Today I went to the Cancer Center to participate in the Look Good, Feel Better program. First, let me start by praising the program and the volunteers. The volunteers give freely and generously of their time and were so friendly and upbeat. They gave skin care and make up demonstrations. (Apparently I have been doing it wrong for 35 + years). They even cut and styled two wigs. We all left with make up and skin care products worth well over $200.00, donated by top brands. So what’s the problem you ask? I went into this feeling pretty good. When I looked around my heart kind of sank. Many of the other women looked like.. well… cancer patients. Maybe I’m delusional and I do, too, but I really don’t think so. And then, as women do, everyone started chatting. There were the usual pleasantries, but a lot of talk of diagnoses, treatment and prognosis. Not much of it was very positive. One lady asked me how I dealt with depression and I answered honestly that I haven’t experienced any (yet?). She looked kind of skeptical. Before we left one woman asked if I attended the support groups at the center. They are held one Wednesday evening a month and I had thought about maybe going in the spring. I’m not fond of driving all that way in the winter, at night. Now, I’m rethinking that. Maybe I’m the world’s most selfish breast cancer patient but if today was any indication of what those meetings would be like, I cannot see myself voluntarily sitting through them. I just can’t surround myself with cancer and sadness, depression and anger. I was told if I ever have blood drawn or go to the ER to be sure to identify myself as a cancer patient and I kind of bristled at that. Yes. I have cancer. I also have green eyes, a tendency to migraines and an irreverent sense of humor. None of those things on their own define me. I refuse to be defined by a temporary medical condition and I don’t want to be around people who define themselves that way. On the other hand.. as soon as I started this blog, I immediately searched for other blogs about breast cancer, chemotherapy, women with cancer.. and I follow several. Not all are cheerful every day, but all make me smile or comment. Most of the bloggers that I follow are hopeful and see the humor in the same things I do. Some are very spiritual and I find comfort in reading their words. Some are brutally honest about not so great medical results, but not one has ever left me feeling so dark and sad as that meeting today. I can’t explain it but then I’ve never claimed to make sense.
I don’t know what I expected to get out of today. It seemed kind of rude to turn down such a generous offer and I thought it might be fun. Some of it was, but I left carrying the little red makeup bag that identified me as a cancer patient in case anyone needed clarification, a headache and a lump in my throat. And my wig was choking me.