Hello everyone in the breast cancer world and beyond. Long time, no write! I hope you have all been doing well. I know I have not written in a while. But I have found that my life is revolving less and less around breast cancer. I still think about it all of the time, I still worry about it coming back, but largely, it is no longer consuming me. Writing here was my therapy. It still can be but I’m finding I don’t need it as much…until something happened recently.
I was having dinner with my son and I bumped into an old friend. It was wonderful to see him and to catch up on life. We hadn’t seen each other in many years. When it was time for us to say goodbye he suddenly asked, “So, is Oliver going to get a brother or a sister?” And then he winked. And without thinking I just replied, “No, because I had cancer five years ago. And because of treatment I can’t have anymore children. Chemo kills everything.”
He paused. His eyes widened. He had heard that I had cancer and immediately apologized, remembering that he knew that I had gone through that. And suddenly, I felt bad for shaming him.
I don’t know why I replied so curtly. Usually, when someone says that to me (usually some old man that I don’t know who is appalled that I’m not contributing to the overpopulation of this planet), I just smile politely and say, “this one keeps me busy enough,” or something pithy like that. But, for some reason that night the question, “is Oliver going to get a brother or sister” was like a stab right in the gut.
Largely, I have made peace with the fact that I can’t have another child naturally. I have decided that fertility treatment is not for me and my husband and I decided to make the best life we can for the family that we have rather than spending time and energy trying to grow it. I’m happy with that decision. But once in a while, still, when I see people growing their family, because they have that choice, I get jealous and angry all over again. That wound opens easily.
And recently, Oliver, who is almost 7 has been saying, “I wish I had a brother or a sister, but I understand why we can’t.” Or, “if you didn’t have cancer and chemo didn’t kill your eggs, would you have given me a brother or sister?” My heart breaks for him. He’s an only. An only child in the whole family. No siblings, no cousins, nothing. When we die, he’s literally the last one standing. I carry a lot of guilt around that.
And I know, family is not just blood. Family is what you make of it. But still…cancer has taken away from Oliver the family he could have had. And that’s not fair to him.
So, yeah. I’ve been dealing with that a lot lately. The guilt. The shame. And that interaction last week has brought it all back.
One step forward, two steps back.