Almost exactly two weeks to the day of the surgery, my body suddenly realizes it’s been invaded by needles and scalpels and Geiger counters. I am hit with a malaise, a twenty-four hour stint of exhaustion, during which I sleep fitfully and grumble and complain. As I’ve said in this blog previously, I do recognize that I make a very bad patient: I am not good at letting things go or at staying still, for that matter. In two weeks, I have been out twice, and not for long. That’s very unusual for me. I feel as though I am coping with retirement.
My husband says I’ve been doing too much. My son offers the theory that I’ve just crashed after the adrenalin of the fight, then waiting for news. They could both be right.
I have done breakfasts and lunches with friends; walked a lot; met our son at the airport; had a party at our house; got caught up on my work for Crime Writers of Canada. Too much? Not compared to my “former” life!
In between, we have waited to for news from the pathologist, although I am not conscious of thinking about it. I am a little obsessed with the healing of my body: such as, is this stinging under my arm normal?
You can look up anything on the internet, so I do, and this leads to a call to the surgeon’s office. She tells me to remove the strips covering the stitches, since they haven’t dropped off on their own, despite numerous hours in warm, soothing showers. The stitching under my arm continues to sting and feel odd: is this normal?
My body feels a frission of “yuk!” – a literal shiver through all my cells, muscles and bones: something was inside here that shouldn’t have been; something misfired and allowed this foreign object to grow; then someone opened us up: here are the scars to prove it.
I am already frustrated at not being able to lift, move, dress, type, or walk without the constant reminders of the surgery. What would it be like to have artificial limbs blown off in war? What would it be like to undergo chemotherapy and feel like shit all day and night? I have a feeling I would be graceless, miserable, and would indulge in a lot of pity parties.
This in spite of the fact that I have the most incredible support system. Which of course makes me feel guilty.
Something I need to learn: relax. Stop worrying.
Vince and I make an appointment with a naturopath, who turns out to be odd and so introverted that we wonder how we’d ever talk to such a person, so we run back out the door.
Tanya and I decide we will take a meditation course.
A friend gives me the name of Wellspring, so I call and sign up. They sound amazing.
On Saturday, we have company pre-dinner, at dinner, and after dinner. I enjoy myself immensely; have a couple of glasses of wine. Then just as we are ready to sit down at the table, Dr. Louis calls. I have trouble hearing him. On a Saturday night! I tell him his hours are ridiculous, but he downplays it: says he took personal time on Friday, so he’s making calls at odd hours. I presume he’s only giving out good news on a Saturday night.
The pathology report has come back and it’s what he expected, he says – and I agree; it’s what I’ve expected too! The cancer had grown to 1.1 cm over the two months, but it was still very tiny when he took it out. All of the surrounding tissues were free of any cancer cells. He’d also removed three lymph nodes, and three out of three were clear. Next step: radiation and Arimidex (a medication) for five years. I am “estrogen” sensitive (at least I think he says sensitive, as are 80% of women with breast cancer such as mine. For once, I am happy to be among the norm. It’s a great time to hear this news: Vince and I are surrounded by friends and family, including children and grandchildren.
In any case, I spend Sunday eating everything that is bad for me and making phone calls or emails. Then I stay mostly in bed all day on Monday, not even writing the blog I’ve been promising. Is this my way of celebrating? Letting go?
I think it’s more along the lines of: okay, I’m cancer-free; I’m better now. Where’s my old energy? Why don’t I feel ecstatic? Why does my damn arm still sting?
My own little pity party, away from prying eyes, because I have so very much to be thankful for, and here I am, feeling sorry for myself instead. I read voraciously, eat up books the way I ate up Frances’s homemade carrot cake. I sleep. I groan. My bones ache, my head pounds, I focus on the negative. Bad news on the doorstep. Problems my children have encountered. The devastating cancer some relatives and friends have experienced or are suffering through. War. Famine. People who don’t recycle.
My arm still stings, so I call my surgeon’s secretary and leave her an embarrassed voice mail. Don’t bother calling me back if all this is normal and I’m just a whiner, I tell her…
Today, the actual two-week anniversary, I awaken in better spirits, with energy and a list.
The list helps alleviate some of the worries. There are lots of things I can do to make a difference, to bolster, support, love, and encourage. Give back.
And in the meantime, I study the art of living well: the exercise and food I can eat. My brother-in-law Peter helps with this by surfing the Internet and discovering all kinds of information for me. Everyone else helps with their calls and emails and visits.
I even write the blog.