My Cancer Book, Part One | Keeping Track of My Breast Cancer


That Friday afternoon I found out that I had cancer.  By Saturday, I was already making lists.  I’m a list-maker and a note-taker. They keep me focused, on track.  Even if I lose my grocery list, merely the act of making the list focuses my shopping trip.  Tuesday, I had a diagnostic mammogram and the MRI that taught me the value of a pair of stretchy pants and a Xanax.

After wrapping up my morning in the women’s health center, Sally and I headed out shopping.  I’m sure we stopped at Blue Mercury because, well, it was right there, and who doesn’t love to look at pretty makeup? And then we hit the rest of the shops in Clarendon in search of a notebook.

I’ve always been a note-taker.  I can remember taking notes in high school, when the teacher’s pace was too slow for me.  I had these special felt tip pens– in red and black– which I used to take painstakingly take notes, perfecting my penmanship to fill the silence while my teacher paused to let everyone catch up.  Graduate school taught me to keep a very tidy scientific notebook, carefully tracking experiments with very specific timetables and many steps.  I would frequently map out my day to five and ten minute intervals to be sure that I didn’t miss an important step or seminar.

When it came to my cancer, I knew that I needed a notebook.  I had a few qualifications.  First and foremost, it could not be pink.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  There would be no pink.  The next most important thing: it must be spiral bound.  I am a voracious note-taker, and it’s hard to write things down quickly, neatly, correctly in a bound journal that won’t lay flat or let me flip around the used pages to take notes while holding it in my lap.  This particular requirement nearly drove Sally nuts as we shopped.  She is an artist, she studied graphic design. She loves pretty things.  I wanted a lovely notebook, but I needed a spiral bound notebook.  (That had no pink.)  Sally showed me so many lovely journals at The Container Store and Papyrus. They really were lovely, but they weren’t spiral bound. I left Clarendon empty-handed and Sally headed home to pick up her kiddos from school.  I hit every other shop I could think of before I had to leave for the bus stop.  I was hopeful heading into Barnes and Noble, but struck out.  Discouraged, I stopped in Michael’s to fill my final fifteen minutes, and I headed to the sketch books. I found it!  Not a lovely floral or geometric print. Just an understated navy cloth covering, but it was spiral bound.  The paper, while unlined, was a luxurious, heavy stock.  Even better, this book had two features I didn’t know that I should have been looking for: a pocket and a magnetic flap closure.  In that pocket, I could stick any papers from my appointments until I filed them at home.  I kept prescriptions and orders for tests in that pocket so I would have them when I needed them.  The best thing in that pocket? Favorite pictures of my kiddos and family, so that I could be a proud mama and show them off anytime a doctor or nurse asked about my kiddos.  The magnetic flap closure held all those pictures and important papers securely inside.

Stay tuned– up next I’ll give you a glimpse into how I filled (and continue to fill) those heavy, thick pages.

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