Now that I’m on Grouchy Day #5, I finally realized that something must be going on in my psyche. Typically my grouchy days come one at a time and last maybe a day and a half – at the most.
So what is it that’s bugging me??
What has me feeling ready to cry at almost anything, that has me irritated with at least half the drivers on the road, that tells me to avoid people and sleep or watch TV all day, that’s waking me up too early in the morning or making me sleep too late into the day?
After some reflection, I realized that it’s the upcoming anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis three years ago. Often when I feel something but can’t pinpoint it, it’s connected with an anniversary.
The time of year seems to serve as a reminder to my psyche.
It’s August. Summer is winding down. The leaves and grasses are beginning to turn yellow or red or rust. The angle of the sun is changing.
And I’m reminded of three years ago.
That’s where the “denial” of my title comes in.
I had a burning pain in my left breast, deep within, near the breast wall. It had started probably in late May. The pain felt a lot like cysts had felt in the past. I knew about cysts, had had several, had had a couple of them aspirated. This was surely another one of those. The pain in this one wasn’t constant. It would come and go. Sometimes I wouldn’t notice it for days or a week. Sometimes the other breast would have similar pain. I’d had a mammogram in November, less than a year ago.
So my logical brain told me that this was just another cyst.
But underneath, my intuitive brain told me the truth. That this was something different.
That this was cancer.
But that was way too scary. So I let denial team up with my logical brain and tell myself that this pain, this slightly-different-from-the-usual-cyst pain was normal, that it was nothing to worry about.
But as August turned toward September, it got tougher and tougher for me actually to believe my logical brain – which was working in cahoots with denial.
Two days before I found the tumor I turned over in bed on a Monday morning, and I felt a distinct pain where I’d been having that burning pain off and on for two or three months. But I opted for denial once again and put it out of my mind.
There was an undercurrent, though, one that said, “This is cancer. You know this is cancer. You need to do something.”
But I waited. As I’d been doing from late May until now. I waited.
That is – until Wednesday evening. That night something beyond me, something greater than me, something that was a part of me and not a part of me, all at once – that Something made me check that place to see anything felt amiss to my touch.
And sure enough, I felt a lump way, waaay back in my breast, kind of underneath, back by my ribcage.
My world tilted. Fear seared me. I broke into a sweat. I was panicked.
I have no idea how I slept that night. Because I knew.
The next few days are mostly a blur. Phone calls, doctor appointment, no it’s not a cyst, it won’t aspirate, go for a mammogram right now, have an ultrasound, now a biopsy.
Reading the faces of the doc and technician and between the lines of what they were saying, I knew the truth. Denial wasn’t much help now.
After the long Labor Day Weekend, I got my answer.
Yes, it’s cancer.
Those memories, those feelings that were searing then numbing my body and psyche, that’s what I think I’m feeling now this August these three years later. That’s what’s making me grouchy. Those memories. Because underneath grouchy is usually something bigger and more profound.
Even though I had successful treatment and am pretty much living my life as I did pre-cancer (except for tiredness that lingers), even though I am so very, very grateful, I think this time of year is bringing those feelings back to me on some deep level.
And my acknowledgment of my grouchiness is helping me to look at my tendency toward denial. How if something seems bad, I just want it to go away. Not just cancer or other health problems or things in the physical world, but my bad traits as well.
It’s easier to deny and ignore.
Or it seems easier.
But ultimately, it’s not. And I know that.
Sometimes, though, I’m just a coward.
Luckily for me, that Something bigger than me, that Something beyond me . . . . it made me check for a tumor three years ago.
Intuition trumped denial.
So . . . . what brings intuition?
To use Christian terms, I supposed I’d say it’s the Holy Spirit. It’s that which is beyond us but that which works through us. I don’t know that I have the language, the words to describe or explain it. But I know it. And it helps me to know, too.
And, thank God, that Wednesday it took hold of me, took over, and made me confront my fears.
Yes, I still tend toward the path of denial. But I’m trying to change, to overcome fear, to find bravery within.
And I’m relieved to I know that if I can’t, if cowardice is winning, if denial has me in its hold . . . . well, then intuition will step in and take over.
Just as it did three years ago when it saved me from a much harder cancer journey.
So today my grouchy self, with its tendency to denial, is grateful for intuition that’s powerful enough to grab me by the scruff of my neck and say, “Wake up!”
Okay, okay, I’m waking up . . . . at least somewhat.
Oh, and thank you, Intuition, the Something that wouldn’t let me go on in denial.
Ceiling of the Alabama Theater in Birmingham, where I was a few days before my diagnosis