Timing, togetherness and tiny bits of brokenness….(or, why I’ve decided not to have surgery right now.)

“Our wholeness doesn’t bring us together”.  – Richard Wagamese

As soon as I sat to listen to this author speak I knew I had landed in the right room at exactly the right time. Out came my notebook, so that I could try to remember the lines that flowed out of him with such ease, and wound their way directly into the living, breathing bits of me. Richard’s story is terrifying, shameful, sad, frustrating, inspirational, beautiful and empowering, all at once. He tells the story of his trauma with grace, with strength, with beauty. He tells the story the way that I dream of telling stories. When he said that it isn’t our wholeness that brings us together, but the broken bits, I wanted to weep. I wanted to stand up and cheer. I felt relief. I felt hope. Because he’s right. For me, he’s right, anyway. I remember the persistent phrase ‘I know something you don’t know.’ playing over and over in my head, silently, but always there, once I was diagnosed. Being broken, in whatever way that may be, carves out some depth that allows you to understand others who are also broken. Who have had to put themselves together again. Who may have to do so down the road, again, because, as Richard so eloquently put it, sometimes there is a tiny “untended little bit of brokenness” that decides, unbidden, to rise up and stop you in your blissful tracks.

He also spoke about the perfect combination for him – the two things that helped him through his healing – ceremony and therapy. Right away I knew my perfect combination: Forest bathing, and counselling. I’ve continued to walk every day, getting stronger and stronger, and talking things out with a counsellor once every few weeks. It’s working.

I know it’s working, because gradually, over the past month or so, I have thought a great deal about healing. About getting stronger, physically and otherwise. About moving forward. About feeling hopeful. Consciously changing the way I speak to myself. About believing in my strengths and focussing on what makes me happy. My physiotherapist gently suggested ‘There’s no such thing as too much healing.’ Again, I wanted to weep. To stand up and cheer. Because I want more healing time. I need more healing time. I need to change the way I see myself in the mirror, and change that from ‘broken’ to ‘healing’. To ‘stronger than yesterday’. To ‘strong.’

How can I do that if I allow myself to be cut into again in just over three months? How can I allow my body – worse, force my body back to square one when I’m just starting to make progress?

The answer has come to me gently and slowly. It’s simple. It’s obvious. I cannot. Not yet. Maybe not ever. But definitely not yet.

Richard looked at us and pronounced: “I don’t want to be resilient anymore.” And I understood. I don’t want to be constantly tapping all of my resources just to survive. I don’t want to be ‘handling the pain really well’. I don’t want to be popping painkillers every four hours so that I can function with my children. I don’t want to launch myself into another potential disaster where I’m on antibiotics ten times over the course of a year. I want to heal.

And then:

“There’s a field out there where I can bark and laugh and play.” 

Right?? I want to bark and laugh and play! (Well. Maybe not the barking. But you know what I mean.)

Actually, depending on what the moon is doing, there could be some howling. But I digress.

So. My surgery was booked for September 4th. I haven’t cancelled it officially yet. But I’ve decided that’s happening tomorrow. And I will tell my surgeon that I’m not ready. That I don’t want to rebook at this point. That I will let him know. And I will decide when and if it happens. When I want to have the operation. I will take control of this one thing.

I will be okay with, maybe even celebrate, the reality that it is not our wholeness that brings us together, but the chips and cracks and scars and stories.

I had a lovely moment today on my walk. The bottoms of my feet and my shins were screaming at me. The pavement is hard on my feet. So I moved over the 30 cm I needed to in order to walk on softer ground. And my body answered instantly. Yes. That’s what I need. A soft place to land.

Softer places.

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Timing, togetherness and tiny bits of brokenness….(or, why I’ve decided not to have surgery right now.)

“Our wholeness doesn’t bring us together”.  – Richard Wagamese

As soon as I sat to listen to this author speak I knew I had landed in the right room at exactly the right time. Out came my notebook, so that I could try to remember the lines that flowed out of him with such ease, and wound their way directly into the living, breathing bits of me. Richard’s story is terrifying, shameful, sad, frustrating, inspirational, beautiful and empowering, all at once. He tells the story of his trauma with grace, with strength, with beauty. He tells the story the way that I dream of telling stories. When he said that it isn’t our wholeness that brings us together, but the broken bits, I wanted to weep. I wanted to stand up and cheer. I felt relief. I felt hope. Because he’s right. For me, he’s right, anyway. I remember the persistent phrase ‘I know something you don’t know.’ playing over and over in my head, silently, but always there, once I was diagnosed. Being broken, in whatever way that may be, carves out some depth that allows you to understand others who are also broken. Who have had to put themselves together again. Who may have to do so down the road, again, because, as Richard so eloquently put it, sometimes there is a tiny “untended little bit of brokenness” that decides, unbidden, to rise up and stop you in your blissful tracks.

He also spoke about the perfect combination for him – the two things that helped him through his healing – ceremony and therapy. Right away I knew my perfect combination: Forest bathing, and counselling. I’ve continued to walk every day, getting stronger and stronger, and talking things out with a counsellor once every few weeks. It’s working.

I know it’s working, because gradually, over the past month or so, I have thought a great deal about healing. About getting stronger, physically and otherwise. About moving forward. About feeling hopeful. Consciously changing the way I speak to myself. About believing in my strengths and focussing on what makes me happy. My physiotherapist gently suggested ‘There’s no such thing as too much healing.’ Again, I wanted to weep. To stand up and cheer. Because I want more healing time. I need more healing time. I need to change the way I see myself in the mirror, and change that from ‘broken’ to ‘healing’. To ‘stronger than yesterday’. To ‘strong.’

