I’m trying really hard…Posted: August 17, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer, cancer fatigue, drugs, infection | Tags: cancer battle, post-mastectomy infection, Power Port, psychological effects of cancer, reconstruction fears 20 Comments
I’m trying really hard not to be discouraged by the latest bevy of bad news. Picture me squeezing my eyes shut as tight as they will go, turning a bit red in the face, and willing it to happen. Don’t. Get. Discouraged. Having my surgery postponed and being smacked in the face with the idea of another post-surgery infection is not my idea of fun. Being told we need to keep the port that I’ve been so looking forward to having removed was equally not fun. I’d actually begun counting the days until saying adios to the port. It’s served me well, but I’m so so so ready for it to be gone. I could almost imagine sleeping comfortably on my left side again, with no kink in the line that’s sewn into my jugular vein. I could picture myself in a sundress, sans the alien-looking bump with prongs under my skin. But alas, it’s not to be. Once again, the hits keep coming, and I have to suck it up and deal.
I’m trying really hard. So hard that I just wrote a beautiful post, if I do say so myself, about the effort. The words were flowing and I was thinking, “This is going to be good.” Then promptly lost it. All of it. Instead of “save” I hit “cancel.” And with one keystroke, it’s gone. I will attempt to recreate, but already know it won’t be as good.
I’m trying really hard to remember that while yes, being diagnosed with cancer–at a young-ish age no less–is bad, plenty of women have it worse than me. There are lots of rarer, more-aggressive forms of breast cancer than mine, and the battles are many. While my recurrence odds are low, the mere fact that I have odds reminds me in a terrifyingly real way that there’s always a chance that it will come back. As another fellow cancer chick so eloquently put it: “It’s losing your innocence all at once, rather than in bits and pieces over a lifetime.” Being diagnosed with cancer at a young-ish age is bad enough; fearing recurrence is even worse. Then you factor in all the other junk that comes with it, and before long it’s like inviting one person to a party and having them bring a village of savages with them. They drink all the good booze, hork down the delicate hors d’oeuvres, manipulate the conversation, interrupt with Buddy-the-Elf-esque burps, wipe their dirty mitts on the pretty towels in the guest bathroom, spill red wine on the beige carpet, and change the tinkling background music to heavy-metal hair bands. The cancer crew is most unwelcome. And yet they overstay their welcome in myriad ways.
I’m trying really hard to not freak out as the possibility of infection scares the tar out of me. There’s a kindly gatekeeper in my brain that shields me from the harsh memories of the battle royale that occurred last summer between my war-torn, ravaged body and mycobaterium fortuitum. While of course I remember being there and going through that, it’s as if I’m watching a movie of myself enduring that hell. It’s a gauzy, soft light, much like the lens filmmakers use to shoot a scene with an aging star. The gatekeeper that usually protects me from windexing the lens to see it unfold clearly, in all its replayed gore, is off duty. What I want to do it pack up all those horrible memories of the events last summer and put them in a box and leave them on the side of a deserted highway. Then I want to put the pedal to the metal, burn rubber, and beat feet away from them, without even once glancing in the rearview mirror. I want to find myself on a pastoral country road, with tall, leafy trees and big puffy clouds–somewhere far, far away from any hint of cancer or infection.
I’m trying really hard to be calm and not freak out about the possibility of infection. Of course I know that anytime one goes under the knife, the chance of infection is there. But rather than a distant “maybe,” infection is a real thing for me, and I have a visceral reaction to the idea of going through that again. And while the preventative antibiotics are just that — preventative — I find myself with real fear instead of comfort. The prophylactic effect should make me feel better, but instead I feel worse. There is a very fragile peace that was brokered between my body and the bacterium, and peace without the threat of war is meaningless.
