In the middle of the night, I have a dream. My tiny DNA soldiers, who resemble Smurfs in miner helmets armed with laser guns, are plowing through a jungle. They’re going around blasting the rotten cells into smithereens, while another group comes along and plants new ones. The new cells are round and white with smiling, cherubic faces. A huge clump of twisted debris suddenly halts the army’s trek. Thick vine-like tentacles slip out from under the mound and trip the soldiers, slow them down, set them off course. Meanwhile, the wreckage grows, the snaky tendrils continue to shoot off down my arms, my stomach, my…
I wake up and literally feel the soft glow from words that have been spoken or written to me all week: it’s okay. The light is going to shine on the jungle, we’re going to remove the rubbish and the soldiers will be set on the right path once again.
I am physically warmed by the energy. The fear dissipates. I am calm, even happy, hopeful and strong.
We actually enjoy ourselves at the visit to the pre-op clinic. I try to think of varied, author-like answers to the questions to which “yes” is the expected response. I try, “correct” and “right” in my teacher’s voice and “that’s it!” as though they’ve made an exciting scientific discovery. They don’t seem to notice my creativity.
In the waiting room, an older woman says to her husband, “The doctor wanted to know if I can still run three city blocks.” Her husband responds that it depended on the size of the block and whether or not there was a time issue; they’d get there eventually, he says. Vince and I and the other two men laugh. We continue talking and being witty until one of them is collected by a doctor who says, “Come with us”, then corrects himself: oh, I mean with me…Of course we joke that the doc has a mirror in his office and thinks there’s two of him. One by one we are summoned away by people who can only have sordid details to tell us. But we’re cheerful when we start out.
We are called out by Gina. She’s “my nurse”. She’s short and slim and attractive, a slight tinge of Italian heritage makes her English quick and delicious. Her brown eyes are luminous as she walks us through everything. She tells me I’m lucky to have Dr. Louis as my surgeon; “he’s the man for breasts” she says. My husband blinks: isn’t every man? he wonders. She explains every step of the surgery, from where to go to what to do afterward. Vince takes notes and Gina guesses that we’re retired teachers. I remember to add that I’m a writer, something I used to keep to myself. After blood tests and an ecg and Gina’s reassuring, informative voice, we feel much better.
Vince allows himself some tears later, and I’m glad, because he hasn’t been able to eat since the day I came home and fell into his arms. Strangely, I am absolutely fine. I honestly cannot help but feel that my faith has been proven: my belief in love, positive energy, the waves of strength that have held me tight in these few days. Sometimes I think I’ve been too brazen about going around telling everyone and asking for their prayers, but on the other hand, I don’t think I’d be in such good shape if I hadn’t. My children (including my step-kids) have been phenomenal. My oldest grandson, who is nearly twenty, and might, at his age, be neutral, has an amazing sense of positive energy and instinctively knows that I need. My sisters – we’ve always been strong and close and loving, but when I need them, they are absolutely perfect. My brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law wrap me in their love and support. I have friends and cousins who are like sisters and brothers; unbelievably mature, loving nieces and nephews; I have others who are like sons and daughters; I have colleagues and former colleagues who are friends. Even acquaintances have been amazing. How could I not be cheerful and hopeful? Even our two cats have been extra cuddly, it seems. I wake up every morning to one of them pasted against my side, mewing for my touch.
In between appointments, we visit our mothers, whom we have decided not to tell. Their dementia problems would prevent them from really remembering or understanding, and it might simply panic them. They won’t know that quite a bit of time has gone by since my last visit. My mother is a witch, however – in the ESP sense I mean. She keeps asking Vince and me, is everything okay? Then she phones – though she hasn’t called in about six weeks. My sisters and I shake our heads, but we’re not surprised.
I try to answer calls when I can, but the email is so much faster and easier. I have a twinge of regret that I haven’t been able to respond with a voice, but I know they understand.
I’m also determined to tie up a few loose ends with my Crime Writers of Canada work, even though I know I don’t have to. I just want to. And it keeps my mind occupied – not to mention that I love the people with whom I work most closely.
I’ve wondered what I’ll be like after the surgery, when I’m sore and a bit limited in what I can do. That, I think, will be the worst time. I’m not a good patient. I hate to be waited on or coddled or dependent. I practice deep breaths and some meditation, so I can remember to do this when I am recuperating. One of my adopted “daughters” offers massages when I’m ready and I happily take her up on that. I have plans for this old bumpy body – I’m going to be nicer to it, get rid of these rolls and tires I’ve made it lug around for the last few years. I start by walking every day for twenty minutes. It’s fun in the wind, with the autumn leaves throwing painted piles at my feet; even the raindrops simply tickle my nose. Everything seems to be closer, more vivid, friendlier, as though I have put on a different set of glasses.
Lots of people tell me their stories of being a cancer survivor and these successes are poignant and helpful. Some of them have been through absolute hell, but have stood back up on their feet with a fierce determination to live an even better life. For myself, though, I cringe at the word survivor. That word evokes death camps and war and refugee compounds with starving children. Not an overweight, middle-class woman with an incredible husband and circle of love who’s just going over a bump in the road. I don’t know whether I’ll be proudly wearing the pink ribbon or not. I do know that I want to get in shape so I can walk or ride in the next fundraiser. Both for myself, as a goal for a certain level of fitness, and for those who are still suffering.
When we meet with Dr. Louis, the surgeon, we are even more hopeful and optimistic. I send the following email to my children, sisters, cousins and friends later: “I have always wanted someone to say something on my body was the smallest they'd ever seen - and now I have. And I think I picked the right one, even though I would've previously favoured stomach or ass. But having the smallest tumour this very experienced surgeon has seen is good. It was only 2-3 millimetres - yes, - millimetres - two months ago and even though he felt around, he couldn't even feel it, so he figures it's still about that size. It's certainly less than 2 centimetres, cuz he says the 2-cm ones, you can feel.
He was great: drew pictures, all that stuff. He's going to remove the tiny wee blasted thing, with some surrounding tissue, and then check out the lymph nodes. But he says a tiny wee blasted thing like that is unlikely to have spread. However, they will have to radiate the breast to keep any more tiny wee blasted things from developing. After that, I'll have to take a pill every day for five years.
BUT - I figure when I get in there on Tuesday, the tiny wee blasted thing will have been shrunk away into nothing by my incredible family and friends and there will still be that miracle thing on CNN next week...Gonna keep up the blog so I have written proof of St. Catherine of Brampton's first miracle.
Vinnie had a bit of a cry, but he's OK now, especially after realizing that Dr. Louis was giving pretty good news, all considering.”
Then we face our weekend plans with a lot less tension: dinner to celebrate a friend’s engagement on Friday; theatre and dinner on Saturday; Hallowe’en with the grandchildren. I’m wearing low-cut tops to everything.
Next up: Tuesday, November 2: surgery in the afternoon after a bunch of yucky stuff in the morning, home by evening. I just hope I won’t have transformed into bitchy patient by then. Deep breathing, meditation! November 2 is Sue’s birthday and just before my sister Chris’s birthday, so it must be a lucky day.