Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Sisterhood

I had lunch today with three other expatriate women who’ve had breast cancer. There were supposed to be two more, but one couldn’t make it because of work and the other was too sick after her chemo to join us. So that’s five expat women who’ve had breast cancer in the last few years that I know personally. And I know many more women here in Singapore as well as overseas -- maybe 30 in total now. It seems almost everyone I know has had breast cancer or knows someone who has.

Maybe it’s like when I was pregnant -- suddenly, I was seeing pregnant women everywhere, whereas before, I never noticed them. Having breast cancer is like being pregnant in another way -- it creates a sisterhood. When I was pregnant with Josie, I read dozens of books on pregnancy and infant care. I went to prenatal classes and regular doctor visits. I did research on the Internet and became an expert on babies and pregnancy. But the thing that helped me the most was talking to other women who’d had babies themselves. When my water broke, I didn’t call my doctor; I called my best friend who’d had two kids herself. Talking to my single, childless friends about what I was going through was distancing for me and boring for them.

Same with cancer. It was helpful, even fun, to talk about what I was going through with other women who’d had the same experiences. We traded tips on the best oncologists in Singapore. We compared notes on reconstruction options -- implants or back tissue? Maybe tummy tuck and boob job in one? And we can joke about our situation. Sometimes, I make a joke about my cancer or about dying and non-cancer people look uncomfortable or scold me for being so distasteful. Just like when I was pregnant. Pregnant women can joke with each other about the burps and farts that go along with carrying a baby. It’s pretty rude to talk about that stuff with the civilian population.

I’ve never been interested in support groups. When I was pregnant, I was asked to join a new mothers’ support group but I didn’t. After my cancer diagnosis, I made a few feeble attempts to join a breast cancer support group, but I figured it would just be a bunch of women sitting around getting emotional. I didn’t want that. I wanted information. The ladies I saw today are like me. We just want the best information available to give us the best chance of living as long as we can. And we all have young children so we can understand the additional stresses that go along with having cancer with young kids (Will I live long enough to see them through their teen years? Do I even WANT to? Ha ha.)

During our lunch, I got a phone call. It was from the mother of a girl in Josie’s school. She was calling from the hospital -- she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and had just had a lumpectomy. Eerie coincidence. Just as we were talking over lunch about how to help other breast cancer patients, along comes a newbie to Cancer World. I’m going to the hospital tomorrow to see her. She also has two young children, about the same ages as mine. She’s also under 40. I hope I can be of use to her. Something good has to come out of my cancer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it already has