Oliver: Sometimes life resembles B movie with plot twists

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

When a movie throws a lot of plot twists at a heroine, a lot of us say: “Really? This doesn’t happen in real life, does it?” We wonder what kind of sadist the screenwriter is.

Then again, we often just shrug, suspend our reality and enjoy the ride. After all, this is fiction. The heroine is an actress, able to move on to the next movie adventure.

Sadly, though, sometimes life is like a movie written by a sadistic screenwriter. Or at least that seems to be the case for the Oliver family.

Over the past few years, my husband and I have had my mother come live with us. She developed dementia, which finally contributed to her death last year. Then my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and I’ve related the many challenges that have come with that.

Now, it seems, we have yet another obstacle: I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I can’t make this stuff up. I’m no fiction writer.

In many ways I’m still trying to get my head around the whole situation. That’s probably because the lump on my breast was such a surprise. It was found in the middle of an unrelated health crisis.

For years, I’ve dealt with a different “female” issue. It became particularly troublesome, forcing an emergency doctor visit in late March. While there, the nurse practitioner found the lump.

Honestly I was so worried about problem No. 1 that this latest twist didn’t even fully register.

When I did think about it, I realized that it had been awhile since my last screening. After all, I had been busy caring for my mother and husband.

Sure, I had been diligent about self-exams, but I have dense breast tissue and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I have never once felt this lump in question, even after it had been found. Maybe this was a mistake, I reassured myself.

Then the mammogram and breast ultrasound confirmed that this wasn’t a mistake. There were two spots, one larger and one smaller, that looked “highly likely” for malignancy. As in, the smaller one might be a satellite of the bigger one, indicating a spreading cancer.

A subsequent biopsy determined that the smaller one was just a benign cyst. Unfortunately, the bigger one was cancer.

It seemed to take a long time to get a diagnosis; I had to wait nearly two weeks to get that initial mammogram. But now that I have one, I feel as if I’m on a roller coaster that just keeps picking up speed. Those who have been through this probably can relate.

The situation is fluid, and a plan for treatment is still being created.

Yet, here we are. Another plot twist in “The Oliver Chronicles.” Instead of just caregiving, now it will be caregiving with cancer.

In the meantime, I’m trying to stay positive, keep my sense of humor and lean more than ever on my faith. This, too, shall pass.

Sure, I could rage at how unfair all of this is. Haven’t I gone through enough? Yet, none of that does any good. It won’t take this away, and it won’t ease my husband’s fears.

This latest “movie” is only in the opening credits. We’ll just have to see how it turns out. But I’m hoping – and praying – for a happy ending.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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