I walk over to the Second Cup in bright morning sunshine. Even the traffic has eased up a little: everyone has made it to work. Over coffee with my very best friend, we do what people who’ve known each other for over forty years can do: we relate all our joys and frustrations in several minutes, think in silence sometimes, and hold each other close in our hearts and minds. On the way back home, I think about the fact that it was exactly seven days ago that I had surgery.
In between then and now, I have built back a great deal of energy. From sleeping all day after the operation – upright in my reading chair, first Giles Blunt on my lap and then Louise Penny – to walking every day (albeit for a scant twenty minutes, but still…). Even doing a bit of driving on Sunday. My brothers-and-sisters-in-law provided us with dinner; Mary Jo and Peter brought us dinner; Tanya sent us an edible arrangement of fruit. We gobbled everything, especially me.
[Will nothing ever translate into stress that makes me stop eating? At least it’s been pretty healthy food; now I need to cut the portions.]
The biggest problems I’ve had are minor compared to what other women have experienced. I am very fortunate and I never forget that. I am a stomach sleeper, so the first night I tossed and turned until around 5 a.m. when I flipped over, felt no pain, and slept. On Friday, I was able to drench myself in a warm shower and remove the itchy bandages. So far, that’s the only discomfort – it’s itchy. No pain, no drain.
Flowers brighten my living room, sent by friends. Donations to the Breast Cancer Society make me so happy. I am surrounded, cushioned, supported, and loved.
When I remove the big bandage, Vince and I scour the “area”. Two fairly small incisions: one under my breast and one under my arm. I am yellow and bluish in spots, but not too badly. My “extra tissue” seems to have reshaped itself nicely and I don’t look lop-sided at all. The cleavage is still a source of pride and joy. Still wearing those low-cut blouses. No wardrobe change needed. Maybe it’s that stomach sleeping.
When I hear the stories of women who’ve lost their breasts, suffered through chemotherapy, jauntily donned caps and wigs as they lost their hair, faced the spread of the cancerous cells to other parts of their bodies with strength and determination, I know they are the true survivors.
The Toronto Star is presenting a series of stories about men and women who were injured in war. They are the true survivors.
Haiti. Wars and starvation in Africa. Survivors.
Not to be despondent or pessimistic, more to keep my situation in perspective, I remember the grief and tragedy other human beings have endured. I refuse to call myself a survivor. I am so very lucky.
In addition to the love of my husband, family, and friends, I live in an incredible country. My son and I compare notes about what would have happened to me if I had been living where he is right now: Los Angeles, California. Unless I’d been paying top dollar every month for a designer insurance policy, I’d be paying thousands of dollars for the mammogram, CAT scan, surgery and treatments. I might not have gotten my regular mammogram in the first place and that tiny wee blasted thing might now be a big lump that I could actually feel. A partial mastectomy wouldn’t have been nearly sufficient.
As I await the results of the pathology, I remember to take a few minutes every day to meditate. Others call it prayer. What it’s called doesn’t really matter. I am grateful, alive, listening to my body, sending love out and beyond me. Positive waves to drift through the air. It can’t hurt.