Not that Crying Game, a different one this time. Although I have been doing really well, I know that I’ve been through a lot and have a lot of surgery and adjustments still to come. Some of the most difficult times in my life have been after weathering stressful life circumstances rather than during. Because of this, I started going to therapy with a psychologist who has a lot of experience with people with serious medical conditions. I’ve had two sessions and now we have about a month break because she is having a major surgery. (She’s okay, just taking care of a chronic health issue.)

When I last saw her, she challenged me a bit. I had told her that I wanted to make sure I grieved and processed my experience so that I could remain healthy rather than getting depressed or super anxious later. She agreed with my goal but also said that the way to do this may not fit comfortably with my active coping style. She said, “It’s probably going to mean crying a lot.” She later said something along the lines of “How screwed up is it that you got cancer.” My reply was something like, “Well, I know you want me to cry (she started laughing at this point), but I know that bad things happen. I have so many things in life that have been wonderful. On the balance, I don’t feel like my life has been unfair.” She also challenged me to consider a “worst case scenario” future in which my cognitive functioning (my memory and stuff, which has been a struggle lately) never came back to where it was before and how that might impact my identity, especially related to my family (since I am in charge of remembering everything) and my work. (I don’t think she really meant “worst case” because there are way worse outcomes with cancer.)

On the one hand, if it turns out that I am unintentionally keeping myself from thinking the difficult thoughts and feeling the bad feelings, this is a good line for her to follow. On the other hand, I have worked hard in my life not to “borrow trouble”, not to ruminate on what “might be” when I can’t do anything but wait and see what happens. To me, if my mind does not totally come back due to the impact of stress or medication side effects, I can deal with it when and if the time comes. Further, I like the way I feel now. I like having a positive attitude. I like being funny. I like smiling at people and they smile back. I like the reasonable part of my mind that keeps me from getting overwhelmed with my catch phrases like, “patience persistence peace” and “almost every problem has a solution.”

My therapist says that a common challenge among breast cancer survivors is how cancer impacts their identity. I have certainly thought about this and continue to do so. How does my having a serious illness impact my identity as a strong and healthy person? How does losing a breast impact my identity as a woman? How does trusting others to take care of me impact my identity as a self-reliant nurturer? How does cancer impact my identity as a wife and mom? I have had many tests to my identity in the past that seemed a lot harder than this. Maybe I am kidding myself. I have a voice in my head and heart that says, “I know who I am. I am not completely defined by what happens to me. There is a core me that doesn’t change.”

Then again if my identity is so strong, it surely will not crumble if I challenge it. So here is my plan. Since I am one of those people who cries at movies and books, I am going to do some cancer reading. I’ve done some but it has all been medical stuff to help me make good decisions and know more about breast cancer as well as it’s treatment. I mean that I’m going to read some breast cancer memoirs. I’ve chosen a group of books and loaded free samples on my Kindle. Some of the authors lived and others did not. We’ll see what this reading dredges up for me.

As for my other goals, I still plan to get those going. I started taking walking breaks last week at work and will continue to do so this week. I am continuing Weight Watchers and regular massage. I am also in the process of scheduling an initial consultation with a naturopath who specializes in oncology. I want to make more consistent use of mindfulness meditation practices so I have downloaded an 8 week mindfulness course for cancer patients onto my Kindle and will follow it.

Let the games begin.