The first slap

The first slap
This photo was taken the day after I was diagnosed, and it is my first bitch slap at cancer. I'm the one with the icepack symbolically placed on my boob. My teammates changed our team's uniform to pink at the last minute, and I came off the soccer field that night with one goal and a whole lot of love. Several of these women are my close friends, but they are all warriors, and they all helped me set the tone for this fight.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Waking up with cancer

The last couple of days have been difficult. I have felt weary, sad, and fearful, and I think it showed to those around me. I know my mom noticed, as did Craig. Part of this weariness has stemmed from the fact that every morning when I wake up, the first thought that enters my conscious mind has been, "Oh shit. I have cancer." And the pit in my stomach would promptly return. What has been even worse is waking up in the wee hours of the morning only to find the now familiar night demons egging my fears on, pushing my mind to wander to the worst. Worry and fear. Stomach pits. Tears.

Last night I was feeling this way: Physically and emotionally drained, and, quite simply, afraid. Mom reminded me that while it won't be easy, I will come out of this. She is right. And I believe her. But it also dawned on me that while the doctors, my family, and my friends are all optimistic, and vocally so, it had been a few days since I'd heard the words, "You're going to be okay" spoken to me by a doctor in that medically authoritative way that I need. (I am a doctor's daughter, after all!) My dad has provided me with these kinds of words in that kind of voice. But his are not just reassurances spoken with medical authority. They are comforting. They are Dr. Dad-medical-authority-I-love-you-and-you-will-be-fine-reassurances. They are powerful. I realized last night how much I need them, spoken in that "not only am I a doctor, but I love you" tone. Around the time I was thinking this last night, he texted me. Then he called me on FaceTime, and he gave me those words. I needed them so badly at that moment, and I think I will need them frequently in the days, weeks, and months to come, not just from Dad, but from others who know and love me and happen to know something about medical science and the human body.

I went to bed shortly after our conversation, and this morning, for the very first time since my diagnosis, my first thought when I woke up was not, "Oh shit. I have cancer." Instead, it was, "Today I'm going to beat the shit out of cancer." I couldn't believe it. Just realizing in the moment that my first thought was a different first thought was enough to make me smile as I tossed the covers aside and swung my legs off the bed. Keep in mind that cancer was still present in my first thought of the day. And that sucks. But the difference is that unlike every other morning for the past two and a half weeks, this morning it did not frame me. Instead, I framed it, and I did it in a bitch-slapping sort of way. Thanks, Dad.


  1. Reading your entry I can almost feel the fear and weariness that you describe. That pit-in-your-stomach sensation that often comes in the middle of the night/early morning when something in life is scary, sad and unknown is absolutely awful. Thank goodness for good people around us who can let us know that there are other options available. "Today I'm going to beat the shit out of cancer" is a fantastic and powerful choice to wake up to! I have to admit that I'm not any more worried about cancer getting you than I am about you getting in a car accident today (which may be more likely). Mostly I feel bad about all the junk you have to go through to get rid of cancer, it's terrible, but you'll get it done and you'll be fine! . . . and I know you are a good and careful driver:-) Cathrine

  2. How difficult these last two weeks have been, and what a roller coaster! The first week, each bit of new information was a little more scary. Patricia said “It’s time we caught a break", and she called it: in the second week, all the news – receptor analysis, PET CT, Dr. Hannah Linden’s analysis – was good. And when all the data are summed, I have no fear about the ultimate outcome; you will be cured. But the next several months will be hard, and my heart aches for what you will go through, not to mention Craig, Evan and Nate. At bottom, a dominant thought: within my power, I will not let anything bad happen to you.

    I'm not a breast cancer expert. If someone wants to avoid HIV, get chlamydia treated, or figure out how to speak to a partner about his herpes or HPV, I’m the man. But cancer in my vibrant, academically accomplished, athletic, socially cognizant, super-parent daughter? I'm a basket case.

    However, we basket cases – at least those of us who are type A and a little ADD – can actually function well when we analyze data and think objectively. And as a doctor I feel good, even when the dad in me worries. My orientation will undoubtedly fluctuate from dad to doctor and back again in the next few months. But when harder times come – chemo side effects, surgery, my own worries about your fears and anxieties – I’ll just put on my doctor hat, analyze the data, talk to the world’s top experts, translate what I learn to the dad side, and forward we will go.

    To quote the Nicaraguan poet and statesman Rubén Darío: “Más es mía el alba de oro!” (“But [no matter my current trials] the golden dawn is mine!”). As I said in the note with the flowers, all WILL be well.

    I love you more than I know how to say.

    Love – Dr. Dad

  3. Lara, you are so lucky to have Dr. Dad as your father! Some of his comments here really resonate with me as well. It is hard to stand by and see someone you love so much have to go through all this, knowing you can't do anything to change it. It's especially hard being so far away from you: I moved up my arrival date here because I couldn't stand not being able to see you and hug you in person (Skype doesn't cut it at times like these).

    At least Dr. Dad can be actively involved in your medical treatments and decisions, whereas I have to be content with mundane things like cleaning up dirty dishes and doing laundry. (Dr. Dad has helped me a lot, too, by explaining the medical aspects of your cancer and its treatment -- I appreciate that a lot!)

    Since I've been here, I have been so impressed with the way you and Craig have handled things, especially with the kids. There have been tears and anger, and there will be more of them before this is all over with and behind you, which it will be. But I am so in awe of the strength you've shown and the attitude you have. You are a real fighter and don't take this lying down. It made me recall the incident when we lived in Southern California and I went outside one day and found you and some of your friends earnestly engaged in a project involving red ants. It seems you had been bitten by red ants and weren't going to take that, so you decided to fight back and were on a mission to eliminate the culprits from your environment! I won't go into the details (which involved cement blocks and a magnifying glass), and I hope your friends who espouse animal rights will forgive you -- you were a young kid and didn't know any better -- but I feel like you have the same attitude towards your cancer: you're not going to take this crap from it and will zap it as much as it takes to get rid of it.

    As I told you on Thanksgiving, there has always been lots of laughter and humor in your household; but despite the horrific disease and treatments you are dealing with, you and the rest of your family have not lost that ability to laugh. Laughter may not be the "best medicine" as the old adage says -- you need the chemo and radiation and other treatments to zap that cancer -- but it can be an important aid in healing and dealing. I'm glad you still do it a lot. And I'm so proud of you in so many ways. Keep up that bitch-slapping!

    Love, Mom


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