Friday, January 15, 2016

Damaged Goods

My reaction surprises me.  I mean, I talk about breast cancer all the time.  I blog about it, obviously, so why can't I say it?  

And what's with the tears?

My husband and I are sitting in our insurance agent's office, of all places, discussing life insurance for him, when innocently enough, the agent turns to me and asks, "What about you?"

She has no idea of the floodgate she's unlocked.

Probably much too quickly, "I don't think I'm eligible," spills out.  And that's all I say.  Suddenly, that's all I can say.  I'm acutely aware if I say one more word, if I attempt to tell my story of the last six years...I'll cry. Tears are surging forward, already.

Thankfully, the agent is perceptive enough to let it go and doesn't push the issue.  She and my husband continue talking as I sink heavily into the chair, trying to disappear.  I eye the doorway planning my escape.  I just want out and all the while I'm shaken by my emotion--this sadness.  I never saw it coming.

On the verge of tears?  I'm not normally a crier.  The voice in my head asks, "What's the problem, here?"  "What's the big deal?"  As if I need to search for an answer.

I know the big deal.  The truth is there.

No one will ever insure me...I think.

Breast cancer, NED or not, knowing the facts as I do that 30% of all early stages will metastasize at any time...There might as well be a huge X on my shirt.  Dead girl walking.  Uninsurable and that's a shitty truth to admit.  And I'm sad.

Thirty percent may not sound like that much, that the odds may be in my favor, but I know that's naive.  Nearly everyone I've personally known with breast cancer, even the early stagers, were told it had metastasized and eventually died.  I don't have a lot of hope. I'm encouraged by the drive and determination of the blogosphere.  I'm glad the conversation is (to steal that term) changing, but will it accomplish the herculean task of curing breast cancer or at the very least, slow its progression?  I don't have the answer, only the fear.

And that question that started it all...still lingers in the air.

"What about you?"  She had asked.  Yeah, what about me?  That question isn't designed for damaged goods like me.

All the progress I'd made over the years, being able to talk about it, put my voice to it, live with it...It all goes out the window.  No wonder the tears come.  I feel them still, but I won't cry here.  I won't.  I envision my fate and how I'll handle it and that's not by crying in a drab insurance agent's office.  It takes everything not to let the tears fall.

I, actually, don't know for sure whether I'm eligible for life insurance.  Probably, if I pay a high enough premium, but in this moment I don't want to know.  I don't want hear how insurance conglomerates factor in breast cancer.  How they consider it.  Is there some sort of chart with breast cancer statistics?  Some line on which I'll land that determines my eligibility?

Thinking about it means accepting my husband will be yet one more single dad with two young sons to raise. Staying home with the boys is my job.  He goes to work everyday.  How would he manage it all?

A day doesn't go by that I don't imagine metastatic breast cancer finding me. Right now, I walk this sort of NED tightrope, balancing precariously over a cavernous world where, if I fall, I am no longer NED.  It seems to be a "when I fall" question, not "if I fall."

In the instant the agent asked those words, I knew these answers.  Life insurance probably is a good idea.  My husband can hire someone, some nanny, after I tumble into that cavern, never to be seen again.  This stranger can greet my boys when they get home from school or maybe my husband can be home then.  To be the one they see at the door...When they no longer see me.

How can there not be tears?

Have you been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and have life insurance?  Was it difficult to get insured?

 

6 comments:

  1. It's always lurking in the background, isn't it? Just sending you a big cyber hug right now. I do have life insurance through my job. I had it when I was diagnosed and still do. Insurance companies use complex actuarial formulae to calculate these things, so you might be surprised at how much less weight they'd give to the risk of recurrence or mets that we all live with. They go by different numbers than we do. Us? We go by something very different...not just numbers. xxoo, Kathi

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    1. Hi Kathi, very true. It is always lurking, waiting to pop out at any time and ruin everything. Thanks for commenting and using big words like complex actuarial formulae. :-) I knew there had to be something, but had no idea what it's called. You've made me feel better about it. Perhaps, I'll investigate. I can always call and no one will see me cry. Thank you, my friend.

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  2. Yes! Yes! and Yes! Hell yes. I get it. Every word you typed. Oh man. I've been thinking about this issue and wondering whether to put it out there in the blogosphere. Two instances brought this issue into my life recently: the meeting with the financial planner as we moved an investment from a previous job; and my recent knee replacement. The financial planner didn't know my cancer history, and I'm sure he was weirded out by my weirdness as he asked me questions about the long-term future. What's the right way to say, "I can't talk about it now because (1) I'm going to burst into tears and have a really ugly cry, and (2) I have ample reason to believe I won't be here in 30 years?" There's no good way to say that. The orthopedic surgeons with whom I consulted about the knee replacement talked about the lifespan of an artificial joint. At my young (well, young from their perspective) age, getting an artificial knee means a good chance of needing to replace the replacement in 20 years or so. Again, my internal conversation was along the lines of, "It really doesn't matter if the new knee lasts 20 or 30 years because cancer will get me long before that."

    I get it. I really get it. And I'm glad you blogged about it. I hope we are both wrong about our long-term futures.

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    1. Hi Nancy! Thank you for proving to me, I couldn't be the only one feeling this way. Sucks doesn't it and any one who hasn't been told they have cancer would never understand. That's why we're here! You should write about it, too. I'm sorry you had those experiences. Do you think it prepares us in some way? Maybe we'll be more aware next time we're in some similar situation. Or maybe it won't because it's just too sad. And that stinks. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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  3. Hi Stacey,
    Oh my, yes, how can there not be tears? That sort of says, or asks, it all. There have been more than a few times when I have willed myself to not cry (you might remember a few examples from my book in fact). I don't know if you are eligible either. But that isn't even the point really. It's more about the memories, thoughts and worries conversations like the one you and your husband had with the insurance agent that get jogged. Cancer is a mind changer for sure. Thank you for writing about a topic I've never seen blogged about before, but I know many of us have certainly thought about! Sometimes dear hubby and I joke about him outliving me and how the reverse is probably unlikely. Does that sound warped? It isn't really funny at all, of course, but probably true nonetheless. Great post. xo

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  4. Hi Nancy, you got it exactly, it's not insurance, but how cancer intrudes on everything. How we see the rest of our lives. The surprising thing was thinking I'd had a handle on such thoughts, but here they come barging in when I least expected it. I wrote about it because no one other than cancer survivors would understand. I'm surprised, but kind of happy, you haven't seen this topic before. I'm glad I could add something new that we all still deal with. And, I guess we never really know who will outlive who. I'm constantly worried something will happen to my husband since he commutes a long way every day to NYC and sometimes drives home very late at night, in all sorts of weather. Scary thoughts. Thank you for reading! xoxo

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