My husband and I are practicing for a talk together. We don’t always agree about what we should be saying. Sometimes he doesn’t seem to realize how brilliant and perfect every single one of my ideas is. He thinks he has better ideas.
What idiot came up with this plan that we should collaborate on a talk? I wonder. We’ve been married 38 years and we’ve never collaborated on anything before, aside from kids and life. Who thought this kind of professional collaboration was smart?
Oh, that’s right. It was my idea.
But he agreed to it, too, so there’s enough blame to splash around.
“You have all the best lines,” he grumbles.
“That’s because I’m the one who had cancer,” I point out.
We’re speaking about our experience with breast cancer at a gala fundraising brunch for the Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC). The brunch is Sunday, September 11, at the Long Center in downtown Austin, at 11 a.m.
The BCRC, which provides education, counseling, and support for breast cancer patients and survivors, was one of the first places I contacted when we moved from Dallas to Austin in 1997. It had only been two years since my diagnosis and a year since my treatments were concluded.
Everything was still fresh and raw then. Terror still swept over me, consumed me, turned me into someone I didn’t want to be, out of control and helpless. Our children were in high school and middle school, and I wondered whether I’d live to see them graduate from high school. I’d read, obsessively, about my odds of survival; at 10 years, I had a 40% chance of being alive.
I joined a survivors’ support group at the BCRC, with several other women. In so many ways, at that point in my life, they were the only people who understood me. Everybody else thought I was unscathed and healthy, a card-carrying member of the normal world, an average 47-year-old. They had no idea — and I would have died rather than tell them — how terrified and damaged I was. The women in my BCRC support group understood.
I have a photo of five of us close to the desk in my office. I think it’s from 1998 or ’99, at the BCRC brunch. We have our arms around one another and we’re smiling big for the camera — Alice Arndt, Martha Hale, Donna Meadows, me, Cindy Doran.
Thirteen or so years later, Donna and I are the only ones who are still alive. That’s what happens, too often, in cancer support groups. You draw support and love from a wonderful, but unnervingly fragile source. Maybe it’s that fragility that allows you to become so intimate so quickly, to skip the usual preliminaries of friendship. You benefit greatly from that quick, intense camaraderie, then you pay dearly for it, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
All of which is why my husband and I are speaking to benefit the BCRC. It helped save me when I needed it desperately.
And yeah, I’ve got the good lines. No matter how much he grumbles, my husband understands they belong with me.
(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)
You might want to read a somewhat related post by an irate survivor
“Terror still swept over me, consumed me, turned me into someone I didn’t want to be, out of control and helpless. Our children were in high school and middle school, and I wondered whether I’d live to see them graduate from high school. I’d read, obsessively, about my odds of survival; at 10 years, I had a 40% chance of being alive.”
Yes, that is exactly, exactly what happened to me, too. It was terrifying and consuming, and very, very unpleasant. Nobody tells you that the long fear of recurrence is by far the worst part. (That is, the worst unless you actually have a recurrence.) I’m coming up on the 20th anniversary of my dx, and I know damn well how lucky I am.
I’m betting Dr. P gets in some zingers, too.
That fear of recurrence is terrifying! A friend has had recurrence twice, the last about 10 years ago. More than 20 of us gather to walk and celebrate in an annual breast cancer awareness walk. Underneath is the prayer that she is with us for the next year and the next and the next.
I wish I could be there to hear both of you.
Break a leg Ruth- talk your son into videoing the proceedings. I would like to see you two
Like Anne, I wish I could hear it too. Please give us a full report, okay?
I think it is wonderful you’re doing a talk together. Break a leg! 🙂
This is so wonderful of you to do. And you deserve to have all the best lines.
You guys are going to be great. And, I guarantee he’ll sneak in a few shining moments too.
Wish I could be there with you to share the moment. I’ve shared so many other similar moments with you, from afar.
Glad you are doing it together. He sounds so sweet when you write about him here.
wish I were going to be there as well. the fragility of friendship — that stands out to me from what you’ve written. that, and of course I think Jamie will have interesting things to say too, even if you do have all the best lines…
Good luck tomorrow — I know you’ll be your wise, witty, wicked self. And even if he’s grumbling about you having the best lines, I think it’s lovely your hubbie is speaking on the podium with you.
I wonder if you saw the movie Toxic Bust? It was very powerful, showing all the young women who got breast cancer too early in life, as if there were a proper age. Is it 1 in 8 women today? I believe the increase in breast cancer has to do with the toxic chemicals in our environment. They act as estrogen mimics. I’m sure you will be great tomorrow. This epidemic should not be happening.
What a great opportunity to do this together…maybe you should think about writing a play – you know, a two person reading a la Love Letters, about this and more? Just thinkin/sayin’/suggestin’…
I think it’s great that you’re speaking and helping others get through it. And you definitely deserve the good lines.