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Because I Have Cancer, That's Why

Mom to two little ones and mom.me contributor, Meredith C. Carroll will be sharing her experiences of her recent breast cancer diagnosis, imminent treatments and day-to-day living with the big "c" here on Mom's the Word. Please join us in supporting Meredith and wishing for the easiest path through this challenging journey she and her family are facing.

“I was going to bathe the girls tonight,” I said to my husband when he came home from work the other night. “But I didn’t. Because I have CANCER.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Can you change the baby’s diaper, by the way?” I asked him. “You know—with the CANCER, and all.”

I figure if I ever needed an excuse to do nothing, cancer is it.

RELATED: New Year, New Breast Cancer Diagnosis

If you’d asked me before my breast cancer diagnosis if there were degrees of tragedy as they apply to cancer, I would have stared at you blankly. Cancer is cancer, and cancer is calamity. Duh.

I have breast cancer, yes, but as far as breast cancer goes, and as far as I know before actually meeting with an oncologist and breast surgeon, the kind I have is the best kind to get (yippee). My perspective is sound: It’s going to be a horrendous, shitty and inconvenient year, but if all of those Web sites, doctors and experts are to be believed, the year will end and there will be another one. Many more of them.

Over the past year, I’ve watched a few dear friends struggle with and succumb to cancer and other assorted heartbreaks that no one should have to endure at any time. That’s why it seems selfish to ask anyone to cry, pray or even cook for me when most of how I’m feeling (at the moment, pre-surgery) is frightened and sorry for myself.

OK, maybe I’ve played the cancer card when the dishes are piled in the sink.

I have so much perspective, in fact, that despite the fact that I’m not a survivor yet, I already have survivor’s guilt simply knowing that I will survive. Of course survival is the goal. I will do everything I can to be around for as long as possible. To watch my kids grow up. To grow old with my husband. To keep seeing and doing and growing and laughing and drinking red wine (lots of it) and eating chocolate (milk, not dark, and lots of it). It’s why it wouldn’t even occur to me to keep my breasts even if I’m told by the breast surgeon that they can stay. The less breast I have, the fewer places the cancer can come back. Getting a best-of-the-worst diagnosis is the only kind I think I can handle.

In the short time since I was told the tissue removed from my breast during at the biopsy was malignant, I’ve talked to a number of breast cancer warriors, many of whom have encouraged me not to diminish what I’m going through. That has not convinced me 100 percent, however, that I need to ask for or receive help; but the few times I’ve allowed myself to go there, it has been when it comes time to bathe kids. OK, maybe I’ve played the cancer card when the dishes are piled in the sink. The reality is that after my surgery I won’t be able to do those things for a while anyway—you know, because of the CANCER. I may as well practice keeping my hands clean.

RELATED: Is It OK to Be Excited About My Mastectomy?

I’m keeping up with my daily exercise and my paid work. Twenty-four hours after my diagnosis I got an emergency email from one editor who asked me to pinch-hit for a vacationing writer. I was about to respond and claim CANCER, except before I hit “send,” I realized how disingenuous that would have been. I wasn’t diagnosed because I felt sick or even a lump. My cancer was found during my very first routine mammogram. Sure, I was overwhelmed and scared, but that wasn’t hampering my ability to think and type.

It’s almost as if I feel a responsibility to act accordingly given what I know now about my diagnosis—it’s not an aggressive cancer, so I can’t seek aggressive help from others. Still, it’s serious. So is dirty work, like baths, diapers and dishes. And that's why it can’t be all that wrong to not do them for a little while. You know, because CANCER.

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