The Actual Dance is a play that presents the events of the year 2000 from the point of view of the spouse of the woman going through breast cancer. From diagnosis to her life as a survivor, Susan Simon, my wife has endured. An unlikely survivor. The Actual Dance is the story of that experience from my perch. The husband. My reaction to Susan’s diagnosis in retrospect is not surprising, since both her mother and my mother died from metastasized breast cancer. In my mind, it never was going to end well. This the 4th year of my October daily blogs, my focus is a bit more on myself.
Single or Double: Susan and I are sitting in the room with the doctor when he tells us she needs a mastectomy. “I’m the one who asks about the other, the left breast. Clearly there is no way to know if there is any cancer in the left breast because in the right breast there wasn’t even a tumor, just cancer.”
That is the line in the play when the decision is made to have a double mastectomy, not a single. A recurring theme this year is to focus on my role – the other person in the room. In this instance, as has been often the case in our relationship, I jumped in and in effect “took over.” Of course, we were going to have the double! The surgeon of course helped out by agreeing before Susan could react that a double was the medically appropriate (though not required) step. The question this provokes as I write this year is what exactly should I have done that day? What was my appropriate role in the “Big Decisions” – and there would be many more to come. At that moment I did not think. I jumped right in because I was afraid and I thought I knew what was right. Susan’s agreement I later understand is about her point of view: Do whatever increases my survival odds.
We know that since that time – about 18 years – medical knowledge and treatments in breast cancer have changed dramatically. Of course, the roles of those “in the room” continue to be complicated.
Stat of the Day: More and more women are opting for mastectomy procedures, and the number of women opting for a double mastectomy had tripled between 2005 and 20013, the most recent available data shows.
Task of the Day: Start the conversation. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So guys – start the conversation. Talk about the “what ifs.” In the process, perhaps you can give a feel and see what her normal feels like! Could be make for a fun evening.
Resource of the Day: Check out this great article about the role of the husband in breast cancer.
The Actual Dance: Performances. Donate.