One of the many hard truthsPosted: August 12, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer | Tags: psychological effects of cancer, revision surgery after breast reconstruction, Salisbury Beach, young cancer patients 9 Comments
It’s been a while since I’ve seen my dear friend and most beloved surgeon. He’s been busy this summer traveling and I’ve been busy avoiding his office. Not because I don’t love him and his staff–I do–but because the longer the gap in between appointments, the more I can pretend to be normal post-cancer.
Or so I thought.
I’m learning the hard way that there is no “normal” post-cancer. Most people (myself included) have the impression that once you’re diagnosed, have surgery, and complete treatment, you’re done with cancer. But you’re never done. This is one of the many hard truths about cancer: you’re never done.
Three-fourths of the way through my 2-week vacation, my thoughts more regularly return to cancer. And surgery. When I first arrived at Salisbury Beach, I thought, FINALLY! I’m here, I’m on vacation and can take a much-needed, eagerly anticipated, and well-deserved break from cancer. I’d thought of little else in the days leading up to my vaca and was ready, oh so ready to get on the plane and be there.
It’s been great — good weather, huge waves, plenty of cocktails & lobster, and the company of friends who’ve become family. I missed all this last year because of that damned post-mastectomy infection, and I was determined to make up for lost time this year. And I have. Yet my brain isn’t entirely on vacation, and as I’m soaking up the sun and relishing the cool east wind, my brain says “Whatach think about your upcoming revision surgery, missy?”
I don’t want to think about it. I’m on vacation. I should be thinking about what to drink next, or whether to get the 1-pound or 1.5-pound lobster. Yet I do think about it. The brain prevails, and my thoughts turn from all things beachy to thoughts of yet another surgery. While the upcoming surgery is a good one in the realm of surgeries, it still means arriving at the crack of dawn, being assaulted with the dreaded hospital smell, enduring endless digging to find a non-wiggly vein for the IV, undergoing anesthesia, coming out of anesthesia, and starting yet another recovery process.
A couple of months ago when I scheduled the revision, one of my wise friends said don’t you think you might want to do this after the kids go back to school? I said hell to the no, I want to get this done ASAP and get on with my life; I don’t want to wait even one more week because I want to be done. But now I know that I’ll never be done.
Yes, I will get to a point in which I no longer have surgeries and revisions and procedures on the horizon, but I’ll never be done with cancer.
Thoughts of the “big C” will infiltrate my brain here, there, and everywhere. On vacation. In the grocery store. On the tennis court. At the baseball field. In my bed, while I should be sleeping but instead am thinking. About cancer.
I woke up the other night–on vacation, mind you, with the windows open to the cool breeze and the sound of the crashing waves–thinking about cancer. Even when I’m sleeping, those thoughts are in my head. As my revision surgery approaches, I find myself with the same apprehensions I’ve had before every surgery I’ve had since my diagnosis. I may be nearing the finish line in terms of procedures required, but my thoughts refuse to budge. Instead of getting closer to being done, I realize there’s no such thing.