Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Late at night....

My eyes pop open and I hear the drone of the ceiling fan as it spins the warm air over my head and down over my body. The dogs are breathing as if they have been in a race with a rabbit. Everything outside is in a languid still life, like life on pause.

I know I am excited about the walk. Before I went to bed I read again how excited I was last year. I can't sleep. Unlike the first 14 years of my survival from Breast Cancer, I now want to remember every detail I tried so hard to forget. I want to have that in my mind when my feet hit the road on Friday morning. I want to feel the fear.

Tonight, when sleep won't come, I listen to my heart. I search my soul to feel the feeling of being told you have Breast Cancer. I remember.

After the phone call and the visit with the surgeon, I was scheduled for a lumptecomy at Marin General. I would spend the night after it was complete, and then return home. I would hear from the Doctor after the results of the pathology had returned. My Father flew in to be by my side. To pray for my recovery. To be afraid. After all he had lost his wife to Cancer at the age of 49. My Mother.

My husband then had to cover three duties, stand by my side, be there for my Dad and be there for our two daughters. I don't think he or I had all that much time then to be afraid, we had other people to take care of.

I remember being rolled into the operating room and I chatted with the surgeon until I was under from the anesthesia. I wasn't afraid. I was determined and there wasn't one ounce of me that believed I would be the woman who would die from this disease, not one ounce.

I woke up and was taken to my room. There was a huge ace bandage wrapped around my body. I could tell I still had both breasts and I felt pretty fine all in all. I had my visitors that night and spent a sleepless hospital night wondering what I might look like under that bandage.

We all went home.

I was in my bed at home when the doctor called. She said I would have to come back in and talk with her. I started to feel anxious. I put my head down and my game face on and moved forward. Sitting in her office she told me I would need a mastectomy. I didn't really question this, but I did ask about radiation. The doctor jumped up and had the Radiologist speak with me. "You have no other options, you need a mastectomy," he said. There was urgency in his voice. My heart beat faster, my resolve grew deeper to push through whatever it would be. The surgeon said "You don't understand, I saw this dividing in the microscope."

At that moment, I know I must have realized I could die from this. I realized this was BAD. My reaction though was to be even more stoic, focusing only on the step in front of me in a mad feat of concentration.

The next day I was taken to day surgery. People have said they thought this was odd that they weren't going to allow me to spend the night after what would be a more significant surgery. Me, I thought "Good. I want to be home."

As they prepped me for surgery, my heart was beating a mile a minute. But I was smiling and joking with the nurse and was even joking all the way in the hallway with the surgeon, until I saw the operating room door. At the sight of the door, I felt all the wind come out of my body. My eyes popped open and I had a realization that hadn't allowed in before this (or frankly after the following 14 years). NOTHING would be the same. They were going to take a part of me and throw it away. I would be permanently damaged. I would be deformed. I was going to have one breast. All in the same moment I thought, what does this mean for Glenn and me, what does this mean for my daughters, what if I die. I sobbed hysterically struggling to catch my breath.

The doctor saw the fear on my face and she quickly had the anesthesiologist put me under.

When I woke. I had a bandage around my body and I knew I had no breast. I looked at Glenn and told him I was ok. And I started walking away from the fear, away from that moment seeking to bury it deep so it could ever hurt me again.

Last year, I dug it all up. I relived some of this fear through my friend's diagnosis. I looked at my Cancer and realized, it still had power over me. I realized I had to not only put it out there for me to see, but I needed to tame it and use it to create a world where no one else even has to feel that fear.

So last night as I was laying in bed, I invited the fear back in. I looked it in the eye and let it know... I am the one who is winning this war. I will defeat you. Cancer didn't end me, I will end Cancer. And on Friday I will continue the battle to finish what I started 15 years ago - ending Cancer.


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