Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Laying It Down

Every February I get a letter from the breast cancer prevention program reminding me to call and book my yearly screening mammogram. With a strong family history of breast cancer it seems reasonable, no? I'd been bracing myself for this year's letter and when it came I stuck it to my fridge and said out loud, 'you fuckers.' You see, last February's mammogram culminated in radiologists deciding the cancerous lump was a cyst and I was free and clear until this year's check up.

Had it not been for the weight loss, which led to the CT scan, which led to the needle biopsy, which led to the surgeon ordering a breast MRI, who knows when the breast cancer would have been discovered. Had it not been for the surgeon ordering the breast MRI, before it was realized that my pathology report was mixed up with someone else's, and then deciding to go ahead with it anyway after the correct pathology report from my needle biopsy said there was no cancer, who knows how this would have played out. The needle biopsy missed the tumour completely. What a soap opera.

A day after I got the letter I saw my doctor. As we talked, and the mammogram letter came up, he listened to me and then said, "you seem to be in the angry phase." I so wanted to reply,  "let's just cut one of your balls off and see how you feel about that, okay?"

How long will it be before I stop cupping my hand over the place where my breast was and mourn its absence? Two days after my mastectomy, as I stepped onto the mat that triggered the automatic exit door of the hospital, I felt my body hesitate. My right breast was somewhere in the building and for a moment I felt disoriented. I suppressed the urge to yell, "I won't forget you."

At my final appointment with the surgeon this week, with compassion in his eyes and firmness in his voice he said, "You need to find a way to move forward. Yes, mistakes were made. Those mistakes saved your life." Tears sprang up in my eyes as I recognized the truth in what he said. It's really the same as what the oncologist said to me two weeks ago. Examine the story I am telling myself. Don't let it define me. Through tears I told the surgeon, "The mistakes broke me."

Look at what it's cost meGive me back what I've lost. That's really what I want to shout. I'm no longer who I was, no longer believe what I used to believe about just about everything in life. I am continually filtering thoughts when talking with other people. Trite answers I used to believe come to mind and I realize I don't believe in those answers any more. Examined and left wanting by my words I told a friend last week that I feel like I am being rendered mute.

And so I've made several phone calls reaching out for professional help in moving forward. Intuitively I know that some kind of ritual to honour my journey would be healing. There must be a way to move forward without feeling like I am dismissing just how deeply the twists and turns have affected me. A way to bless the journey and release the anger. I know that everyone who goes through an injustice of some kind must finally lay it down or become bitter. Lord have mercy.


Robin said...

So, you have had a year of hell and a doctor condescendingly tells you you're "in anger"? Excuse me for a moment while I step aside to puke.

I have noticed that surgeons have no idea what the physical trauma they inflict does to the psyche and that they want to believe that people heal as quickly mentally and emotionally as we do physically.

Add to that a cascade of mistakes, a life in which this is perhaps the first major trauma that has clarified in just how little we can be confident (God, maybe, but I notice today that even the Pope has acknowledged that God seemed to be asleep in the boat recently), an extended period of time of testing and uncertainty AFTER your surgery, and the fact that you have permanently lost an intimate body part -- I think you get to have a PTSD reaction to a mammo notification without one iota of judgmental commentary from anyone.

I know that therapy can help and I think it's great that you're seeking it out. But please don't feel that you are somehow inadequate for not adhering to someone else's idea of when "you have to put this behind you."

I find that I am now "in anger" in your behalf!

Daisy said...

There are some things that change us. Period. I don't think that it means we will always stay exactly as we are, at least I'm hoping not. But it does make one sift through nonsense pretty quick.

We can't deny and pretend that we don't feel something that we do. And nobody can give anybody else a time-frame or schedule for healing. Sometimes it seems the steps toward that are so small that we can't see any change until much time has passed and we look back. And mostly it seems there's a lot of flip-flopping between feeling okay and falling apart again.

Grieving is muti-layered.

Peter said...

"How long will it be before I stop cupping my hand over the place where my breast was and mourn its absence? "
As long as it takes, Hopester.