The thing about cancer is that nobody is ever prepared to hear the diagnosis.

As far as I know, nobody responds, after waiting on the cold hard chairs in an oncologist’s office, or on the paper-covered exam table, rustling as they shift their weight, exactly the way they wish they had. No one says, “Oh, fantastic! I was hoping that my work would be interrupted with a few rounds of chemo!” Or, “Oh, invasive ductal carcinoma? Great! I can squeeze the surgery in between the preschool benefit and the kids’ soccer tournement.” Or, “Six months of chemo, double mastetomy, bilateral oopherectomy, and 7 weeks of radiation? Awesome! I wasn’t really looking forward to BlogHer, swimming lessons and preschool for the kids, and catching up on my sleep.”

instead, we gasp, we sigh, we crumple into the arms of the one we love.

and then, we lft our eyes and ask, “How do we fight?”

The other thing about cancer is that nobody is ever prepared to make the decision about treatment. If it’s anything but clear-cut, we stand, looking out into the void of options, teetering on the precipice of treatment,

and we gulp, feeling woefully unprepared to know how to fight the cancer.


42 Responses to Learning

  1. Patti L says:

    This whole cancer crap just plain ol’ SUCKS – sending much love your way.

  2. We fight with big-ass boxing gloves. And maybe a really pretty satin robe that says “Fuck Cancer” on the back.

  3. Niksmom says:

    Sending you love and prayers for strength.

  4. Judy says:

    *sigh*, I so understand. I wish I could hold your hand through some of this, be by your side, just BE there.

    My first words when I heard the worst were: “but I have a 6 year old son,” as if that would have changed the diagnosis right then and there.

    We fight. The doctors fight for us. And those who love us fight for us with every prayer, every good thought, so when you feel you can’t fight – don’t worry – others are fighting for you.

    Sending all the love I can muster through the miles.

  5. Darryle says:

    Though much of what you wrote is frustrating, reading between the lines there is so much positivity. First of all– you have a lot of people with a lot of arms holding them out for you to crumple into, people who love you and want to hold you close. And also that though you might not be feeling that way right now, you are very prepared to fight cancer—whatever it takes.

  6. BetteJo says:

    I’m glad you write about the feelings, the reactions, the real things cancer does to a person. But really – I’m glad you allow people into your life to support you.

  7. Amy says:

    Third try’s a charm, right?

    You can do this. Again. But I hate it that you have to.

  8. Donna W says:

    Dammit. I have nothing helpful to say. My thoughts are with you.

  9. imstell says:

    I am with Donna W. I have no reply to that. I am a fact person. You strike me as one also. This would make me nuts! Cyber hugs to you.

  10. If there is anyone who will figure out how to fight this I know it will be you.

  11. I wish I had comforting words Susan. I just know in my heart that if there is anyone who will make the correct decision, it is you. It might not be the right decision for everyone…but it will be for you.

    Offering my arms for support any time.

  12. Oh my Devra! We have to make Susan that robe. She would rock it with style!

    Susan, I’m so sorry you’re staring into that void again. I wish I could point you in the right direction and say “that one! that’s the one that will lead to no more cancer, no more creeping scar tissue, no more scary nights.” But clearly, I can’t. All I can say is that I’ll be there virtually holding your hand as you take that step forward.

  13. Stimey says:

    I’m with Devra.

  14. desertmom says:

    You are so strong. I have been a lurker…Your immense strength and the right attitude inspires me. I can’t say much. Wish I could to make you feel better. Just Hugs….a real tight one.

  15. upsidebackwards says:

    Susan, you inspire me and terrify me with your words. I know you will step bravely out into that void, and you will find the right path through for you – and, hopefully, for women who come after you, facing the same terrible decisions. Lots of love and hugs.

  16. Amelie says:

    Sending lots of love and strength.

  17. *m* says:

    Thinking of you every day, with hope, and admiration, and wishes for continued strength and courage.

    And hugs.

  18. Susan,

    I’m with Devra and Jessica and Amie. It’s hard to know what to say…I wish I could do the equivalent of online listening, because I know that in the real, physical world, just listening and being there is helpful to people.

    As you know, I know three other (gulp) women who’ve battled IBC. I’ve already reached out to one for any news, advice, thoughts, and I’ll check with the others…as you know, sometimes the latest research news, etc. seems to almost travel as if by underground. I don’t know if you’ve been in touch with Cheryl Greene, but I just emailed her. Between her & Dr. Greene they’re a wealth of resources, having just kicked IBC in the butt (as you will).

    Godspeed and please let me know if you need anything..I’m not far away.


  19. ella says:

    Sending you love and best wishes and wishing I could give you some useful words of advice to help you know how to make those decisions.

