Excerpt, ‘Woman in Recon’
Time and place: Feb 13, 2014, home…. This is the second part of the chapter ‘First Days Into Weeks’ after my mastectomy.
Ed called work, “not going in, snow or not”. Growing up driving in deep snow I knew snow was not his reason to call to stay home. He fixed us a good dinner, but any food tastes good not having to cook, settled comfy on the sofa, snow lightly covered the streets as we ate watching TV. He gently helped me undress for bed once my medicine took hold, then kissed me goodnight. I wanted to collapse. Used the top rail to pull my body with my arms, less strenuous for my chest. I slid under the bedspread — ready for deep sleep.
Your chest muscles do a lot more than you know till they’ve been cut open. Even after several weeks I had to use my arms to haul my body into bed or for support to stretch out on the sofa… nice and slow.
I lost track how many days he stayed with me, tenderly kissing me good night to finally brave the snow, returning to work.
Sasha … I was barely in the door and Sasha was all over me. WOW such affection! Although I hadn’t paid such attention before, somehow she lacked the nervous sadness in her eyes from the last several months. She vigorously sniffed me all over and up and down and displayed playfulness I hadn’t seen in years. Her litter mate, Abby died a few years ago, her death was devastating, Sasha mourned as much as me.
Later we both returned to normal, her loss forgotten as dogs do. Witnessing Sasha’s actions towards me after my surgery got me thinking, perhaps I had no more cancer smell that disturbed her nose. Because she literally sniffed me all over; she could detect no odor but me. She settled snugly into the pile of blankets.
Thankful I’m married to Ed with all this shit, my man tended to anything I asked for, and some things I didn’t. Valium began to work on the muscle pain, it eased the spasms so I could breathe without such intense throbbing. I slept sitting up; sleep was such a relief from coping with pain. The next morning feeling rested but very groggy, grateful I was able to make my own pot of coffee. Last night’s prayer answered, throbbing subdued, a dullish ache in my chest by morning.
Silver lined bandage tape guards against infection. Waterproof surgical (clear) wrap adheres to keep bacteria out and sutures dry. The tape looks like duct tape but it’s much softer.
“3M Surgical Tapes—Choose the Correct Tape – 3M.com.” 2014. 2 Mar. 2016 <http://multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/202805O/surgical-tapes-choose-the-correct-tape-chart.pdf>
After Dr. Korentager removed the tape and clear wrap I could take a nice hot shower. Stepping out of the shower, water dripping down my body, I looked in the vanity mirror spanning the length of the tub. I gently dabbed the towel across my chest and draped the damp towel over the tub. A bit achy, I gingerly sat down. Drying off, I acknowledged it was obvious that the whole left side of my chest was numb, from my underarm to the middle of my rib cage. I hadn’t attempted to shave yet, definitely had a bit of ape grossness goin’ on. My arm was way too sore to raise above my waist, much less over my head. I’d worry about shaving later, not a pleasant thought, too late to think about those vain beauty premises now.
Okay, time for inspection. Without tape and bandages securing my sutures, my heart pounded as I touched my skin, a deep red scar where my breast use to be. (No selfie. I just couldn’t do it.) My fingertips tentatively stroked the dark baseball-stitched line left by the sutures. The scar felt healed enough, oddly numb. I was expecting pain and horrible tenderness and was a little surprised it didn’t hurt at all. In fact I realized my whole left side under my arm, halfway down my ribs was completely numb. My skin had no pain whatsoever! My upper torso muscles were very sore that hindered much motion, is all I could tell I’d had surgery — the fact I’d had major surgery, my breast removed, hadn’t even begun to sink in. Light pricklies ran down my arms as I felt a tremor in my stomach. A brief shiver of nerves; I set my foreboding aside.
There I stood. I stared into the mirror. I didn’t cry. I merely shook my head in awe of my surgeon’s handiwork. I let out a big sigh, knowing full-well it would be a tumultuous task to return to normal. Like I said, I really had no idea what that would entail yet. Wondered how much this scar would fade compared to my C-section which hadn’t faded much at all, still ugly.
I was in total subsistence mode. I got choked up again and again but didn’t shed any tears. I guess I was on autopilot.
It took so much effort getting through each day. My days rambled into weeks without caring who did what, social media ‘friends’ and ‘likes’ would still be there… I was exhausted in my own little world. I was apathetic. Ed and my son and daughter-in-law took turns driving me to my appointments for several weeks since I was too medicated. It was unthinkable to drive. Way too painful. I got a lump in my throat… mirrors are not my friend.
Tremendous triumphs and deep letdowns, so much bullcrap all-the-while, recoup my aching body and trying to regain my sanity. You women old enough to brave family problems that you agonize over, lose sleep over, and you are the sole provider as I’ve always been till getting remarried, you must make a choice. You yourself must heal from breast cancer or any serious whatevers. All I can say is, you must let your instinct take you into healing mode, be an army of protection for yourself.
I needed my family so much to recuperate from the mastectomy. At first, tough bitch that I was I wanted to ignore that need, but their love and support was so comforting. I finally succumbed to it, to heal I surrendered into a cocoon with love as its thread. Nothing more to say.