Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Current Moves You Forward, But Not Under

I've been trying for the past two weeks to put into words how this part of the journey has been. Mostly I have written really nasty and angry posts that I haven't published but which feel *good* to get out. I've been trying to find a metaphor for what I have been feeling in the past two weeks.

[The Mack truck feeling post-surgery; the fear of being frail and vulnerable; the guilt of doing nothing while my husband does everything; the hatred of pain and discomfort; the worry with every little setback; the blinding anger at every little setback; the love of friends who bathe me in light; the delight and appreciation of gifts, food, cards, love; the conflicted feeling I have moving forward; the complete and utter upheaval that this experience as brought into my life that isn't clear to me now because I just can't parse the greatness of it all.]

I have a memory from many years ago when our family used to go ocean diving together. We'd be suited up, all strong swimmers and new to this cool sport. Diving is the most amazing experience in the world...down about 35 feet you are weightless, floating along perfectly buoyant, the only sound resonating is the in and out of your respiration and in front of your eyes colors and life like you'd never seen. But diving in for the splash was cold and weird, weighted down by a lead belt and struggling with the cumbersome wet suit and tank. The surface, which would seem so safe, was always choppy and scary with too much movement, your body thrust back and forth in ways difficult to manage for long periods of time. The closer to the surface you are, the warmer it is. But the closer to the surface you get, the easier it is to feel out of control, to choke and gag on the salt water when you take your regulator out of your mouth and try to break into the air.  Going down and coming up through that space was always scary for me, the current and movement of the water working against you, but knowing that you had to go through it to either experience the beauty below or get to the ultimate safety of the boat above. There was no escaping the in-between.

That is where I feel like I have been for the past two weeks/two months. If I could graph the ups and downs, it would be a pretty interesting ride.

+ Yay! Found lump early, smart GP sends me on to mamography
- Oooh, at core biopsy, dr. says "don't worry, I'm sure it's benign!"...except, it's not
- Oooh, not only not benign, but triple negative and grade 3 (fewer options)
- Oooh, sucks that mastectomy is treatment option, but +Yay! likelihood of reconstruction at same time.
+ Yay! (x10!)  no lymph node involvement (no serious dissection, no radiation!)
- Oooh, but that swelling under arm may mean no reconstructive surgery
+ Surgery and reconstruction
+ Yay! Clean margins at surgery! no cancer in other breast! Stage 1!
-Oooh, well, you still have to take chemo...sorry. 
- Oooh, that's a really itchy rash from the ceflex you thought you could take, sorry.
- Oooh, everyone in the house has the flu the day you get home from surgery? That's not good!
- Oooh, body doesn't like alloderm...ouch, that's a horrible skin reaction you've got there! Is the white count high? Will we need to admit to hospital? Will we need to take all of it out?
+ Yay! White count fine, escaped admit to the hospital! Things are looking better
-Oooh, wait. Is that your incision flaring up and splitting two weeks after surgery? Into the hospital for painful antibiotics!
+Yay! Reprieve from hospital after only 2 days (from the expected 5).
-Oooh, but the issue continues and is starting on the other side. What is wrong? Hmmm, nobody seems to know...

The up/down movement of what has happened over the past two months has been jarring. One one hand, I can't complain because it could have been SO MUCH WORSE. On the other, it's these little ups and downs that are wearing me out. It's the current that keeps moving me forward through choppy water, moving me forward but not dragging me under. Moving me forward when I am not quite ready or stable enough to draw up my knees, stick my regulator in my mouth and enjoy the ride. Instead I am spluttering and gagging on too much too soon, too many things at step forward, two steps back...too many little hiccups along the way. But then, in this scene in my mind, I rise up through those last few feet of murky choppy water to see a boat full of people that I love. Nick ready to give me a hand up the ladder, lifting the incredibly heavy tank so that I can scramble up the side when I have had enough. My friends ready with warm hugs, big smiles, delicious cinnamon rolls (seriously, gaining weight from the love), and words of encouragement. My sun-kissed kids eager to see me and have Mama back to her old self. And the women who have been in the water with me, we are forming a little bit of a chain to get each other back to the boat or down to the beauty below. We help stabilize each other on this choppy surface that cancer creates in our lives. It sucks, but the one thing I know more than anything is that I am not alone.

This week I go back to work, likely from home for more days because of the incision issue. On Monday, I go back to the plastic surgery folk to figure out if we keep my implants in or take them out. This week, I talk to my doctors about wanting to be healed from Phase II before I start Phase III, telling them I need a little time right now to make sure I am ready to move on. But instead of feeling triumphant in that decision and that need, I am fearful that the oncology team will say "no, we need to move, your stats will increase if you don't get on this now...this is your future you're talking about...let's roll".  This Saturday, I will celebrate my 40th birthday with friends and family that I love. Back and forth, back and forth, the choppy waters continue. I just need to remember to keep my lungs full, lean back and try to float through it all.


  1. keep floating, we are holding your hand, keeping the mainline for you. breathe in that glowy goodness and let it flow through your body, bringing in light, love, healing.

    you are coming into 40 with such grace and gorgeousness. you truly are beauty.


  2. You've been nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award. Stop by to pick it up and see how it works. Thanks!

    The Epic Parenting Team