Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ladies in waiting

The phrase "ladies in waiting" has been on my mind lately. I recently had a string of similar conversations with friends who a) are Jewish b) are in their 40s, and c) who have family members who had breast cancer. They all spoke of "waiting" or "anticipating" that breast cancer would happen to them someday, similar to how I used to feel before my diagnosis.

This is different from the kind of waiting that you do in the waiting room at the mammography center. There, you are with a group of women, all waiting for the results of their mammogram. The anxiety is palpable. Everyone is still clothed in one of those awful hospital gowns, the kind that never seem to stay closed. Either your breast is hanging out, or your shoulder, or your belly. Everyone is reading, or trying to read, or watching bad TV, or just sitting and looking miserable. Every now and then, the nurse calls out a name, and someone goes out of the room to learn their fate. That waiting is awful, but it's more of a group awfulness.

This waiting, that I'm describing, is a gnawing, anxious, personal waiting based on real experience. These women have seen the suffering, have experienced women who die from breast cancer. This is not theoretical. This is real. And they know that their chances of getting breast cancer are real.

This whole thing makes me sick.

It just isn't fair that so many of us have to sit around, living our lives with the terrible thought lurking in the back of our minds that we are at a very real risk for breast cancer, or another type of cancer. That we are just waiting for this to happen to us, and that there is a very real chance that it will.

It just sucks.

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