“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind, Some come from ahead and some come from behind, But I’ve bought a big bat, I’m all ready you see, Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!” — Dr. Seuss
Obviously, if I’m writing this blog post, I made it through my surgery ok. Home now, grateful to be able to rest and do as I wish for the moment.
While in the hospital after my surgery, though, I realized I had gone even deeper into Cancer-land. The bilateral mastectomy had been completed, and I had the scars and pain to prove it. Although the hospital stay afterwards was necessary, I had an interesting and sometimes disturbing peek into what might lie ahead.
Minor Irritation to Exasperation
The hospital was Brazil-esque with the never-ending bureaucracy of the medical system and its often confusing hierarchy. Nurses and assistants would arrive to check my vitals and then seemingly disappear. I wondered if I had descended into some sort of medical Twilight Zone.
And when I did see a nurse or an assistant, it could be quite an interesting experience. One assistant sat next to me and slyly asked, “So, do you feel you’ve had a ‘great weight’ lifted from your chest?” Her double entendre wasn’t lost on me. When I refused to answer her question about my psychological reaction to my surgery, she went on to say, “I’ve seen women either rejoice after a bilateral mastectomy and want to burn their bras or cry about their lost breasts. I think I would want to rejoice and burn my bras.”
I am unsure about her motivations for this conversation; it could be that she wanted to comfort and encourage me. However, it felt too personal and inappropriate to me.
Frustrating interactions aside, I found some new reserves of strength within me during my hospital stay. Although I’ve been through numerous surgeries, this was the biggest and most serious, and I was full of anxiety about all of it. Sometimes, though, surviving those worst times in our lives are when we discover just how tough we can be.
As I became stronger physically, I would simply unplug my IV from the wall and do things myself. The nurses seemed surprised that I was able to get up and around on my own. I thought, “I may have cancer, but I’m not incapacitated. Plus this isn’t my first ride on the cancer merry-go-round.” Indeed, stubbornness can be a good thing in the hospital as it prompts you to recover quickly and regain independence.
Oh, and a sense of humor can help as well. One sleepless night I decided to be a Jedi. Waving my hand in front of the towel dispenser and thinking about the nurses and doctors, I said in my best Obi-Wan Kenobi voice, “This isn’t the cancer patient you’re looking for. She can go about her business. Move along, move along.” I wasn’t awarded with Jedi powers, but I did receive a towel for my efforts.
Most of All, Faith
When I was capable of doing so, I read from The Story and the devotional that I received from Compassion That Compels. At this point, I only had faith–and my small amount of strength–to keep going. I took things minute by minute, trying not to think or worry about the future. Sometimes all I could do during the most painful moments was simply say, “Jesus help me.”
Honestly, I don’t know. I’m still weak, tired, and hurting.
I don’t know anything more than I did before the surgery as the biopsy results have not yet been released. The surgeon thinks that it for sure has spread to at least one lymph node, but we will have to wait for the biopsy results to be certain. Nevertheless, it is still Stage 3.
Having Breast Cancer in our Culture
Some days I just want to crawl into a burrow when I am confronted with the appearance of my “new” self as well as its implications. What exactly are women who are fighting breast cancer supposed to think of articles like this? (And why is this on BuzzFeed Animals anyway?)
The terrible truth that most don’t want to accept is that cancer brings pain, both psychological and physical. Breast cancer isn’t fun or sexy. It is simply blood and pain and suffering, and for many women, death.
Although I am glad to have had a “good cancer”–as some people describe breast cancer–I am tired of trying to not only deal with this illness but also how society views this particular part of women’s bodies.
For someone like me who isn’t able to do reconstruction, it sometimes seems that I will never be a “woman” again. Living in this overly sexualized culture and redefining what it means to be a woman can be overwhelming at times. I’ve tended lately toward reading even more so that I can escape these questions for a bit.
Surviving Now, Hopefully Thriving Later On
At this point, I am just grateful to be able to rest and count those blessings that come my way each day. That’s about all I can handle at this point.