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Hell if I know why I keep thinking I’m so different and special than everyone effing else. And f*&% if life just keeps giving me the shittiest reminders
that, indeed, I am not.
you (and you and you and you and you), I wasn’t supposed to get cancer. Because
we’re all invincible, right? Because these things happen to other people,
right? Then I went ahead, got a mammogram to check the damn thing off my
I-turned-40-and-this-is-what-you’re-supposed-to-do list and found out I had
Fast-forward to a bilateral mastectomy on February 14, then to clean pathology results
on February 18th, and I’m supposed to be embracing life! Celebrating air! And joy!
And children! And Internet kitten pictures!
instead, I’m depressed as shit. Crying for no reason and every reason. Part of
the reason is these goddamn drains sewn into either side of my chest. They are
gross and uncomfortable and a constant reminder that, until they come out, my
real healing can’t really begin in earnest.
surgeons and their lovely, awesome, amazing, warm and wonderful nurses warned
me up the wazoo beforehand that young women, especially who have bilateral
mastectomies, think that once their surgery is over, and they’ve beaten cancer,
they can resume life immediately.
the more you move your arms, the longer the drains will stay in,” one nurse
told me. “Don’t vacuum, move furniture or iron once you get home,”
laughed. Hard. “Clearly we haven’t met,” I told her.
was difficult enough to move once leaving the hospital. A physical therapist
had to teach me how to get in and out of bed, how to walk up and down stairs.
My husband kept vigil at my bedside with painkillers when I’d wake up those
first few nights out of the hospital and the meds had worn off and the agony of
my entire upper body rendered me nearly unable to breathe because of the
constant spiky aches and thorny pains.
I hate feeling sad about something that is temporary.
I didn’t expect at my one-week post-op appointment for the drains to come out, even though one plastic surgeon (although not the one I ultimately chose to perform my surgery) said some women do get their drains out then. At the two-week post-op visit, I held a little vigil, but wasn’t surprised when it didn’t happen. And then the day before my three-week visit, a friend advised I call the doctor’s office and let them know how little my drains were producing. Or, rather how much they were producing. And when they need to be producing little in order to have them removed, getting them out now seems further and further and further from reality.
So I called up the doctor’s office, told them what was up and the nurse canceled my appointment.
“Even if your numbers drop a lot the rest of today,” she said, “it’s still not enough for them to come out tomorrow. They have to be low for a couple of days.”
That’s when my waterworks started. I know a bilateral mastectomy is major surgery. I know the recovery time is supposed to be six weeks. I know I was told not to be a hero. But somehow, I still thought I’d be the exception.
“You’re no Wonder Woman, kid,” my dad told me softly on the phone as I wept while telling him my drain-removal appointment had to be rescheduled. “You’re just a human being. “You’re super, but you have no super powers.”
had just one super power at this point, however, it would be to stop being the
walking definition of insanity, and expect that I am not any different than anyone
else. I am not above cancer. I am not above prolonged recoveries. I am not above
feeling depressed when every sign should indicate happiness.
Thankfully, I’m also not above admitting and talking about my feelings to close friends and
people who are trained to deal with this professionally. It’s amazing how the
power of conversation can heal some wounds, even if they aren’t the ones I need
to be able to start showering again (have I mentioned you’re not allowed to
shower until the drains are out? Which means I’m on 3+ weeks without a shower? Yes, you are now excused from
being anywhere within a 10-mile radius of me and my very distinctive body odor).
hate feeling sad about something that is temporary. A friend reminded me of that
early period after giving birth when the days and nights are so long and seem
never-ending—but when you look back at that time in your life, you
realize it was so relatively short. It just didn’t feel that way when you were
my dad reminded me about that time not so long ago when I wasn’t sure which end
was up with my cancer, i.e., whether it was invasive and worse than perhaps the
doctors suspected, and that all I wished and prayed for with all my might was
for it to be not bad. And that if it weren't, that I promised I'd be more
grateful and thankful in general.
told me to get back to that place and that promise I made to myself. And I’m
trying. Really, I am. But it’s not easy. No one said cancer would be. But I
wasn’t supposed to get it. So when you put it all together? Man, reminding
yourself how special you’re not is