THE BLOG
01/17/2014 11:41 am ET Updated Mar 18, 2014

Arrested By Cancer

Someone I know described his cancer as being mugged, but that's his metaphor. "Arrested" seems right for me, because it's a kind of stopping, being stopped in one's tracks, it's like "arrested" as in arrested development and it's like the cops came to say time is up, up for something, stopped for something.

I've written recently about feeling "it couldn't happen to me" as pertaining to HIV/AIDS as also related to the film Dallas Buyers Club. I did so while beginning to deal with cancer on a personal level, but still I was writing about a condition not mine, while it's true I was writing about all kinds of things we never felt could or would happen to us.

It's different when it strikes, when it strikes close to home, specifically in your own body --in my own body, in my life with no distance between me and it. "It" in my case is breast cancer, stage some form of two, where it's moved to from stage one, which is prettier given the choice. Since I have been very much in favor of surprise and being open to learning from and about ourselves along our paths, I have to say I recognize something I wouldn't have predicted -- a dread and terror that are like gale force winds that go through me without words attachable to their speed.

They stop for the "what ifs," the why of it and the how can it be, the fact that I'm finishing up my own book and the timing sucks but that there is no good timing, and what will I do about my hair. Hair, a potentially trite topic which is trite to just about no woman who is honest, unless baldness has become a fad and it hardly does that at all when there is any shame attached to a phenomenon. Unless ("unless" being an apparently all too common word these days, at least in my case) it's the opposing force and side of shame and it becomes a flaunting, a daring to the world, a loud and vibrant affirmation of, "I am woman, hear me roar, but even more see me roar with my shorn hair that I wear proudly or at least out loud".

And there it is again, the peer pressure, the inner voices that sing in screeching harmonies, that clash with anything resembling softness and delicateness. A wig, that's not me, who's kidding whom, I am a scarf person. But really? Probably not, even though I want to be that or even better to be someone who could embrace a shiny head that is mine. But truth is truth, and the truth I want to be mine doesn't necessarily show up as that. So I'll have to see, and be as true to me as I can, and basta.

Since I'm writing about this you might ascertain I want attention about it and that's not completely off base either. I hardly want to march and shout about it, but I don't want to keep it a secret. I don't want to burden people who would be burdened and nothing but that, and not help me or be helped to be close to themselves and to me as well. Since my clinical work is limited now to a few people who already know about this, I am not worried about losing a practice and given who I am I'd probably opt with most people to share since the obvious -- a wig or a scarf covering baldness would say too much without the words. I can function as a therapist, and I can write, in fact I am.

What I do feel is that there is an irony to finishing up a book about feelings in the raw to the sounds of cancer while feeling I don't want to hide it. If anything I want it to be part of my cv, my topics of awareness, of my personal being and in spurts even of my humor. I want to humanize it that much, even if the baldness thing is too much drama and too stark for me at least at the moment. Wow, cancer good for publicity, that's kind of sick and probably not even true, though it doesn't have to be the death sentence it used to be, given the plethora of traditional, new and innovative and alternative treatments -- even if I'm not ready for the gurus of totality of one direction only, either.

The nutritionist who says she has never had a mammogram and never will since doctors only want to find tumors, isn't my friend, also because she judges my choices and my choice cannot be to ignore a diagnosis and eat roots and raw vegetables as substitutes for chemotherapy. I can do complementary but not unilaterally, and what is more I don't like the judgment, but then I don't like judgment or blame in general. I don't think we learn from harshness, but some people thrive on that smarmy smugness that I have been no stranger to either. Now I long more for the emotional correctness talked about by Sally Kohn on Fox and my way of getting there starts with my being honest about me and my limitations as I also try to understand what common ground I have with the rest of the world.

And then on the personal level, at least for me, contact and sharing with other people has been important. It all matters, as it turns out, even if it's strange to be in anyone else's prayers given I can't in good conscience pray at all even if hope comes so near to that... a kind of praying if you will.

I realized some time ago that I write to share, to come out to play, as much as for anything else. This too is for that, for how I and we -- begin to learn and grow and survive the best we can -- sharing.