Sunday, December 30, 2012

Snippets Of Life

** drain tube #2 came out Boxing Day. So far so good. When Dearest One was helping get the tensor bandage back on again this morning I lamented that I just wanted to be done with needing help getting dressed and presentable. Tomorrow is ten weeks post mastectomy. Dearest One reminded me that some people don't get to ten weeks post mastectomy.

I feel like a two year old when they wrestle their clothes away from you because they want to do it themselves. Perhaps in a week or so I will be able to do that minus the wrestling. Simple things that can both irritate the heck out of me when I can't do them and bring me joy when I can. The rest of the time I take them completely for granted.

** I made the mistake of shopping for clothes on Boxing Day. Looking in the mirror with a lovely new top on without wearing a prosthesis brought me close to tears; the grief enveloping me from head to toe. Reminder to self to never go shopping for clothes without two breasts, a fake one will do.

** new drug for blocking estrogen is giving me morning sickness like symptoms. Twenty four hours a day. Not sure I can do this for five years. Hopefully it will lessen. So far ginger tea hasn't helped settle the tummy.

** it's also giving me mood swings which I haven't had in years. I don't miss them one bit. Neither does Dearest One. Not sure I can do five years of PMS like symptoms either. I have bitten my lip a hundred times over the past few days. I am grateful that years of practising restraint of pen and tongue means that not every single thing that I think needs to be said out loud. And that I don't believe everything I think helps too.

** am going to see Les Miserables tomorrow. I saw The Hobbit a few days ago. That's more movies in one week than I've seen in a theatre in years.

** went to a family gathering yesterday with 40+ people. First time I've participated in playing games in the 30 years I've been a part of this family. Turns out a person can change and enjoy themselves in the process. Was good to put a crack in the "But I don't (fill in the blank)" rut I can so easily stay in.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Anything Could Happen

When Y2K was coming, preparing for it was like reliving the tension of my childhood but on steroids. I knew all about needing a plan to stay safe in the face of impending doom. So I canned 600 jars of jams, pickles, fruit and vegetables until my cold room looked like a jewellery case with its row upon row of pretty coloured glass. I also had six months worth of flour, sugar, salt plus canned goods, matches and portable stove fuel. Finally there was an out of control happening where I couldn't be caught off guard.

When January 1, 2000 arrived with business as usual, part of me was disappointed. I saw it as a missed opportunity to gloat about how I had outsmarted people who were stupidly living as if they were in no imminent danger. All I had to show for my fanatical planning was a much smaller grocery bill for the next six months.

I watched the countdown to December 31st this year with detachment combined with occasional bouts of patting myself on the back that I wasn't like those doom sayers  My self- righteousness deflated like a popped balloon when I bumped up, for what felt like the zillionth time, against my fear of not being prepared for whatever might happen next, just a few days before the supposed end of the world.

As part of an ecumenical class gearing up for the coming of light we were asked to sit in complete darkness for ten minutes before lighting a candle. Once I shut off the lamp in my office and stuffed the chinks of light coming through the crevices I was left in a blackness that took me right back to childhood. I strained to make out shapes of things in the room just as I did as a child. Back then I would work myself up into such a state until I became convinced that not only had the chair across the room moved but so had the creepy person I imagined my clothes had morphed into as well. I couldn't even run for help because I believed the Beagle Boys lived under my bed and only came out of their trapdoor at night. No way was I going to risk one of them reaching out to grab my ankle as they broke free from their prison.

So when eerie images began to form as I sat in the dark a few nights ago, I asked myself why was I scared of the dark. "Because in the dark anything could happen and I won't see it coming." Not exactly what I thought the darkness would reveal to me.

The tension between who I was as a child, who I am now, and who I have yet to become feels taut in these moments as I`m catapulted back to being a 9 year old girl with a vivid imagination in the dark.

When my Zen timer (oh, the irony) made its Buddha bowl sound I lit my candle and it`s glow grew to illuminate a photo on my desk of my parents and Dearest One. I felt comforted to be among people whose faces shine with love for me. I didn't always feel that way.

