Scary Movie

It was a dark and windy Friday night, when the creeping terrors began to stalk me… inching ever-nearer… closing in closer and closer around me.  There may as well have been a shaky camera shot from the psychotic killer’s point of view (I guess that would be a super-magnified shot of my cellular activity) and foreboding, eerie music. 

It’s my own private horror film, ladies and gentlemen, with screenings nightly. 

And seriously, you can ask my big brother, I cannot watch horror films – never could.  I’m a total chicken.  I watched The Shining in the ‘80s and I still get nightmares about those creepy twins in the hallway.  Depending on the carpet and wallpaper, I won’t walk unescorted down certain hotel corridors to this very day. So you can imagine how well I do when the horror film plot centres around me as the constantly stalked target of unspeakable evil.

And Friday night, there I was once again, playing the victim, getting all freaked out and terrified and tearful. I slid deeper under the duvet, but it was no use trying to hide! The floorboards creaked in the hallway and the bedroom door slooowly opened… And in walked my husband.

“Hey. What’s going on here?” he asked, seeing me all balled up under the duvet, hugging my knees.

“Um, just having a little freak out.” I squeaked.

“Ohlalamonamourvraiment” He said, just like that, all in one mashed-up French word that basically means “Oh no, not again.” He plopped down on the bed and gathered me up in his arms.

“Yup,” I said, “I’m freaking out that I’m going to die and wondering how you and Georgia are going to handle it…”  Which was only partly true.  What I was specifically freaking out about was whether Georgia should be at my funeral or whether it would screw her up for life.

I know. How morbid! How horribly melodramatic!  Even I can’t stand it – I want to slap myself to snap me out of it. 

Luckily I’m not in charge of consoling me and my husband isn’t a slapper.  Usually he lets me cry it out, probably feeling helpless as hell, until he can safely say something to make me smile or laugh and we can wade hand in hand out of the muck of fear and sadness onto terra firma again. Or terra temporarily less squelchy.

Not this time.  This time he wasn’t having any of this terrorized woman hiding under the duvet crap.  He was even a little bit stern with me (which honestly is a tactic I might employ with myself if I were in fact in charge of consoling me.) 

He told me that I am not gone yet and that I need to stop imagining myself gone.  He asked me – actually pleaded with me – to stay here-and-now, to try hard to stop thinking about death.  And if I can’t, then at least to try to stop letting it into the bedroom at night right before I’m supposed to fall asleep, because even if it can be liberating to confront fears of death, it sure isn’t conducive to sleep.

This is obviously extremely sensible, extremely practical, especially coming from a Frenchman.  And he wasn’t taking no for an answer, either.  So I agreed.  Actually I was surprisingly relieved to be bossed around like that; to be instructed to stop thinking about the big D, just when I had laid claim to being allowed to think and talk about it whenever I want to.  Because I realized that it’s a fine line, and if I’m not careful, it’s not me that lays claim to the fear, but the fear that will claim me. 

Not that anybody should get any ideas about bossing me around on a regular basis.

Now, what I really need to do is move the stack of cancer books away from my bedside and get my hands on a few good novels. Preferably not anything that involves creepy little girls with big foreheads and matching dresses.



Filed under Living with Breast Cancer

14 responses to “Scary Movie

  1. Katie

    Ah, finally a way I can contribute something practical – book recommendations! Looking through my list of novels for a few great take-me-away stories, and hoping to avoid ones that are too tragic…

    Here are a couple of European-based World War novels that involve strong female characters:
    “Conventry” by Helen Humphries (short and poweful) and “Restless” by William Boyd (woman finds out her mother was a spy – very cool). Have you read “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen (life in a travelling circus – very escapist)? Lori Lansens’ “The Girls” about conjoined twins or Merjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” graphic novels about growing up during the revolution in Iran?

    (and P.S. The Shining still ranks as one of the scariest movies I have ever seen.)

  2. Anita

    Books! I’m on it!

    (Since I don’t know what you like to read, this is a pretty eclectic list).

    Me Talk Pretty One Day – or anything, really, by David Sedaris

    The Monster of Florence – true crime novel, based in Italy.