How can I do that if I allow myself to be cut into again in just over three months? How can I allow my body – worse, force my body back to square one when I’m just starting to make progress?

The answer has come to me gently and slowly. It’s simple. It’s obvious. I cannot. Not yet. Maybe not ever. But definitely not yet.

Richard looked at us and pronounced: “I don’t want to be resilient anymore.” And I understood. I don’t want to be constantly tapping all of my resources just to survive. I don’t want to be ‘handling the pain really well’. I don’t want to be popping painkillers every four hours so that I can function with my children. I don’t want to launch myself into another potential disaster where I’m on antibiotics ten times over the course of a year. I want to heal.

And then:

“There’s a field out there where I can bark and laugh and play.” 

Right?? I want to bark and laugh and play! (Well. Maybe not the barking. But you know what I mean.)

Actually, depending on what the moon is doing, there could be some howling. But I digress.

So. My surgery was booked for September 4th. I haven’t cancelled it officially yet. But I’ve decided that’s happening tomorrow. And I will tell my surgeon that I’m not ready. That I don’t want to rebook at this point. That I will let him know. And I will decide when and if it happens. When I want to have the operation. I will take control of this one thing.

I will be okay with, maybe even celebrate, the reality that it is not our wholeness that brings us together, but the chips and cracks and scars and stories.

I had a lovely moment today on my walk. The bottoms of my feet and my shins were screaming at me. The pavement is hard on my feet. So I moved over the 30 cm I needed to in order to walk on softer ground. And my body answered instantly. Yes. That’s what I need. A soft place to land.

Softer places.

Softer places.

Unapologetically saying ‘Uncle’ (Or, why I’m taking some time to breathe)

 

 

 

 

Before you start reading, be warned. This may turn a few stomachs.

Image

And yes. That’s my stomach. Replete with evidence of poor decisions made in my 20s. This picture was taken the day after I returned from Winnipeg last week, where I went to have those giant hemovac drains removed (Yay!), check out my first mastectomy ‘bra bar’ (Gulp.), and share some good food and wine with my mother, my companion for that trip (Yay!).

After the drain removal, I asked the physician’s assistant to explain the abdominal flap surgery to me. He ordered me to bare my belly, took out a Sharpie, and started sketching. The rule of thumb for this surgery is, apparently, that what you can pinch, you can take. The lines are cut lines. The line down the middle marks the divide between what will become two breasts. Now, think Geometry – cut each of those triangles out, and flip them 90 degrees toward the middle of my body. Attach, and fashion into breasts. Re-attach edges gaping hole left where triangle once was. Doesn’t that sound fun? I have been ordered to eat lots of pasta and ice cream and ‘fatten up’ before I have the surgery done.

I know this is the correct surgery for me. Believe it or not, the risk factors are very low. Yet, as I type this, I know a fellow breast cancer survivor sits in hospital, where she has been dealing with complications from the exact same surgery, and where she has been since the beginning of the month. Healing, as I have learned, can be very complicated.

I don’t want to be back in hospital. I don’t want complications. I don’t want to sit on the couch all day in constant recovery mode. I don’t want to feel like a pharmacy, taking a handful of pills – antibiotics, pain killers, acid reflux meds, you name it, every few hours. I don’t want bandages and stitches. I don’t want drains. I don’t want to ‘fatten up’ right now. I have decided that I need to heal from this latest setback, in more ways than one. I don’t want to write off another summer indoors, letting other people shuffle my kids off to camp after camp to keep them busy because I’m too tired-sick-or-sore to take care of them myself.

The sun is starting to shine. The days are getting longer. It is finally starting to get a little warmer out there, despite some persistent cold snap happening this week. My body is telling me it’s Spring. Tomorrow I get stitches and bandages removed. I feel like I’m surfacing. I can hug my kids without wincing. My youngest can climb up on my lap and I don’t have to banish him. I can put my arms around the people I love without them having to be ‘gentle’.

What I want is to live my life for a little while. The little voice inside me that whispered that there are options, that I could wait and do this reconstruction thing later has gotten progressively louder. I have spoken to women who have chosen no reconstruction as a permanent choice, and their strength of character humbles me. I don’t think I can do this permanently. But right now, I want back in my body. I want to be free of pain and discomfort. This summer, I’m going to swim, hike, paddle, yoga, maybe even run. I’m going to camp, road trip, have weekend getaways with my companion. I’m going to cook, clean, fold laundry, put dishes away in cupboards that are up high. I think I am taking a break. I need some time to get strong again before I do this surgery.

To that end, I went shopping this weekend and found some lacy things that are so great they almost trick me. It actually occurs to me that my new undergarments are not completely dissimilar to what many of us women generally sport. I just may become a little more ‘attached’ to mine.

La Vie en Rose actually has a pretty good selection of what I need at this point. For someone as fond of lacy things as I am, this was actually kind of a big deal. There is a serious gap in this particular retail 'niche'.

La Vie en Rose actually has a pretty good selection of what I need at this point. For someone as fond of lacy things as I am, this was actually kind of a big deal. There is a serious gap in this particular retail ‘niche’. Happy!

 

I have looked at myself in the mirror so often I’m almost used to my new body. Talked it out a lot. Cried a lot. Have taken some pictures. Looked at old ones. Gotten lots of much-needed reassurance.  I think I’m good.

And, when I am ready, sometime in the colder months, when it will feel normal to curl up on the couch for awhile, when the days are short and dark and I want to hibernate anyway, I will be ready for another surgeon to draw those cut lines on me and go for it.

For now, bring on the big melt. I have some living to do.