My mother was the proverbial boogie man of my childhood. I never knew when she would morph into something as scary as the clothes on my chair in the dark, verbally, emotionally or physically lashing out with such randomness and without predictability. I could never figure out as a child if she loved me and I stood before her closed bedroom door on many a Sunday morning trying to get up the nerve to knock and ask timidly, "Do you love me?" I never got up the courage to go past raising my fist a hairbreadth`s away from my parents` unfinished wooden door. It was a question that hung in the air for decades.

So I find there is a tension as well between the mother I grew up with and the one I have now and the unknown one I will have as she continues to age. The woman who I today, without a doubt, know loves me. The woman who was the source of my greatest fear as a child was the one who comforted me the most in the illuminated darkness this week. 

If that isn't a sign of hope I don't know what is. 


Friday, December 14, 2012

Crossing The Line

This week we travelled for a second opinion about my treatment options.

It was surreal to be in a hospital solely devoted to cancer care. Everywhere we looked was a person carrying a green piece of paper which signalled they had gone through patient registration and were headed somewhere within the building for an appointment related to having cancer. I secretly wanted to stop every person and tell them that green was the symbolic colour for hope.

Asking for the second opinion was in that land between hard and easy for me. The doctor here mentioned I could go to that city far away for a second opinion but her tone and the way she phrased it let me know that it pushed her insecurity button when people did. I seriously considered sparing her any more button pushing at my expense.  Here, let me possibly keel over and die so you don't have to feel bad about my decision.  Not.

The doctor in the larger centre was refreshing. He spoke of living in the moment, being aware of what messages we internalize and listening to our hearts; on top of being passionate about oncology and treatment options and cutting edge technology.

He talked about how people feel secure because there is that yellow line  down the center of the highway as if that line alone would keep a semi truck from crossing over it and hitting us. Then he related that to how we get stuck in believing this, this or that is the thing that will keep whatever we fear from happening to us.

I looked at him rather fiercely and said, "I won't get stuck." He looked back and said, "I know you won't."

There is no clear cut treatment plan right now but there will be in the New Year. I am grateful to have a doctor I trust and who is advocating for me. So much so that he is sending my tumour to another country for further testing to aide him in his decision making.

I am healing. I am hopeful.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Cradling Her Face

This morning I brought my breakfast back to bed, added in a heated wheat bag to keep me warm, stopped and picked up a long sleeve shirt I had draped over the heat register and settled in to finish reading my book. It was -41C when I went to bed last night so extra heat was a must!

Two minutes later one of the Pugs was whining to be let up on the bed to join me. So I hoisted her up - the heaviest thing I've lifted since surgery - and she settled in for a nap. Or so I thought.

Before I knew it she was pacing back and forth at the end of the bed looking over the edge and whining. She wanted to be back down on the floor but was too scared to jump. I reached to help her and she ducked away. I tried again and again she ducked. Finally she came and looked up at me, her little tail wagging like an intermittent wind-shield wiper. I cradled her face in my hands and told her that she either had to get up the courage to jump or stop her whining.

I went back to my book and she went back to her pacing. Her story having as much to teach me about life as the one I was holding in my hand.

Eventually she jumped.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Real Thing

"Don't laugh too much when I have a needle stuck in your chest."

For a moment I have an urge to laugh even harder, in that teenage laughter that gets out of control kind of way, but common sense prevails and I settle down.

The drain came out two weeks ago and slowly the pocket of skin where my breast used to be has been filling with fluid. Another drain will be put in but for today the surgeon has a big ass syringe on the end of a needle stuck in the pocket to remove as much fluid as he can to give me some relief from the pressure and pain.

Next week we see the powers that be in a city far away for a second opinion about the chemotherapy regimen they are suggesting here for me. If chemo goes ahead as planned it will be 6 months before I can put the active part of this breast cancer journey behind me.

My goal is to get well enough to head back to work next September. I miss my job, I miss the regular daily life. I was going to write that I miss the old me but I don't other than I miss my breast. Life has brought me to this point. I am a better person for it.

But my breast, I do so miss it. It's been more disconcerting to look down and see what looks like a breast, minus a nipple, than it's been to see the road of transformation. It's helped me realize that breast reconstruction will not be for me. I want the real thing or nothing at all.

Which is my aim for life in general, too.