    Seabiscuit: An American Legend – no, I’m not joking – a totally engrossing read, even if you don’t like sports/horse racing

    Sacred Games – huge book – also good for killing large bugs – but a great read.

    I love Persepolis but if I may go to the other extreme – for a totally mindless, giggling-into-my-milk morning, I go low-brow with the Get Fuzzy collections. Seriously. I know, I have issues.

    xo Anita

  3. Georg W.

    Keep it simple Leanne, read Horton hears a Who, Cat in the Hat, lol.

    Or, Lord of the Rings, all three books, if you want to take a journey to a magical world of wizards and elves. You can borrow my copy of the trilogy.


  4. Jodi Lastman

    I have a tendency to be a night-worrier. I always tell myself that the same issues will still be there in the morning so I don’t need to address them right now. Somehow when the sun comes up and I have a cup of coffee I can cope in a way that I can’t in the thick of dark + quiet.

  5. shannon

    eeps.redrum! those kids are super creepy- I dont mind saying that in this case I would beat these children.Beat. Them. Down. They are not nice big-forehead girls. Lets take them out!
    Sending v strong love vibes

  6. Celia McBride

    Hi Leanne,

    If you’re willing to go a little deeper and explore the metaphysical process of how you can take part in manifesting the we-don’t-know-how-it-happened-but-the-cancer-is-just-GONE scenario then I recommend “Power Through Constructive Thinking” by Emmet Fox.

    Just one teensy-weensy thing needed for this kind of work (because it’s spiritual work and it’s DEEP) is this: an Open Mind.

    You’re doing an amazing job. Don’t forget that.

    Love you. C.

  7. leanne coppen

    JODI — yes that’s it exactly: night-worrying has got to stop. It’s all so much bigger and badder in the dark + quiet. And you’re right: I can’t do much about it in the middle of the night anyway. Sunlight and coffee — definitely the way to go.

    SHANNON — since we couldn’t actually get our hands on those evil girls themselves for a take-down, I just took the photo down. It was creeping me out too much.

    EVERYONE — thanks for the book ideas! That was an unexpected but welcome response! I will be attacking my local library armed with this list very soon.

    In the mean time this clinical trial hunting is a full-time job. I’m wary of posting about the whole ordeal in too much detail because:
    A) it’s excruciatingly boring for everyone but me and
    B) it changes almost hourly as we find out that studies we thought were open are closed, and new ones we hadn’t realized were out there pop up (thank god) and
    C) in addition to being boring it’s incredibly, unbelieveably complicated and confusing.
    But I do have a summary of the treatments we’re looking at and all the ones I’ve already had, so maybe I will post that.

    Bedtime approaches, time to think about other things!

    Thanks everyone!

  8. momof3

    For starters, have I mentioned you are amazing! truly and wholely? (wholy?) completely amazing. Your sense of humor shines through even the darkest moments of your life, which you willingly share with all of us, and I thank you for your candid blog. -Re: books. – read Sophie Kinsella’s shopaholic books. I call them fluffy and funny and I am certain most everyone will enjoy. No deep thought provoking reads in her books – simply fun! —

    On the death subject which you have posted previously. I would like to share. I am a Christian, believe faithfully in eternal life so I have no fear of death. I will embrace it whether it comes when I am 50 (this year) or 90 – I will not/do not fear. Not to say I will not be sad, I do not wish to leave my husband and children here; I hope they will miss me when we are no longer together physically every day.

    CANCER – I hate cancer… a friend is suffering from cancer right now and beginning the treadmill of treatments, emotions, pain, hairloss, etc. A workmate’s mom is suffering as well, and a wonderful, funny, honest online friend is also suffering, how can we all not HATE cancer?

    I hope and pray you find a clinical trial which will work for you and beat the heck out of your cancer so that it runs screaming from you life with it’s ugly tail between it’s legs – never to return.

    Sleep well, Leanne !

  9. Jen

    More book ideas:
    personal fav’s: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls,
    Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik?, Ahab’s Wife(can’t
    remember author).
    I heard an interview on Chicago radio this am while driving
    kids to school with the author of: UNDATEABLE
    311 Things Guys Do That Guarantee They Won’t Be Dating or Having Sex
    by Ellen Rakieten and Anne Coyle
    I was in hysterics…not that either of us will be dating anytime soon…might
    be a funny read! Sweet dreams.

