Announcing to Extended Family: Onset of Anxiety

by Maggan

in Anxiety & Fear,Carcinogens,Family & Friends,Insurance,Mammogram


Sunday dinner with extended family: Sister- and brother-in-law celebrating the return of a lost son. He is now home after two years in Japan, teaching and one year in Vietnam, doing what? We are about to find out. Luke is sensitive, intelligent, and well-informed, I can’t wait to hear about his Asian adventures. Yet on the 10-minute car ride over to their house I feel restless and “antsy.”  My mind is pre-occupied with cancer.

After dinner, we linger around the long dining room table and contemplate Luke’s travel stories while we watch the candles burn down and  sip the last of the wine. I glance at Ellen’s enamel painting of the fruit blossoms, and wonder if the enamel- and paint fumes were what brought on the breast cancer that killed her. She left behind a middle school child and a high school student. I, if it comes to that, will leave behind three college educated, adult children, all gainfully employed with their own health-insurance, cars, and homes.

Still, I feel I have to tell everyone. It would be too awkward to call around the next day, or, God forbid, send a group email. I assume, my cancer announcement will no longer ruin the evening.

Every one reacts calmly and appropriately. They show concern, but don’t seem spooked. Nobody tries to gloss over or dismiss it. Even the family member who seems to most enjoy  “organ recitals” does not share her archive of maladies, not even those with favorable outcomes.

Yet, that night I feel anxious. I sleep poorly in a mix of sugar high from the dessert and the angst of what my diagnosis, now four days old, really means. I am awake at 2.30 A.M; I listen to the steam whistle blow as the train rumbles through the city of Smyrna, or was the train down in Vinings?  I am awake at 3.30 A.M, then again at 4.30 A.M. The alarm goes off at 5.30 A.M. and rescues me from my insomnia, but I am so exhausted I can barely toss the covers aside to climb out of bed.

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