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.


Robin said...

I had a major nightmare this morning. After I woke up, I realized it's the doctor appointment tomorrow. I don't even know what it's for. I got an urgent letter: apparently I was supposed to go back to the breast surgeon's nurse practitioner after a year. In September. Why, I wonder? I have no interest in going back there. I hope they leave me alone after this.

I am definitely not a better person. I am sick and tired of being supposed to be a better person after life's challenges. I just want to be the person I was -- a middling, ok kind of person who doesn't do medical stuff.

Hope said...

I hope they do, too, Robin.

Let me clarify what I meant by being a better person for going down this path - that in the midst of my reality, laying bare my vulnerability to God, and asking to be transformed in some way so as to make some sense of the pain.

I cringe at writing that because I doubt there is any sense to be made of the pain.

But I continue to hope for transformation.

And I hope I don't romanticize any bit of the journey yet I know I probably do to try and protect myself from the pain of it,too.

Peter said...

I think we often assume that suffering something inherently makes us a better person. Not only is this so hideously not true, but we tend to judge someone who isn't so transformed as somehow being morally deficient. Suffering just IS.

I think instead it is better to realize that stuff happens, over which we have no control. It just happens. All we have is our response to it, and sometimes we respond strongly and resiliently and sometimes we're just kicking and screaming. And sometimes we sulk.

Whatever we do, there is no going back to what was. We might wish it so badly that we can taste it, but it ain't gonna happen. And all we have is our response to that reality.

All that said, and if I might risk speaking for Hope here in a way, part of our response might be to learn something from it. I am well aware that Hope's (and my own) journey are probably best understood in spiritual terms and in that understanding there is something rich to be derived from the whole shambles.

We are better people than we were for it because, whether we liked it or not (I'd say emphatically not), there was spiritual growth along the way. We chose it. We could have chosen the alternative. This does not make us morally superior to anyone--it just gives what happened a tad of meaning, and that is important.

I am not suggesting for a second that I enjoyed the experience, but I will take from it everything I can, and to my surprise, I have found a considerable profit on the plus side of the ledger. I suspect that Hope might say the same thing in her own way. Now or sometime.

Unknown said...

Makes perfect sense to me.

Robin said...

I appreciate the eloquence of these responses.

I think that, having bumped into suffering I consider to have been entirely without meaning, the degree of spiritual growth I have experienced as a consequence (possibly considerable) is simply not worth the cost, to me or to anyone else.

Hope said...

I agree with you Robin - bumping into the suffering you have bumped into - never ever going to be worth the cost of the growth. Ever.

Mary Christine said...

I am "missing" only two body parts: uterus and appendix. I cannot begin to fathom what you are going through. I am glad you finding consolation in the spiritual growth you are experiencing, I am certain it will make this journey much more tolerable.


patricia said...

If you scroll down on this post, you can see pictures of my reconstructed breast. It feels real! I mean it doesn't have much sensation, but the weight of it feels right. Just something to think about...

After my drain was removed, I was swelling from my collar bone to the bottom of my ribs. Ow.

Good luck with your second opinion.

Peter said...

Agree with Hope and Robin. I am suggesting only that all we ever have is our response. Being pissed off, angry, raging are all perfectly acceptable responses. It's just that they aren't the only ones.

Peter said...

Hmm, let me add for Robin: the only meaning it will ever have is what you give it.

Robin said...

Hope, I am hoping that this link will work; you might enjoy it: