I manage with a healthy dose of denial. Don’t waste too much of your day fretting over what is further down the pike. Just get through today, chin up, with an occasional look down so you know where the next foot is landing.
I knew this surgery was looming, and tried to brush off the cold feet feeling that started to creep up this last week. Sitting in my pre-op appointment waiting for the surgeon today, the feeling was nothing short of trepidation. The run of self-talk went from, “This is the home stretch girl –you got this!” to “It’s not too late to back out now. Leave well enough alone. So what if you’re uncomfortable and asymmetrical.”
What surprised me most was the deep well of feeling that reared up again while the surgeon pinched and prodded and drew his green marks on my skin. “You’ll always feel some discomfort and find some swelling when you use your right arm. That’s your new normal.” My surgeon then launched into his “everyone is asymmetrical” speech which I wasn’t sure was to make me feel better or him.
Joey later said my face screwed up, and it did. I fought back the surprise tears that reminded me of what was taken from me, the onslaught of procedures and chemo drugs that I endured. What a crazy freaking last year it has been.
I saw this early April surgery as a declaratory period at the end of a screwy sentence. Let’s fix this right breast and get feeling better, oh and while we’re at it, take out this port that I hope to never need again. Julian’s little head just bumps it all the time and it hurts to sleep on my side like I prefer to. I wasn’t prepared for a “well that’s just the way it is now” talk. How ironic is it that most of the sensation in my breast has been taken away, but what is left is discomfort and pain. It would be preferable to be completely numb I think.
Mostly I am grateful. The breast cancer was only on one side and even though the opposite side is the breast that didn’t heal right initially, and is the one that causes the most pain, I know I made the right choice in having a bilateral mastectomy. I know that if I can help it, I would never want to go through chemo again. I know that I would be constantly worried about developing cancer again, had I left any breast tissue. This is the hard cold reality of the triple-threat of having a BRCA 1 gene mutation, triple negative cancer and family history of breast cancer. An 85% chance of a new tumor is nothing to sneeze at. Even though I am still processing great loss, even though I am uncomfortable, even though I can’t lift and stretch and use my body in all the same old ways, I am still grateful.
I am here. I have lots more to learn and experience, to do and to love and to share. You can simultaneously feel gratitude and loss, appreciation and pain. Isn’t this life so perplexing and complicated and beautiful? The early spring in the northeast reflects my inner landscape. I have weathered so much, I feel muddled and battered …but underneath, just under the dirt there… there is a feeling of renewal, of reaching for the sun.