If you’re a follower of Mb4M and my journey here, you’ve also come across stories I’ve told about my daughter, Joli. She is my inspiration, my strength, my rock, and my angel. We tend to fight a lot – mostly because we are exactly like one another – and frustrate the heck out of one another. She makes me nutty with her shyness, her excitement for everything, and her over-extending kindness. She is mature and yet silly, wise and yet clueless, vulnerable and yet stoic. The very things I love about her also make me want to scream; I’m looking at myself each and every day.
Today, I told my boss that I officially will be out as of November 17th.
“Okay, Liza. So, are you telling people about this surgery at all or is this a private thing?”
I chuckled. “Uh, do you NOT read my blog?” I said in my best snobby and yet sassy tone.
He just stared at me. Blogging? No. My boss still uses a paper calendar. (He’s also one of the most incredible, wonderful and outstanding mentors I have ever had.)
“Yeah, it’s not a secret. I might have told a few folks….” (since January 19, 2010, this blog has had over 12,000 hits — wink! wink!)
I can’t imagine going through this experience alone. While many of you have commented that you’ve enjoyed the honesty, cried with me, laughed with me, and some of you ran with me, I couldn’t have done any of this without you. It’s been so freeing being able to just walk around campus, open my email, read Mb4M comments, show up at conferences or meetings and exchange a knowing look from someone in the room: “You okay, Liza?”
“Yeah, I’ll be alright. Good days and bad days, you know?”
The past two days have been much harder than I ever could have imagined. Yesterday, I actually had to come home for an hour (don’t worry, I still worked from 9am-9pm) just so I could decompress. It was exhausting putting on the “brave face” and I found myself completely wiped out by noon. I still had 9 hours left at work, and knew I just couldn’t make it without taking an emotional break. So, I drove home, turned on the television, did some laundry, and just sat. Surprisingly, that was all I needed. I didn’t cry. I didn’t crawl under the covers. I didn’t bury my face in a pint of ice cream. I just needed to not be brave for an hour. Then, back to work and just fine.
When Joli told me, at the start of school, that she did not want any of the kids to know she had cancer or a prosthetic eye, I felt really sad. I honored her request, and I felt a little part of me sink. I didn’t want her to go through this alone. I didn’t want her to hide her emotions, didn’t want her to pretend she wasn’t hurt. I didn’t want her to always be brave. I wanted her to embrace that she can be both different and fit in, at the same time. And, because I have been thrown into being so open about all this BrCA stuff, I was hoping it would rub off on her.
Today, when I drove her to school, Joli decided to bust out this statement, “So, Mom, just so you know. I told my class about my cancer and my special eye.”
Driving. I braked so hard my handbag was thrown from the passenger seat to the floor.
“Oh, Joli. You’ve GOT to tell me more!”
Turns out the kids were reading a book about differences and feelings, and her lovely teacher had the students do an exercise about a time they felt different. Joli said one little girl talked about when her uncle was shot. Another child told about a divorce. So, Joli felt safe talking about her cancer. She told the kids that “she is different, and that different is okay.” She said the other kids thought her prosthetic eye was “really cool” and when they asked her questions, she just, you know, answered them. They asked the usual: “Can you take it out?” and “Can you see?” and “What does it feel like?” Thanks to the preparation she’s had teaching Prof. Barry’s cancer class, Joli was already an expert in all of this!
Joli is my inspiration. She has been talking about her cancer for years now. She has been talking about her struggles, her journey, and her feelings. It only just occurred to me — she is the original blogger.
“Joli, how did it feel to be so honest, to tell kids about what you went through.”
“That’s easy, Mommy. It just felt good.”
Peace, love and honesty,