Joy and Sparkle
It’s been nine days since surgery. I feel … I have no idea how I feel. My body is getting stronger but I’m not sure what’s happening in my mind. I haven’t cried much, or cussed much or really felt much since my surgery. I’m guessing that’s because of the assortment of pharmaceuticals polluting my body at the moment.
So we’ll start with my body. I am slowly regaining the use of my arms. I can hold a full glass of ice water with minimal discomfort now. I can do the Hale Hitler with my right arm and raise my left arm to parallel. Shirts are a very tricky affair, what with getting them on and off over my head. I have some button-ups, but they have long sleeves and my menopausal body is always hot. My legs work great, though, and I quickly learned to press my feet into the ground to stand myself up without having to use my arms for leverage. Chair pose sure does come in handy.
I have a drain under each armpit. Those drains, not so incidentally, freaking suck. I have a silicon tube sutured under each armpit that drains into a bulb that fits in a pouch which velcros to the ugliest bra you’ve ever seen. So with clothes on I look like I am wearing a bad, lumpy movie fat suit. And the drains are gross. I have to dump the contents of the drains (basically blood-tinged pus) into measuring cups 3 times a day and record the output. When it gets to 25cc’s or less in a 24-hour period the drains can come out. Oh, and I can’t shower until they are gone. I do not like them Sam I am.
My breasts are sore in ways I can’t fully describe. They are simultaneously numb and hurting. After the breast surgeon scraped (her word) all the breast tissue out, including the tissue around the sides under my armpits, the plastic surgeon placed silicon tissue expanders under my chest muscles and then expanded them 1/2 full with saline solution. So in addition to having 3″ incisions across the middle of each breast, I have these Frankensteinien expanders pressing on my chest muscles. And the layer of skin and muscle over the expanders is so thin that you can feel the outline of each expander. They seem a touch wider than the body space allotted them. Next week they’ll begin expanding them even more to stretch the skin and muscle. This is done with a needle in the plastic surgeon’s office. Eventually they’ll have made a breast pouch on each side that will be filled with my own tissue and saline implants. C-cup, in case you were wondering. Big enough to balance my bodacious booty but not so big that I look like I’m going to fall on my face any minute.
The morning after surgery the breast surgeon came in to see about me. She said the surgery went well and that she wanted to send me home later that day and that I should make a follow-up appointment for the next week. I asked about the pathology report and she said I’d get it when I come to her office. But she said that during surgery they found no gross tumors and that I should consider that day “Day 2 of Being Cancer Free.” I think she wanted me to get up and do a cheer, but I had a hard time receiving that news with the same joy in which it was delivered. She asked if I didn’t seem happy because I was in pain or depressed, and I said both. She offered for a psychiatrist to come visit me. Which after she left made me feel a little like a weirdo. Surely I wasn’t the only depressed person on the SURGICAL ONCOLOGY floor.
Part of me does feel a huge relief that the surgery is over. Then another part of me warns me not to get ahead of myself because that part sees that once you have cancer it’s not ever going to be over. It won’t be such an enormous part of my life forever, but it is a part of my body, mind and spirit and it will be a practice for me for the rest of my life not to let it get the best of me. I think part of recovering from surgery is recovering my sense of joyand sparkle. I feel it in moments but it slips through my fingers much more quickly than before the cancer grew. Instead of being a glass-overflowing kind of girl, I’ve become a glass-is-almost-empty kind of girl. I dont’ like that girl nearly as much. So I’ll focus on allowing myself more celebrations, even when the cancer fear monster wants to rain on the parade. Surely if I have come this far Iam strong enough to figure out how to do that!