I’m trying really hard to not gag on the antibiotics. I dutifully swallow the two pills that are my front-line defense against the wily bacterium that may want to set up shop again. Those bacterium were evicted after their long, comfy stay in my concave chest wall, and they may well want to reestablish their presence. So I swallow the pills, knowing full well that soon, very soon, I will feel like utter hell. The all-day nausea, the roiling queasiness, the lost tastebuds, and the sore throat that were my constant companions for 267 days are making a return visit. Back by not-at-all-popular demand is the diligence required in spacing the drugs 12 hours apart, and the taking them on a stomach empty enough to allow them to do their thing but not so empty as to make me puke. Instead of feeling comforted by the preventative drugs, I’m scared.
I’m trying really hard to think happy thoughts. Right now I’m remembering a highlight of our recent vacation, in which we were all in the ocean battling giant waves as the tide turned. These were seriously bitchin’ waves, a good 8-feet tall, and we were in the thick of them. I was ecstatic that the water was warm enough for me, a Gulf Coast chicken; that the waves were so accommodating for body surfing and frolicking; and most importantly that I was there to experience it. As I came up from being tumbled ass-over-tea-kettle by a giant wave, Macy overheard me say that that wave just bitch-slapped me. She misheard me, though, and thought I said that the wave had “fish-slapped” me, and she wanted to know if it was a flounder, because they tend to be especially evil. I’m gonna smile at the idea of being fish-slapped, even though I feel like crying instead.
I’m trying really hard to focus on how far I’ve come instead of how many setbacks I’ve had. The race is long, yet I’ve continued to put one foot in front of the other. Keep on keepin’ on. Several people have tried to help along the way by telling me that God only gives us what we can handle, and that he must think I can handle a lot. Thanks, but zip it. I don’t believe it, and I’m not comforted by that. While there are a host of helpers along the way, there’s only one person involved in this battle, and that’s me. No one is doling out the hard knocks in an insane game of “let’s see if this will make her crack.” It’s random, it’s uncontrollable, and it’s life. It’s life, and my job is to keep on truckin.
I’m trying hard to remember that this is temporary. As my wise survivor sister Jenny reminded me countless times during diagnosis, surgery, and treatment, this is temporary. This mess won’t be at the center of my life forever, as difficult as that is to imagine now. The ennui I feel today won’t always prevail. It’s easy to get caught up in the quagmire of unpleasant things that have come my way. I can see just how easy it would be to slip into the loving arms of pills, booze, rage, and self-pity. Name a vice, any vice; I’ll take it. It would be so, so easy to say I’m done, I’m out. Let the vultures pick my carcass clean because I give up.
I’m trying hard to walk on the sunny side of the street, as my sweet mama always advised. There are some dark and ominous alleyways around me, but I will seek out the sun and pound the pavement until all this madness is over. Those who have been on this “journey” before me assure me that one day it will all be a distant memory. I know this is true, yet it seems impossibly far away today. One day I will look back at all this and think, “Man, what a shit-storm that was.”
I have posted before but wanted to say I am sorry you are going through this!!! My bilateral was scheduled for Sept 16th just three days after Hurricane Ike here in Houston. My house flooded after working for months to get it “ready” for my recovery and then they canceled and rescheduled the surgery 3 times before going ahead with it despite the hospital being a wreck. I had to stay in my cousins one bedroom apartment when I was released because no one else had electricity. To top it off I had food poisoning the night of Ike. Things were a mess. Like you… I hate change and not having a plan in place that WORKS. I feel for you girl and you are in my prayers. One day at a time! Hugs,
Thanks, Cristl — bad timing on the bilat and Ike. I appreciate the perspective and your kind words.
Also try hard to remember that, despite numerous setbacks, you continue to kick ass and take names. Try hard to remember that, even though it’s your battle, you are far from alone. You have the support of many family, friends, and Underbelly readers. Finally, try hard to remember where you keep your Xanax.
Wow. I can’t believe you have to keep fighting. I’m glad you had your vacation, honey. Stay furious.
You can do it!!!!!! This horrible ride is almost over!!
