Saturday, June 5, 2010
Day 31: Post-op
I know people have been waiting to see my next blog. This past week was just too emotionally draining for me to write anything, and yesterday I was completely out of it. I have had 4 past surgeries, been pregnant twice and have had two newborns to deal with, and I even had mono in high school. But nothing has laid me out like this. In the recovery room, I fell asleep sitting up eating a cracker. Gabe had to carry me from the car, into the house and up the stairs to bed. My mom brought me a delicious homemade brownie and it took me an hour to eat it. So, clearly, no blog. And I figure I can be forgiven for the unflattering picture of me in my hospital-issued ultra-control bra, looking exhausted and bloated--at least I'm standing up!
The day before surgery the surgeon's nurse told me that if I woke up from surgery with a drain attached to my chest I would know that cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. When I half-woke up, in a deep fog, the first thing I did was check for a drain. I didn't feel it. I saw the outline of an attending nurse in the corner of the room so I asked her if I had a drain. No, your lymph nodes are clear. I drifted back to sleep and when I woke I asked her if this was a dream. No, this is the real deal. She and I had this same conversation at least half a dozen times. She was very patient with me. I finally got up the courage to ask what stage I was. She didn't know, so she went to get the surgeon's report. This initial report could potentially change when the full pathology comes in, but I'm going to go with it. The surgeon said that since the cancer did not spread, and the individual tumors are distinct from each other and very small--I am stage 1.
Stage 1. In my new universe of what constitutes good news, this is nothing short of amazing. I mean, I have 3 tumors. Yes, it's been upgraded to three. I found them when I was lactating, when it often goes undetected for a long, long time because it's hard to feel anything. I'm told if I hadn't lost all that weight after Augie was born, if I weighed even 15 pounds more, I probably wouldn't have felt anything at all and it would have been months before my diagnosis. Months for a triple negative cancer isn't good. And although this damn triple negative status means that stage 1 will not save me from chemo--still. There's relief, and then there's this. This is something else.
One of the most isolating things about cancer is that no one can really understand what it takes from you, unless they've been there. One of the many things is your sense of control. You can do everything right and still have cancer, still get weak and suffer. Yet I have also learned that there is a big difference between fear and weakness, or denial. Everything I've done so far has scared the shit out of me. Finding the lump, making Gabe feel it, calling my doctor right away, following up on the ultrasound appointment immediately, having them do the biopsy on the spot, hearing my diagnosis, calling the surgeon and the oncologist, doing the BRCA test, all of it. But I did it anyway. Maybe it's the planner in me, but for the past month all I could do was try and plan the next step. Everything I need to do in the future scares me too. On the other hand, the future would look a lot bleaker if I had been in denial. So regardless of how illogical or irrelevant it is, no matter what anyone tells me, I'm taking this one back. I'm stage 1, and I'm taking all the credit for it.