A Dash of Inappropriate Humor
Jana was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2018 after she felt the lump around mid-October. Aspiration indicated an intraductal carcinoma ER3+ PR2+. She had my op on Feb. 7 2019, double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. She's awaiting her six-month chemo schedule. Initially the lump was identified as stage 2 but pathology identified it as stage 3. She said she'll probably be bald on her 28th birthday. From Cape Town South Africa, she's nearly one year married and doesn't have children yet.
My story still does not feel like my story yet because it's all so surreal. I felt the lump in my left breast in October 2018. I was sitting on the floor at my coffee table in Cape Town, South Africa, marking high school English exams.
I have, not once, reacted with fear or anger, my natural response to everything has just been to handle it step by step, day by day. That must be thanks to strength I get from faith. I can understand how easy it would be to spiral into a pit of disastrous emotions.
I was 27 years old and just 6 months married when I felt the lump. At first they said that it wasn't cancerous, then they said that we could just do a lumpectomy, then they suggested a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction but said that chemo was off the table. I'm now waiting to receive my six-month chemo schedule having just finished a two-week process of egg cell freezing. The whole thing is just snow balling and I'm not sure what to make of it yet.
I'm hoping there are more people out there who are my age who still feel a little numb about the whole thing. I can't comprehend the idea that my life is at risk. I feel completely just like normal old me.
Because I feel so "normal" and somewhat numb about all these big medical words that get thrown at me I tend to have what some might call "the wrong response" in many situations.
For instance, after my operation, when the surgeon told me that the lump was stage 3, not stage 2 and that I would need chemo, I said: "awh, that's OK, I look cool in a beanie."
My mom and husband to either side of me were like: '... what the actual?!'
I don't really feel that blasé about chemo, I absolutely love my hair and eyebrows as much as the next woman.
Afterwards my mom asked me: "Jana, you know you're going to loose your hair, right? Aren't you scared?" My completely natural and unrehersed response was: "Mom, some days it's going to be terrible and some days it's going to be funny because I'm going to look like an egg, but that's not an issue right now, so it doesn't help me to worry about it." And that was the end of that.
The way that humor has helped me throughout my journey so far is through these silly, brave, blasé responses to very serious information.
Just about a week after surgery I slowly got into the pool with my husband, obviously I had on my plasters, bra and even an extra shirt, but it's still not a good idea to go swimming with reasonably open wounds. (Luckily they didn't get infected.) I was just yearning for some normalcy. I ask you, how could my family and friends reprimand me for my recklessness when they recieve a photograph of a soaked, smiling Jana accompanied by a text stating very proudly that: 'They don't float, Louis and I tried..." LOL
People keep telling me that I'm "so brave" and "such an inspiration" but I'm still a little lazy, still too critical of other people, still just plain old Jana, just dealing with all these things, as I encounter them, with a lot of ignorant positivity and a dash of (a slightly in appropriate) sense of humour.