Saturday, September 13, 2008

Like stepping off a curb

In the 2 weeks leading up to my double mastectomy, I truly thought the very worst part of this whole nightmare would be having both breasts removed. I worked myself into a anxious mess over this, crying every day while I took my shower so my girls wouldn't see how sad I was. It's traumatic to be facing this at my age; to have so many unknowns.

I ended up requesting an anti-anxiety pill the day of my surgery. Yes, that's right. You can take something to calm your nerves even on the day of surgery. It was pretty funny when we went to the get the prescription from the pharmacy. Same copay of $7 but only one little pill in the bottle. Whether it's 30 pills or one, it's the same copay. Gotta find our laughs where we can.

Right before I was being taken to the operating room, the nurses requested that Bill leave. He had been with me during the entire time. The nuclear med shots, the nuclear scan. He'd helped me change clothes and held my hand the entire time we waited for the end of me as I was. When they made him leave, I lost it. Two wonderful nurses, Maria and Marilyn hung onto me, cried with me, and got me sedated immediately before I even left the OR prep area.

When I woke up in recovery, it didn't occur to me to even check my chest. I was groggy and ended up spending close to 4 hours in recovery as they prepared my room. Somehow, the woman who had checked me in had arranged for me to have a private room. Bill was able to stay with me the entire time.

The kindness of complete strangers was absolutely amazing.

I realize now that the worst thing that can happen is not a physical change but rather simply not being here at all. I'm a black and white kind of person and for the most part, the cup is always half full for me. I want tests done and tangible proof that I will come through this okay. Those tests are being done right now. My bone scan came up clean. I have a PET in a week - with fingers crossed and many prayers for no mets found anywhere.

The horrifying part isn't losing parts of me, but rather what was hidden from the MRI, mammograms, and sonograms that were performed on me ad nauseum. This was a surprise to everyone, including my surgeon. It's truly amazing that cancer can be so hidden, so tricky that it can go undetected even by the very best tests. Literally, the extent of the tumor was not known until the samples hit the pathology table.

It was pure chance that my breast cancer was caught and pure chance that we made the correct choices with the double mastectomy. Losing parts of me are pretty irrelevant at this point.

My daughter has asked me many times how I can deal with the scars and I tell her it's a badge of what I've left behind. Like stepping off a curb, the cancer is gone. And with it comes acceptance. I hope losing my hair is the same way.

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