With the port removed from my chest earlier this week I am freed from the breast cancer adventure. Good Friday, a simple, bold statement, nothing says it quite as well. Have a happy one!
There was a lump in my right breast about a year ago. Not quite a lump more a piece of torn mozzarella. I felt again and again, sometimes there, sometimes not, only a visit to the doctor would tell me anything.
For so long the flow of bad news came thick and fast, there seemed to be no way of staunching it, the brakes were off, every piece of news was wrapped and cushioned in the consultants’ careful language.
Until I had a treatment plan, top of the priority list was the son getting a stress free crack at his exams. Only a few knew I had cancer until after my birthday, the last thing I wanted was a sympathy fuck of a celebration. I wanted the day as it should be, preserved untainted by cancer, it was everything I could have wished for.
Simon my buddy for my consultant appointments never saw my breasts. He heard only bizarre abstract conversations about them through a curtain, the position of the lumps, their size, the reduction, the nipples, the mounding, rounding, the healing and the texture of the flesh. This all fed my strong sense of the ridiculous, I wanted to laugh as I thought the talk had the flavour of renaissance stories of encarcerated nuns with only a small chink in the wall of their cell to communicate through.
I am looking down at my fingers, they are trying to pick up an almond, they scrabble incompetently, they are not doing it. For a couple of minutes I concentrate very hard on the action. Detached I watch laughing at my baby like graspings, it’s the neuropathy kicking in, though I am willing it with all my might messages don’t always make it to the chemo damaged nerve endings of my finger tips. The frustration of having to cut short chemo, because my hearing and balance were being damaged by the drugs, they were small sacrifices to have a taste of where I am now.
Outside the French windows in the narrow strip of garden I see the perky fresh narcissus nodding in the spring breeze. When chemo was thick, fast and weekly, though dull with crawling exhaustion, the want to have something to look forward to drove me out to plant bulbs. I wanted to smell their sweetness, the anticipated scent of narcissus goaded me on all through those enveloping dark months. The condition became a project, pulling myself through, muttering my mantra in my head. The aim was to get over this hurdle with as much laughter and simple pleasure as possible.
I haven’t been alone, there have been many cheering me on in their own special way. When I was told I had cancer my prayer went up, please let my children be proud of me, and I am very proud of them. I asked my daughter how she felt about moving back home to help me. Her reply illuminated things about me I hadn’t understood. There was no option but to come home, you have always looked after us, you have made so many sacrifices for us, I’ve watched you reject great relationships to be there for us. I owe you big time.
I am reconstructed surgically, my skin and flesh is burnt, my curly hair’s new. There are changes inside as well, I laugh that people cant see that the old inside self has been sloughed off, a husk. With the acceptance of the condition life has taken on a fresh urgency. Mike and I hug each other in a moment of exhilaration and black humour, we have got so far, so many changes, what an adventure, one neither of us wanted but having gone through it would not have chosen to miss.
I feel like a sponge, squashed, depleated, the bounce sqeezed out, I am frustrated it will take time to build up. I am gentler on those around me and myself.
After all these months to have a normal life again is such a treat. While I am sewing seeds, I am looking forward to the changes I will make.
Thank you all for making it possible.