Well, it’s been a big week. I have been able to do a pretty good job of staying on top of my emotional reactions to each of the new phases of this treatment. I have done so by preparing myself for what’s ahead. By educating myself on what’s to come. I knew that my double mastectomy, removal of lymph nodes and reconstruction beginnings were going to cause me immediate and immense pain. I was ready for it. I was ready for it because I knew that every day that went by post-surgery I would wake up feeling exponentially better. This is what got me to sleep at night, or what kept me patient while I tossed and turned and sleep eluded me. I knew that every day was going to be better than the last.
Then I got my date for my first chemotherapy session. Sat down. Tried to begin my processing. Tried to figure out how I was going to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the next four months. Not so easy.
There are a few good things that come of this. The first involves some crazy haircuts for me and my boys – we are all currently sporting mohawks – them because they are being granted a small window of permission to do so, and because it makes them feel like they have a role to play in this trip I’m on. Me? Never before would I have taken a few weeks to embrace my long-lost inner punk-rocker and shaved my head! Now I can. It’s going to go anyway, right? So one very-well photographed trip to the spa later, we three are shorn and mohawked. My son has actually coined a great new word – as I carefully spread hot pink gel through his ‘hawk, he said “Mom, this mohawkery is actually kind of fun, don’t you think?”
I can envision my head bald. I have looked at so many photos of bald women that there is part of me that actually wants to jump the gun and do it sooner than planned. I am experimenting with makeup, have bought an eyebrow pencil, and am steeled for the reality that even with all of this in place, there will be months during which I don’t recognize myself. I am ready.
I am ready to feel nauseated, tired and miserable. I am ready to hand myself over, on some level, to this process. I have been trying to get some perspective on the amount of time involved. I have it narrowed down to being about 2/3 the length of a pregnancy. I have handed my body over to pregnancies. Often sick, often tired, feeling alienated and isolated at times and at others feeling like I had joined a special club. Don’t get me wrong – I understand that pregnancy is not the same thing. I am trying to dig deep and tap personal experiences in a way that will help me put this timeline into perspective. It is helping.
So why then, did I choose today to completely fall apart? What is it about this PICC line being inserted into my body that made me dissolve into tears the moment I stood up after the procedure? Is it the fact that there is a ‘line’ in my body that goes directly to the superior vena cava so that medicine can be delivered unapologetically? Is it that the device is ugly, and might as well tattoo me with “I am sick.”? Is it the limitations it presents? A summer without swimming in a lake? (That does really suck, by the way. I have to totally change my happy place now.) Is it that my tossing and turning at night is just going to get more complicated now? I want to say it’s all of that – it is, but it’s something more. A valuable lesson for me. I didn’t prepare myself for today. I didn’t spend any time thinking about what today signified. Aside from asking a few of my crafty friends if they would take fabric I bought and make it into ‘sleeves’ I could wear to cover the line, I didn’t give it another thought. I went to the hospital alone because I really thought it was going to be a ‘whatever’ kind of appointment. The lesson for me is that each of these steps, as insignificant as they may seem, is bringing me closer to a time that I know I can’t get through by saying that tomorrow I will feel better, and each step should and will from now on be preceded by some real mental preparation on my part.
I am now just days away from beginning a treatment that is going to systematically poison my body and I have no idea how to prepare myself for that. It is scary, but it is also wonderful, because hopefully these 8 visits wherein this ugly little portal into my veins is put to good use will eradicate any hope this disease has of setting up housekeeping in my body. I tied a scarf around the PICC line today and my good friend joked and said I looked like I had joined some sort of gang. It’s not all that crazy an analogy. I am preparing for a fight. This is just part of my armour.
(My melt-down is done now.)