  10. Jodi Lastman

    Another small tip. Me + Barry have a no nagging after 10pm policy because that’s when I start to obsess about everything and become very harassing. So after 10, no cancer talk. Can you do it?

  11. Leanne

    JODI — That’s a good one! No cancer talk after 10PM! I am going to try it — I think it can be done!

    MOMOF3 — I envy you and all people with faith, I really do. In particular I envy the kind of comfort that there is to be found in certainty about what happens to us, particularly religions like Christianity that believe we will be reunited with our loved ones. I wish I could say I had that conviction, but I do accept prayers from anyone, of any religion, at any time!!

    And again thanks everyone for all the book reccos!


  12. Lisa B.

    Well, I’m just glad that if God was going to send you cancer, at least he also sent you an amazing husband to help you through it. The cancer really, really sucks but your hubby sounds great. (And The Glass Castle is an awesome book.)

  13. Lisa

    Hi Leanne,

    I just discovered your blog tonight…can’t believe I didn’t find it sooner. I’ve been living with metastatic breast cancer for almost ten years. I was diagnosed metastatic when a vertebra in my neck collapsed. I went to hell and back, but came out of it and have lived with stable disease thanks to Herceptin.

    I REALLY understand what you’re talking about with regard to thoughts of death and other dark thoughts at night. At night, laying in bed is THE WORST time of all….that’s when our brain starts to wander and we just can not get those cancer thoughts. And of course the last thing we can do is fall asleep! I swear it’s like laying there watching little clips from movies in my head…flashes of my life, the people in it, and how my disease is affecting them. Wondering how difficult my funeral will be for my family and friends, and mostly worrying about my husband being left alone. If the situation were reversed I would be a basket case. I don’t know how he appears to stay strong for me because I know that deep down inside he is frightened beyond comprehension. Nothing I can say will make it better or easier for him and he doesn’t want to worry me by discussing it. Luckily he DOES have a sense of humour after all these years. In fact, his nickname for me when I’m panicking and worrying about my cancer is G.R. (Grim Reaper!). It took a LONG time for him to get used to me talking about death so openly and making jokes about my own death (“well, at least if the cancer kills me the house will be paid for!”). It was just too sensitive for him and I had to try and keep it to myself a little bit more. Those of us living with metastatic disease have what I call a “macabre cancer-sense of humour” that we find HILARIOUS but others may find horrible. I can truly appreciate every word you’ve written about your fears/worries and all the other cancer-crap that goes through your mind. I started blogging about it approximately a little over a year ago I think and I find that I write the most when I’m upset about something. Writing is such great therapy.

    All the best to you in your fight. You are working so hard with the clinical trials stuff…I’m blown away! I don’t find it boring at all because I will most likely have to investigate this myself at some point.

    I’ll be a regular reader from now on and will be putting a link to your blog on my website so others can read it too. There are a lot of us “Canadian Metsters” out there…we just have to find each other!

  14. erica johnson

    hi leanne,

    i’m not a religious person, but i am spiritual. i don’t know if you are open to spiritual kind of talk, but since you are being faced with the possibility of leaving this world, i want to remind you that YOU ARE NOT YOUR BODY. it’s true, the body will die, all of us die eventually, but the spirit cannot die. it goes on and continues it’s journey. there have been many many books written about people from all sorts of backgrounds who’ve had near death experiences who’ve come back to life and said it was the most profoundly uplifting, peaceful, joyous, experience of absolute LOVE that they’ve ever had, so much that no one wanted to come back. but it wasn’t their time. who knows when your time is, what your soul’s contract is to experience in this life? but whatever it is, know that you cannot die. a flower seems to die in the winter, but it’s just sleeping only to awaken again in the spring. i’ve read somewhere that death is like coming out of a movie theatre, where you were like wow, that was the most engrossing movie ever! life is a movie! and death is only sad for the people around us, but for the one who dies it’s a complete experience of dissolving all feelings of separation, of truly coming home.

    i say all of this just to help remove the fear of death. you are spirit living in a temporary home which is your body. remember that.

    sending you love,


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