  20. kgirl says:

    Another one in your corner. Just wanted to let you know.

  21. NYFriend says:

    Standing here with you, you can do this, I know you can.

    Big hugs and wishing you the smoothest sailing it can be.

  22. Johanna says:

    We are all fighting with you – So angry that you have to go through this again.

  23. Amy@UWM says:

    And no one ever knows quite how to react when someone they care about has been diagnosed with cancer. Again. Really wish I had words to make it all go away. Just keep your eye on the prize…more birthdays. Stories like yours are what make me and my colleagues come to work everyday.

  24. Alice C says:

    I had always thought that it would be like standing at the foot of a mountain and knowing that you had to find your way to the top. The path will be there but at that moment you don’t have the map. It will be hard, each stony step, but there will be days when you can pause and catch your breath. Sometimes the path will be clear and your climb will go well but on other days it will feel as though the weather has closed in and you have lost your way. And then one day you will reach the top and look back at where you have been and you will wonder how you ever did it but we will know that it was by having the courage to put one foot in front of the other and climb until you could see the future.

  25. magpie says:

    Sigh. And you hope that your oncologist knows what’s good and right and out there.

  26. Also with Devra. Thinking of you constantly and praying for guidance and competent… actually… KICK ASS medical professionals.

  27. Also, I’m sure you have seen this, but just in case you haven’t (or someone else can use this info):


  28. Robin Hurwitz says:

    And the people who love you pray for you and wish we could do more. Sending virtual, long distance hugs…

  29. Totally agree with Devra! Maybe Kristen will screen print one for you…Mommy needs to kick cancer’s ass!

  30. kroliklinsey says:

    Cancer is so much more than an inconvenience in the schedule, eh? I predict you will do well with whatever treatment you decide upon – sending you peace and wisdom and confidence and love.

    Hugs from too far away.

  31. JessicaAPISS says:

    I hate that you’re hurting. Where the eff is the hot tub time machine that can hurtle you past this?

  32. Elizabeth says:

    honey, you sound so hurt and so depressed.
    I hate to see you so.
    we all have bad times,really bad times…but I promise you there will be a lot of sunshine. and you know, that we are all here for you (even when here is over the Atlantic ocean) if you need anything, we are here fighting for you!!!

  33. NoR says:

    I hope despite it all, you enjoy the visit from the Easter bunny and your kids’ enjoyment of that.

  34. Kathy Shapiro says:

    Cancer changes everything. How we fight is a measure of how much we car about our lives, our families, our futures.

    Research – there’s not enough. I wonder if there ever will be. Cancer is a multi-headed hydra. You slice off one ugly head and another grows in its place.

    Cancer sucks.

    But – cancer brings the love and support of those of us who battle the beast and those of us who have loved ones battling the beast. Surely there is a power here somewhere that we can all draw upon and share.

    I wish you love and success on this newest trial. You inspire and encourage me in my fight with the beast.

    with thanks and love and positive thoughts –

  35. Lyn says:

    Susan, I’ve been out of the motherswithcancer loop for the last 2 weeks due to the loss of an in-person IBC friend. I can’t tell you how sad I am to hear this news. BUT- I know you can beat this. IBC will not win this fight, we can’t let it. You are very blessed to have such a large loving community of friends and family who care about you. The perfect audience to show what can be overcome.

  36. mary says:

    Also with those who don’t know what to say. The only thing that comes to mind is that when it comes to decision time you will make the one that makes the most sense with whatever information you have been able to find and you will have an army to fight with you.

    Hope you have been able to enjoy at least a little the kids playing in the beautiful (at least mentally) healing sunshine.

  37. Bon says:

    nobody is ever prepared to be interrupted, threatened, forced to fight, i don’t think.

    i’m so sorry you have to walk this road again. i am sorry there is still no cure. it is a lot to get a mind around…which is what i hear here, you seizing this, framing it so we can begin to understand.

    how important a cure is.

    i hear you. i will do what i can.

    i send you all my love, and my hope. mostly that we can work it out on both ends to meet this summer. i am still half-hoping on BlogHer, finally. and you better be there!

  38. myturtledove says:

    Cancersmacked me in the face at 26 while planning my wedding. You def stop worrying about what youll do with your hair on the big day since you have none! Eight years and 2 beautiful babies later (and an amazing man who actually married me bald) life is fabulous. Keep writing and keep it real. God bless

  39. great post here. Very touching.

  40. jodifur says:

    oh Susan, I wish there was something, anything, I could say…or do. You know you have all my love and all my thoughts. Always.

  41. Mom101 says:

    Oh, for feck’s sake Susan. Just catching up with your story and am angrily shaking my fist at cancer. I know you’re going to give that bastard a run for its money.

    Sending you love and white light.

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