This may be the best blog post I’ve ever read. On one hand, I know how you feel, but on the other hand, I’ve never had to battle an infection of that magnitude.
One of my 10 surgeries was postponed three times. The fourth call to postpone came while I was having pre-op tests, an EKG to be exact. I unsnapped the connections and wound up in the hallway by the elevators. In tears, I told the scheduling nurse on the phone, “No! I’ve been a good sport for months now, and I’ve understood women with tumors take presidence over a 7 hour reconstruction surgery, but I’m done being nice. Tomorrow is my surgery day, and I’m not giving it up.” By now I was screaming, sobbing. The poor people getting on and off the elevators must have thought I was a madwoman.
Doctors don’t understand what it takes to mentally and emotionally gear up for surgery. You do. I do. Oh, girlfriend… Vent, scream, do whatever it takes, but your friend is right. This time is temporary. You can do this. You will get through this.
I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve posted this on Twitter & Facebook. This speaks to all of us who’ve had or now have breast cancer.
Brenda, of course I don’t mind! Thanks for spreading the word and for your kindness.
I’m so sorry you are going through so much anguish. This is a beautifully poignant posting, and you are right — one problem invites others in. I find so much truth in your words that others have it worse. I think in life, there will always be those who have it better than us and those who have it worse.
Beth, you said it! Thanks for stopping by.
I just found your blog post through Brenda at Breast Cancer Sisterhood and want to say I feel you sister! Your post is poignant and beautifully written. Even knowing that one day it will seem like a distant memory doesn’t help you get through today. Argh. On some of my toughest days, this quote by Pema Chodron helped me a little. “Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” Thank you for being honest! Email if you ever need an ear.
Terri, I love the quote! So appropriate. Thanks a bunch.
I know about the frustration of postponed surgeries and how it takes a toll on your mental and physical preparedness. I’ve had two surgeries postponed and am waiting for one last one too. And while I haven’t experienced your nasty infection, I get anxious before surgery because I don’t handle the anesthesia well.
When I was first diagnosed, a woman in a breast cancer peer support group shared this poem. It’s inspired me over the past year, maybe it can help you too:
When things go wrong
as they sometimes will,
when the road you’re trudging
seems all uphill,
when the funds are low,
and the debts are high,
and you want to smile,
but you have to sigh,
when care is pressing you down a bit…
rest if you must–but don’t you quit.
Sucess is failure turned inside out,
the silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
it may be near when it seems afar,
so stick to the fight
when you’re hardest hit …
it’s when things go wrong,
that you mustn’t quit.
Nosy, thanks for the poem. Here’s to happier days ahead.
shit storm indeed. The results are in the try. Trauma likes to keep a warm blanket around all the crappy old stuff, unfortunately keeping it there to pull out later in times like these. Honor it, PTSD is viscious. If it feels like shit and smells like shit it is likely shit. this smells like it again…
the only way out is through. keep going nancy.
It is really hard to get through the storms of this disease. I just had a scare after eight years of remission, but it wasn’t what I feared. And now I have a personal crisis with my husband probably related to my cancer. Later on I will see it differently but rightnow it is hard as I go through it. Hang in there! Xoxo jan
😦 Dreaded antibiotics! My body is still a disaster from them I didn’t have nearly the same amount of time on them. There are good days and bad days in this journey, keep crossing the street to catch that sunshine.
[…] The Pink Underbelly A day in the life of a sassy Texas girl dealing with breast cancer and its messy aftermath Skip to content HomeAbout ← I’m trying really hard… […]
Here’s your “sunny side” comment: At least this time around you can still get your tennis game on and your gym time rather than being hostage to your restrictions watching life pass by. Schedule an extra game this week in the name of stress relief and anger management. And don’t forget the post-workout margarita! 🙂
[…] Halloween, and what could be more terrifying (for me) than to find myself eyeball-to-eyeball with the dreaded oral antibiotics? Not much scares me after dealing with cancer and its many-tentacled aftereffects, but these drugs […]