Guest Blogs

“Lemons and Lemonade”

Being treated for breast cancer is highlighting one of ADHD’s unlikely gifts: resilience and the ability to handle constant change.

There is never a dull moment here in ADHD-land. When things get too, dare I say boring, fireworks emerge. The newest crisis, or “challenge,” is the lump I discovered in my left breast. Up until now my problems and crises have related to the emotional seesaw of ADHD, to trying out various remedies to control the symptoms, to struggling to get loved ones to see my invisible disorder.

The latest problem marks the first major milestone in bodily health-related crises. Two weeks after finding the lump, I swiftly received the diagnosis that the lump was of the evil sort – early cancer, the doctor said matter-of-factly – although the good news is that the serial killer has not spread beyond the lump. The bad news is, to lower the probability of its return I’ve been sentenced to a round of radiation therapy. I’ve won the jackpot, I thought with a laugh.

As a stroke of good news, though, one ADHD trait has proven to be lifesaving. Used to crisis and constant change, I did not unravel. Instead I went into action. When thrown off the horse, I dusted myself off and got back on. There is a word that describes all of this: resilience.

In a week I’ve seen a breast surgeon and gotten the lump removed, and swallowed my sentence, sometimes with humor while other times collapsing into the darkest of abysses. A queue of friends – dozens, many who do not know about my struggle with ADHD – came to visit at the hospital bearing goodies from Starbucks, stuffed animals, flowers, and words of comfort.

The friends have been emailing me inspirational sayings, religious or spiritual, wisdom from Ben Franklin or celebrities. It got me thinking that when disease is visible, it’s easy to find understanding, sympathy, empathy, and a genuine curiosity about the disease at hand. It’s the kind of reaction from others I’d always hoped to get for ADHD, but know I never really will.

After I left the hospital, a good friend wrote me that he was stunned when hearing my news, but that he knew I was “strong physically and had a strong spirit.” I wanted to laugh and tell him that I’d been hit with other lemons before in life – this was certainly not the first, although it is the closest I’ve come to facing a matter of life and death. The sister had the best response to the new rollercoaster in my life: “Squeeze the lemons even harder and you’ll get more lemonade.”