We’ve all been there. Braless in Boston. Maybe you haven’t really been braless in Boston but you have been vulnerable at some time in your life, maybe many times. Vulnerability is an opporunity to open up or close up tight. I’ve spent the last 7 months ‘fighting” breast cancer (the whole “fighting”, “warrior”, “brave” thing will be addressed in another post). A whole lot of that time is very hazy but I think the important things are really beginning to crystalize for me.
On October 16, 2014, I was called back for a mammogram to look at an “area of interest” that showed up on a routine breast MRI. I sat in the inner waiting area at the Avon Breast Center / Massachusetts General Hospital for my biopsy thinking, they should really serve wine and cheese here. Here we are, each woman sitting braless and wrapped in a hospital johnnie, waiting for the ok to get dressed or come with us for a closer look. No one speaks. We all just sit there in our own cloud of thoughts and fears. Maybe if we had a cocktail, we’d open up, say hello, how are you, could you please pass the cheese?
An elderly woman was wheeled into that waiting room and plopped right in the middle of all of us. She was clearly hearing impaired because she spoke so loudly and each nurse had to speak twice as loud to her. There was her story, blurted out for all of us to hear. She said that she had breast cancer twice before and she just knew there was something now. She loudly listed her diagnosis, years, treatments and loss of her husband. Every fear I was sitting with just completely voiced by this spunky, well dressed, wheelchair bound, practically deaf woman.
Could someone PLEASE give her a glass of Chardonnay?
It felt so bizarre. A room full of what I’m sure were amazing, strong, interesting, remarkable woman but we sat silent, barely glancing at each other. I wondered how many times my own mother and mother-in-law sat in a room silently listening to their own fears. We had something to offer each other, conversation, comfort, and experience. This is how this website will evolve and why my caringbridge site was written the way it was. I know that sharing my experience honestly and openly not only strengthens me but also may just empower or comfort another. It isn’t all about cancer. It is about having a human experience, wherever life brings you.
It’s been a journey over these months of surgery, chemo, doctor’s appointments, hair loss, sickness, friendship, family, and camaraderie, highest of highs and low lows but here I am. I am still sharing what this has meant to me. I am grateful for all of it. Without the crappiest parts, I would not have what I have today. People walk this journey every day, in many, many different ways. The past 7 months have changed me. I am more open to speak to that woman or man sitting on pins and needles next to me. I am also willing to share my experience to help another.
Stay tuned and next time you are sitting braless (literally or figuratively), clutching your pocketbook, frantically texting your go-to friend for crisis , look at the woman/man sitting next to you or across from you. Send some love whether silently or in your conversation. You will ease their wait and definitely ease your own.
Thank you for being here! Love, Carlene