Three weeks ago today my right breast and 25 of my lymph nodes were removed. Man, did it hurt. It’s getting easier, as far as the pain goes. The strangest part, physically, is that when it doesn’t hurt there is an emptiness. Having air where there used to be this part of me is a strange and sad adjustment to make. It feels ghostly, is that a word? The strangest part, emotionally, is coming to terms with that surgery being just the start.
People talk a lot about fighting. All these war references seem misplaced after a bit. You see it especially with breast cancer. We are all referred to as “warriors” pretty regularly, and we are doing battle with boobs. They make tee shirts that say: “Yes, these are fake. My real ones tried to kill me.” Some women begin to resent and hate their breasts and their bodies when they get breast cancer. I can’t relate.
I have certainly had a love/hate relationship with my body (when I was skinny I wished for curves and then when I wasn’t skinny I wasn’t happy with that either. It wasn’t until my late thirties that I realized I usually looked pretty great and needed to stop caring). It took having cancer to make me feel genuine love for my body. I didn’t get mad at my body. I didn’t feel like an angry warrior. I felt sorry. I have apologized to my self so many times since my diagnosis. I’m so sorry that I didn’t do better and know better. I’m most sorry that I didn’t love my body. I didn’t appreciate it, I insulted it, I didn’t take care of it. I’m not angry with it now. I love it now. I see it now as such a gift. Every day in this body is a gift. Some crap life lesson that we all know is true and never spend two seconds to think about until we are knee deep in the quicksand.
Apologies aren’t getting me anywhere with this body of mine, though. Not so far. And there are so many miles left to go before I rest easy. I’m maybe 20-25% there. I just did this hard thing, and all of these people showed up and fed us and cared and asked and helped. I was so grateful, and then at the same time I wanted them to stop. I wanted to remind everyone that they should maybe come next time instead, when maybe it will be worse. There is so much more to come. I now have two kinds of cancer. About 3% of women get thyroid cancer after they get breast cancer. Most of those 3% get it way after, but I couldn’t wait. I’ve never had any patience. So, this thyroid will probably be removed as well. Those appointments start soon. They want to focus on the breast first, and I have been doing the same (mentally, I mean). I am up to like 6 or 7 doctors now (including naturopath types). Last week I had four appointments in three days and afterward I just crumbled. I had started to feel a little better physically, feel like I was accomplishing something by healing from surgery, and then I realized that my sprint turned into a marathon turned into a triathlon. Is there a kind of race that you run for life?
Life is now the strangest mix of desperately trying to let myself feel joy in every possible moment, being ever diligent about my food and supplements, my doctor’s appointments, treatments, meditation and exercise, and trying to provide my family with the care and love that they need and deserve. I just keep thinking that I want more more more. More of everything. More of this exact life. I don’t think anymore about what I might have done differently. I would take more of exactly this forever.