Diana's surgeon practices with an older surgeon, who assisted with her mastectomy. We saw him for an office visit between Christmas and New Years--he could have written the book about bedside manner, polite, warm, and a wonderful listener. So we were a bit taken aback when he looked at Diana's incision and exclaimed "Beautiful! That is so beautiful!" From a surgical point of view, it really is, and it looks healthy and is healing very well. But it still was a little farther than we had been willing to go. It stretched our brains, and in a good way. There is a beauty in a well executed mastectomy, even while we mourn the beauty of the breast that is no longer there.
So Diana has been up and down. She is recovering well, and had most of her energy and spunk back. Much of her down-ness has centered on chemotherapy, and the likelihood that she will lose her hair during it. She remembered as a child falling asleep with bubble gum in her mouth, and waking up with bubble gum caught in her hair. Her parents dealt with this by cutting most of her hair off. She shuddered and cried as she remembered the humiliation and violation of that experience, and how public it seemed to her.
Losing her hair, she says, feels worse to her than losing a breast. It's so public, so defacing. She would burst into tears whenever the subject came up. She had found some people who talked about wigs--the different kinds, how to buy them and how to care for them. Slowly she started to feel better.
As with so much of life, our expectations were so much worse than the reality. Yesterday we had our first meeting with the Oncologist who will be directing her chemotherapy. A lanky man with a very friendly manner, he spent an hour and a half talking with us about our options, and our choices. A lot of his news was good--no cancer in the lymph nodes, very early stage cancer, non-aggressive, will respond well to certain drugs. Some of the news was less good--there was early-stage cancer right up to the margins of the breast, making radiation therapy strongly indicated. If Diana had passed through menopause, certain treatments would work better. All in all, with aggressive treatment, we can reduce the statistical chance of a recurrence to about 1 in 7. And of course, recurrence doesn't mean a death sentence either. We left loaded up with pamphlets and feeling that we were in very good hands.
As the day went on, Diana's mood lightened and her energy increased. By evening, she was almost back to her "normal" self, in personality. We managed to put ourselves on the floor laughing with a conversation that we couldn't have had had a week ago without tears. We were talking about prostheses (breast ex-plants, I called them)--she said that she had been talking to a woman who let her feel hers, and it was remarkably "breasty", not hard plastic or anything. Suddenly from nowhere an idea popped into my head and out of my mouth--I said something like "You know, your breast is really prime real estate, in a strategic location on your body. It seems like you could put something there that would be more useful than a squishy prosthesis. Like maybe a video camera. We could make a documentary, like reality TV, and call it 'Boob's Eye View'!"
Well, we were off and running, and came up with a ton of ideas for what use we might make of this prime real estate:
By now we were howling with laughter. And all day today, we kept having good ideas (Jack-in-the-box nipple for those people who like to look down cleavage. Something that would squirt water, like those fake lapel flowers.)
It felt good to laugh, and even better to hear her howling and hooting. Where there is life, there can be despair, but where there is laughter, there is indeed hope.
Thank you for reading.