I didn’t write yesterday. September 11 is forever woven into my Chicago story, into my personal story, and I’ve already felt like I’ve been screaming “ME ME ME” with all of this “c” stuff. Plus, with the staggering number of people who have died in the last six months, many of whose deaths were preventable, I couldn’t write about one and not think about the other.
I don’t want to think about death. I want to think about life.
This morning I decided that I wasn’t going to be afraid any more, and that I wouldn’t let fear define or rule me. It was a bold statement, full of courage and bravado. It’s a lot harder to live than to say. I did alright until I took a shower, my first since Tuesday. It took ages. I had to make sure I didn’t soak the steri strips, but I had to clean my armpit. Yesterday Jim spent an hour with his face inches from it, from a place I hadn’t washed in days, gently easing the tape from my skin. We’d been able to remove much of the adhesive from the hospital tape, but some remained. This morning the fabric from my shirt coated the spots of glue left behind. As I balanced away from the water in our compact shower stall, I dabbed at the gluey lint until I got as much as I could see. It was hard to see it all without dipping my head into the stream. I needed Jim’s help, again, to put on the second bandage. Dr. B. made two incisions: one on my breast to remove the lump itself, and the other under my armpit to remove the sentinel lymph node. He used absorbable stitches. As my body heals, the stitches will disappear.
I’m not in any pain, which is remarkable since I haven’t taken any medication in about forty hours. I woke up Friday morning and didn’t need it. Didn’t need it yesterday afternoon. Didn’t need it last night, and I haven’t needed it today. I’m swollen as, inside, this beautiful machine repairs itself and fills up the holes. Apparently my body abhors a vacuum, too.
I’ve realized that my body is amazing. It might seem like I’d feel the opposite, considering the issues, but nope. My body is amazing. In the last several weeks, I’ve been poked and prodded, had a tooth extracted, had parts of my breast vacuumed out and then carved out, been numbed and knocked out. I’ve dropped weight, dropped blood pressure, and dropped glucose. I’ve probably dropped cholesterol, too, but that’s a poking for another time. I’ve taken the absolute least amount of pain medication I possibly could. Forty-eight hours after a lumpectomy, I stopped taking any at all.
I thought of all of this when I decided that I wasn’t going to live in fear. Last night I said to Jim that my life is forever changed. For the rest of my life there will be a consistent undercurrent of concern. Will it come back? Am I healthy? Am I safe?
I don’t want to live like that. I never have. Life has risks. More now, both external and internal, but worrying doesn’t make it better. I need to approach this as I approach any other issue in my life: OK. Now, what can I do?
There’s a quote by Dr. B. on his profile page: “The human body is an amazing thing. I never cease to be amazed by its resilience and ability to recover after surgery.” I agree, and it applies to the human spirit as well. I know if I live in fear then I surrender. I give up. That’s not me.
I’m going to be afraid. I’m going to be frustrated. I’m going to cry and get angry and will be completely unreasonable. I’m also going to dream. I’m paying attention to what is fulfilling and rewarding and what makes my blood dance. I’ve got project ideas out the wazoo and I’m going to sit with each of them, envision each one whole, and choose the ones that give me a tingle. I picture The Local Tourist and I see me as a little girl with a notebook, a pen, and a camera around her neck pinching the woman wearing the same just to make sure she’s real. When I picture Living Landmarks, it’s an old friend who stepped off the train with a suitcase bulging with stories. There are other projects, other dreams, and none of them involve a woman too afraid to bring them to life.