It was on an April 1 that I received my first chemo treatment. I got a chance.
On April 1, this week, my cousin Glenny — who I wrote about two weeks ago — died of metastatic BC. She did not get her chance.
I know we talk about breast cancer awareness and how we have enough of it here in the U.S. But it isn’t the same for developing countries like where I was born, the Dominican Republic. There is still a lot of ignorance about cancer.
I have a strong family history of breast cancer. Yet my cousin, Glenny, still did not check the lump she noticed years ago. She did not get checked until only a couple of months ago, until her symptoms appeared.
Why wait so long?
I know there are many reasons why people wait: fear, ignorance, denial, lack of health insurance, lack of resources. I get that.
Glenny had the health insurance and the access to information and resources though.
I am speaking out of selfishness and frustration when I ask, “Why wait so long?” I want my cousin here with us. I am not judging her for choosing how she lived her life. Ultimately, it is our own decision how we choose to be treated for our health. But I am judging the system, the culture, the medical teams, and in some way, I am judging us, my family and me. (Yes, I am still dealing with guilt.) I know we can’t make others take care of themselves. I am aware we can’t control what others do. And we will never know why she waited so long to see a doctor and be tested. She must have known about all the cancer diagnoses in her family these past few years. But I am still hurt we didn’t push harder. I also feel sad she didn’t ask for help. There would have been support, from people like me. She deserved a chance.
Fear is something we all experience at one point of another. I am scared at every doctor’s appt. I don’t find any pleasure when seeing my doctors; I doubt that any woman does, really. But, the thought of not checking my health scares me even more. But that’s ME, and I need to accept that not everyone feels the same way, right?
Yes, I received my first chemo infusion on an April 1. While the nurse was inserting the needle in my left arm to administer the chemo I was hoping it was all a joke. Even as I felt the first chemo travel through my veins, I wanted to keep some sense of denial, but that didn’t last for long. It was no joke.
When I received the news that my cousin had died this week, also on April 1, I wished it could have been an April Fool’s joke. But no one would joke about such things, and the news hit me without any sense of denial. Receiving the news on the same date I received my first chemo brought, once again, conflicts of guilt. I received a chance to go into remission. Glenny instead lost her chance. And those tests that she waited too long to do? We are still waiting to receive the results for some of them. This is the medical system we have in developing countries.
My heart is heavy for our family.
I have so many wonderful childhood memories of Glenny and her family. But the one memory I will cherish forever is our last conversation, the one I wrote about in March. It felt like nothing really had changed— that we were back in her backyard searching for ripe mangos. She even called me by my middle name when we last spoke, “Manoella,” she said. Something no one else has done for over 20 years.
RIP to one of my childhood treasures, my cousin Glenny.
“The Promise” by Tracy Chapman
Fear has made me want to delay doc appointments, even tho’ I “know” better. So as obvious as it may seem to go get things checked out, denial is sooooo strong…
You are so right about the Big D. I have been a victim of it myself. Glenny was a victim too. My Onco has not done a pet scan for me because she feels it doesn’t need to be done yet. I have moments when I think I should have one. Then I invite the Big D over for coffee, then dinner, then he sleeps over. You know the rest.
Thank you for your words. xo
I’m so sorry for your loss. I wish I had words of comfort but, alas, I’m not sure what I can say that would alleviate the hurt and sadness. I feel like I got to know Glenny just a little bit from your post and I will think of her today. You too are in my thoughts.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Carrie. xo
Sorry to hear about Glenny. There’s really no comfort but to remember her with love. Guilt? Can’t talk you out of that. We don’t think we will die and I’m not sure it is even denial for living beings to not ponder death. To imagine it seems almost false too. Theatrical maybe.
The night before my first heart operation the assistant surgeon came to my bed to tell me most people in my condition die. It wasn’t out of cruelty–just reality not to be withheld from an intelligent and realistic person. There was no way for me to work with this information. There’s no sense to death that can be processed or explained that makes any difference. And that includes knowing it FOR others.
I don’t think we can really “accept” death in any way that’s sensible. Death doesn’t fit, It’s just too wrong. Yet you aren’t a helpless person, so what will you do if this situation happens again?
You said the words correctly, Scott. Death just seems so wrong we refuse to accept it. I do think that if there was a way to accept mortality, things would be a lot easier for me. But like you said, there isn’t probably a way?
I am so glad you are still here with us. Thank you for your support. xo
I’m sorry about your cousin Glenny and your heavy heart.
Nancy, I appreciate your kind words. Thank you. xo
I am so sorry for Glenny’s death, may she rest in peace. You have a heavy load to carry right now.
(By the way, I’d like to add your blog to the list of breast cancer blogs on my site, if you agree.)
Thank you for your words. They mean a lot.
I would be honored if you add me to your list of blogs. Thank you. xo
I’ll add you today.
I’m sorry for the delay. I added your link just now. Please test it to make sure it works for you.
No reason to be sorry at all! Please take your time. I visited your page (and I hope I am linking your blog name to the right page – please test as well) but did not see my blog listed. Please direct me to the right web page. I know you were recently in the process of making changes. You can email me at email@example.com. Thank you for doing this.
Thank you. The link is perfect.
It’s got to be so painful to think perhaps her life would have been spared had she sought treatment sooner. We never know what is in someone else’s heart. So sorry for your loss.
Yes, that’s the part that hurts the most, knowing it could have been prevented.
Thank you for your kind words. xo
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