The Worst Part So Far…

So far the worst part has been telling people. I’m not saying the core biopsy was a walk in the park, but it’s the pure anguish in the voices and faces of those you love as the cancer conversation sucks the air from the room. Whether it’s running into a neighbour who’s perplexed that “You’re still here? I thought you were going back to Qatar on Sunday?” or having to ring the Aunt that you sat with giggling only the day before the diagnosis, you can be sure of one thing – you’re about to be a complete Debbie Downer.

The cancer news befittingly took on a life of its own. I lost control of it, while I walked around in a fog I’d somehow told the staff at the local restaurant but was yet to tell my mother. The children went on with their day completely unaware while I received text messages from the two or three people who knew and the many others who didn’t.

“Are we still on for breakfast tomorrow?”

“I imagine you’re in the midst of packing but just wanted to say it was great seeing you, see you at Christmas!”

I walked outside to take calls from G, and stood at the end of the road while the breast surgeon confirmed that the biopsy looked “sinister”. One of my best friends was coming to stay the night, I didn’t want to call her at work and knew that I couldn’t tell her while the children were around – it would have to wait until I’d put them to bed. We ate a meal, cheered through the footy game, and when the house was quiet and it was just her and I, I told her. The woman who’d stood next to me while I’d married G, the woman who’d agreed to be the godmother to one of my children. My gorgeous friend Cath. I watched her face wince, her eyes tear up and her mind resolve to be useful, funny and strong.

“You don’t have to tell people yet if you don’t want to”.

I did though. G was on his way back to Adelaide, we were no longer leaving. It was obvious something was going on. I needed to tell Sarah (my work wife), I needed to tell the school my children wouldn’t be there on day one. We were just going to have to be honest, get on with it and face it as a family. There would be no secrets.

Yesterday I met with the radiographer who’d been with me when the news was broken. The woman who I’d chatted with about kids, schools and partners while she ran the ultrasound over my chest, the woman who’d calmly said “I’ll just get the doctor” before my world changed.

I apologised for my vagueness on the day of the mammogram. She’d asked me to sit and wait for my film to take to the doctor and I’d immediately walked out of the clinic and towards the car. She’d thankfully chased after me.

“You were amazing” she said “some women fall apart with the news but I could see you immediately planning, trying to work out how it was all going to work, what was best. To get on the plane or stay, to bring your husband back or not. I could see it all working away in your brain.”

This was exactly how it was. It was like having someone speak in one language while you translated it into your own language. Expat language. While surgeons and doctors explain how the process works I try and translate it into how it will work for me. While they were saying biopsy on Monday, my brain was translating and calculating the flight times to Doha with the kids, and a solo return back to Australia.

On Saturday morning less than 24 hours after the diagnosis, my children slept as I drove to the local bakery for a litre of milk. I parked in the sunshine and watched people go about their Saturday morning ritual – newspaper, coffee and baked goods. With the silence of an empty car I rang my mother and told her the news. “Mum, they’ve found a lump, it’s all a bit tricky but they’re pretty sure its cancer.”

By far, the worst part has been telling people.

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