Talking About It

My life is still reverberating from the act of talking and writing about the idea of my own death.  Reverberating in a good way.  It feels like something happened to the weight and girth of the subject; like I can get my arms around it and shift it to a more comfortable place, instead of just feeling crushed by it.  When it was just in my head it was menacing and bullying – but when I talked about it with the people I love it turned out that my private hell was not mine alone.  My fears became our shared fears (sorry about that) which allowed us to feel like we could at least face them a little better because we were facing them together.  It was the equivalent of throwing fear in the dryer for a couple of hours: shrinkage ensued.

And then, there we were, my parents and I, sitting on my bed one night talking about it again for maybe the third time in as many days, and not even crying that time.  Or, there I was, dropping it into a conversation almost casually: “…because if I die while Georgia is still really young I want to try to make sure she won’t turn it around and make it her own fault, the way kids think its their fault when their parents get divorced.”  And there I was, yes, blogging about it to the world at large.

(Okay, seriously, blogging about it…  Do you have any idea how naked I felt? It was like streaking through a stadium – although this little world of my blog actually seems far more intimate, so maybe it was more like streaking through a house party.  But, still.  I dare ya.)

It turns out that this unbroachable, unhappy, unfathomable topic is not so totally taboo after all.  I’m not saying I’ll be bandying it about at cocktail parties (“Nice to meet you. I’m afraid my cancer is going to kill me and I won’t get to live out my beautiful little life. Have you tried the stuffed mushrooms?”) I’m just saying it’s more manageable than I thought it would be. And based on the feedback I’m getting, I’m beginning to think that talking about it has possibly made this nightmare a little less nightmarish for everyone else, too. Talking about it means that it’s okay for people to think about it; they’re not betraying me or failing to have enough hope if the idea of losing me enters their minds.

Anyway, it feels like I travelled a long, long way last week, from a place of fear and darkness to a place with at least enough sunlight to keep a small houseplant going.  A huge part of it has to do with identifying a clinical trial and getting a plan for treatment underway. This is undeniably true. But I also attribute the return of my battle-scarred optimism about my chances of living to getting the subject of dying off my chest.

Who knew it would be so liberating?  And can I continue to address it without becoming a freaky goth person?  Because after the initial gruesome confrontation – after the first time I said the words out loud – it became easier and easier to talk about.  Which meant that it was no longer necessary to try not to think about it.  Which meant, paradoxically, that I and those around me thought about it less.

Like my friend Eden pointed out, it’s kind of a relief to be talking about it now when we don’t have to. Better we face it because we choose to and not because it’s being forced upon us.

In other words, I’m not dying – I’m just talking about it.



Filed under Living with Breast Cancer

7 responses to “Talking About It

  1. Rita

    Hi Leanne,

    I have been following your blog for a while. I have recently finished treatment for breast cancer and have a young daughter, Ella. Your recent posts have struck a chord with me. You have put down in writing the thoughts going on in my head. I have been so afraid to say the words thinking doing so will make it come true. I have decided I could no longer live in fear and have begun to have conversations about death and dying.You have helped me do this. I have realized my biggest fear is leaving my daughter . It makes my heart hurt.

    I want to thank you for your courage, bravery and your lovely spirit. You are an inspiration to me. I always look forward to your blog.

    Have you heard of an organization called Inspire Health? It was a great help to me. They are located in Vancouver but have patients from all over Canada.
    Sending you healing energy from B.C.

  2. Gwen

    I am so glad you feel less fraught this week, Leanne. You have amazing coping abilities. I think your core must be made of India rubber, because you bounce right back no matter what c–p life and doctors hurl at you. You are helping many, many people through your ability (and willingness) to express yourself so honestly, so clearly and with such humour. In short, you deserve a medal. I think it should be presented at the same time as your oncologist states publicly one day in the near future: “I don’t know what happened, but it’s GONE!”

    • Leanne

      GWEN – “Fraught” – My god woman that is EXACTLY the right word.
      RITA – I am so glad I somehow reached you all the way out there in B.C. and I hope that you are finding the same freedom in talking about your fears as I have found. It doesn’t make them go away but it helps. It makes MY heart hurt just to read your fears of leaving your daughter — I’m sure every mother’s heart did a little kick at reading your words. But hopefully soon you can turn your thoughts more and more to your returning health (& hair!) and little by little the fears will shrink away.
      I checked out Inspire Health — it looks like a pretty amazing organization, wish we had one here in Toronto. For anyone in B.C. who wants to check it out:
      Also anyone who has had IV Fertility or is considering it might want to look into the risks addressed BABS’ website.
      DIANE – thank-you a million times. You never fail to boost my spirits with these wonderful things you say. And say so eloquently!

  3. Diane

    I’m running out of words to describe how awe-inspiring and wonderful you are. So, though you’ve heard it before: you are breathtakingly brave and honest, and you are frequently funny at the same time. You find a universal pulse with this blog, Leanne, yet you are unique.

    And I think freaky goth types are under-appreciated.

    Love Diane

  4. Georg W.

    Hi there Leanne,

    I am so glad to hear you may have found a new trial in Montreal, hoping this is the one that we finally hear “There is no sign of cancer anywhere to be found, incredible.”

    And yes talking about death should never be a taboo; it can be hard at first. But weird as this may sound, can be a comfort down the road.

    Helping you with your information highway on cancer, and adding people and places for anyone to go speak and seek counseling, may I add this website as well.

    My hopes and prayers and positive energy go out to you.

    Love Georg

    • Leanne

      Thanks as always, dear Georg. My family’s thoughts are with yours as you mourn the loss of Deborah. Hopefully now you can finally rest that heavy sheild you’ve been carrying for so long — you protected her so well and you were both so brave.

  5. Marie

    Leanne, thank you for sharing such valuable info. I was surprised as I’m sure other followers of your blog were that you had to find your own clinical trial. I wanted to share a website that I found with you and anyone else out there going through treatment. Check out “Cleaningforareason”. The site connects you to the company in your area that provides up to 4 housecleanings for women going through treatment. You have to apply online as they don’t want you calling the company directly. In the Niagara area where I live Merry Maids provides the service. Good luck.

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