The Elephant in the Room

I didn’t know Elizabeth Edwards personally. I know that she was courageous and brave and that she wrote books just like I hope to do some day.  I didn’t pay too much attention to the drama with her political husband as it seemed like Tabloid fodder– a  steroidal version of local town gossip.  But I did pay attention to her cancer diagnosis.  Diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2004; recurrence in 2007; death in 2010.  This one hits close to home.

Every time I hear of someone passing from cancer I hold my breath while I ask ,”what kind?”. It is difficult to explain what happens inside me when I find out the diagnosis was breast cancer. Those who have had breast cancer understand. Those who don’t, I hope you never understand.

Yesterday as my husband was standing at the sink rinsing out coffee cups, I said to him,

“Did you hear about Eizabeth Edwards?”

“Who?” he said. “Oh right.  She died didn’t she?”

That’s when the elephant came out of the back room where he has been eating peanuts and staying out of everyone’s way. His giant ears perked up when he heard the words ‘breast cancer’, slowly he pushed himself off his back legs and lumbered into the kitchen where he sat–not so gracefully–between my husband and me.

No one mentions it because it’s silly really. I have beat the cancer, right?  No sense even comparing. But Elizabeth beat it too–so she thought, and 3 years later it returned. The elephant looked right at me when he heard that one.  My 3 year diagnosis anniversary is this Friday, we both know that. Then he takes out his tiny calculator, if I go the same way then I am looking at 3 more years from this point to live.  I will be 50.

While the elephant and I stared wide eyed at each other in silent panic, my husband continued to wash out cups. I am not sure he even noticed him sitting there as he turned and walked away.

This part of having cancer is not getting easier. This feeling of my mortality so close to the touch.  Last month I threw my hip out and was in some intense pain.  I was afraid that I had a stress fracture which would impede my running for a long time but I was more afraid that the cancer had returned and was settled in my hip bone.  When I mentioned that possibility to a friend, they looked at me like I was crazy.”Why would you think that?” they said.

“Why wouldn’t I?”

That’s what happened to Elizabeth and that’s one of the prime sites that breast cancer will metastasize to. They found a spot on her rib, her lung and her hip.  And once the cancer travels, well the outlook is grim.

I went in for an x-ray and discovered my hip problem was a tendon/muscle pull and although it’s still killing me, I am thanking God that it wasn’t what I suspected.

In a couple of days the elephant will return to the back room where he lives a quiet existence. I would like to release him and let him find somewhere else to live but he seems comfortable here for now.  Most of my friends and family don’t notice him at all when they visit.  I am the only one who knows he’s there–especially when it’s quiet in the house and there is no one around and I am left alone with my thoughts and fears.

About francesbarrie

Cancer survivor,mom,triathlete,writer,jewelry maker, baker. Staying happy and healthy,living life and enjoying it one moment at a time.
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4 Responses to The Elephant in the Room

  1. Don says:

    Once again, Frannie, you hit me in the gut. Thank you for explaining what news like that of Elizabeth Edwards means to you. I’ve been sad about her all day; I just liked her. Thanks also for hoping I never understand.

    Write your book.

    Love, Don

  2. Judy Haley says:

    yeah, every little ache and pain is suspect. And I think of her kids and look at my toddler daughter…

    My elephant needs a bath, he smells so bad I haven’t been able to forget about him. yet. Maybe with time…

  3. hollace rooney says:

    Hi Fran,

    I know the elephant – it’s with my mom and dad and even when he’s sitting on my mom’s lap she doesn’t see him. How does someone who doesn’t have an elephant support ones that do? Suggestions – what can someone say – I am torn between asking and ignoring – niether seems the right approach.

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