, brick by brick and relieving the pain and stress. And this morning I sit at my computer, blogging through tears with you again. But these tears? They are not based in fear or pain, they are tears full of joyful disbelief. I feel so loved. Thank you so much.

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