sweet releif

I don’t have cancer anymore.

It’ all out of my body. What a relief it is to have the surgery over and done with. Yesterday morning Sammy and my mom and Ariana and I descended on UBC Hospital at the wee crack of dawn. At the admitting desk, they wouldn’t let my mom and Ariana be in the room while I recited confidential information- literally, my address. Because my mom and one of my best friends don’t already have that. Right. Then I was whisked into pre-opp, to have blue cue-tips stuck up my nose to clean any bacteria by a totally gay nurse who spent the whole time telling me about his new boyfriend and a homophobic patient. Dr. Yoga-Surgeon and Dr. Serious-Breast-Surgeon hovered in my tiny curtained-off corner of the pre-opp room and drew all over my breasts with sharpies, and re-hashed surgical cuts, cancer margins, and my pathology. Before I knew it, I hugged Ariana and my Mom and Sammy and I was taken away to the operating room, where Dr. Yoga-Surgeon was briefing everyone and winking at me and Dr. Serious-Breast-Surgeon was rubbing my shoulder and the very nice nurse was covering me with just-out-of-the-dryer blankets.

And then I woke up, and the nurse fed me ice chips, and I thought I had a blood pressure cuff on my calf, but it was really just an anti-clot massager-thing. The surgeons showed up to say hello, say it went well, and send me off to my room, where I slept and got morphine and slept. Sam brought me a orange-carrot juice, and then we had Vietnamese take-out since the hospital dinner options looked entirely wretched. The nurse woke me up every two hours, and so many of you talked with me on the phone after the family had to go home and visiting hours ended: you made the night bearable, and so I thank you.

And now I am home.  I am using this owl-print-over-the-shoulder–drain-holder my cancer-buddy from Alaska made me, and I have other drain-holder options, too, like a tool belt and soft pockets. I will use them all. I was so touched when I got this owl-print drain-purse in the mail. My cancer friend made it, and though we’ve never met in person, she knew just what I’d need, from this thing to the funky-shaped boob-support pillow that is exactly the right size to the packet of wipes to the zebra-print temperpedic pillow. Its amazing to know that folks I’ve never met in person, but with whom I’ve shared the most intimate details with over social media, could be so connected, so kind, and so supportive.

So many people have been so kind. Friends near and far have sent messages, sparkles, cards, texts, love. I am just so glad to have all the cancer out. I still will have several more surgeries to finish this off, but my chest port, through which they infused all my chemo, is out (no more bionic-woman chest prong!) and the mastectomy is done and the worst part is over. I truly believe mastectomy is definitely the worst part of my cancer experience. The last few days I only wanted to cling desperately to the women I know who have already had mastectomies, and I wanted to hear their stories of how they were OK over and over and over again. Oh, I am glad this is over. There is just no way to describe walking into a hospital with a body part, and walking out without one. There is no way to describe involuntary body modification, body modification that will save your body from death, body modification you never wanted. You see, I love my body.

The other day, I was at lunch with two friends, trying to describe how I actually do love my body as it is (was) very much, and how I had no desire to have it slashed, broken, modified. My friend looked at me and said, “you’re going to love your body no matter what, because that is who you are. you love your body, that is you. you will learn to love this new body, too, because it is you, it will be you.” How wise. Sometime, I will come to a place where I love this new body, even as I mourn for, miss, remember and desire the old one.

There are so many more words to say about bodies and love and the place I envision my breast has gone, but I am too tired. It must be pain-medication-induced naptime. Naptime of such relief, naptime knowing that in this new body who’s shape is so unfamiliar, there is no cancer. I can breathe. I don’t have cancer anymore.


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