I am remarkably cheery for a woman whose right boob is flattened, puckered and stitched, making it look kind of like a cabbage doll face that has been run over by a Tonka truck. It took me a few days after my surgery to drum up enough courage to actually look under the bandage at what was once my right breast. But now that I have, much to my surprise, I’m dealing with it quite nicely.
I’ve had plenty of TTT (“Time To Think”) these days of recovery. I’ve had time to try (unsuccessfully) to come up with great thoughts, to dwell on the minutia of life, to contemplate advanced theoretical formulas, such as the one my friends came up with after my husband mentioned to them, after multiple glasses of wine, that he may not be getting sufficient attention for his two surgeries– a dental surgery and an upcoming, very painful shoulder surgery. The equation, which begs for a true or false answer, is as follows:
Dental Surgery + Shoulder Surgery = or > Mastectomy ?
While you ponder this and think of witty (or perhaps even snide) comments, here are my thoughts as I recover:
- I hate TTT. It is completely overrated. It very well may make me insane.
- Surprisingly, I don’t hate how I look. Sure, the boob isn’t so pleasant on the eyes, and I’m probably in denial, but everything else is holding together quite nicely. The pain has not etched more lines on my face (thank you, Botox, Extra Strength Tylenol and Cannabis), my hair looks good (thank you, Keratin) and even my manicure has stayed pretty much intact (thank you, no personal grooming or doing dishes.)
- Even after a week without a shower, I don’t think I smell that much. At least not enough to keep visitors away.
- One should never let one’s 20-something daughter wash one’s hair in the sink unless one’s 20-something is studying to be a hair stylist. However, I am sure my scalp wounds will heal before my breast is fully reconstructed.
- If one can choose a time to recover from surgery in New England, it’s a no brainer– go for October. The clean air, the colors of the leaves on trees, the crunch of the acorns. No, I am not on any drugs anymore—see #6.
- Narcotics are not fun drugs. Unless you get off on being a constipated zombie. I can’t believe anyone gets hooked on this stuff. I actually prefer a little pain.
- Cannabis, however, is pretty awesome, and I believe it should be prescribed as the transition drug for pain when one’s only choices are 1. narcotics or 2. extra strength Tylenol. Four days out of surgery I threw all the narcotics away, had a day of laughter and entertained my adult children (“OMG mom is soooo high!”) A day later, no drugs and very little pain. My only worry on this front: I am nervous my kids won’t like hanging out with me as much when I am straight. I am pretty, pretty funny when I am high. Or at least I think I am.
- Out of necessity comes great things: I have finally, unexpectedly, and happily learned to use my television — and the Apple TV, and two out of our four remotes. I say things like, “Honey, where did the Apple TV remote go?” “Is that on HULU or Showtime Anytime?” I am feeling very smart, independent and accomplished. Please, don’t judge unless you can run your TV without help.
- TV bingeing is a lifesaver for keeping your ass on the couch when you are instructed to “lay low” for a few weeks. So far: Catastrophe (Amazon) The Affair (Showtime) Broad City (Hulu). Next up: Humans (AMC). More Suggestions always welcome.
- Visiting nurses are not always helpful. Mine came in like Pig Pen, trailing a stench of pure nicotine. She interrupted herself often with a hacking smoker’s cough. She had no tape to change my dressing. She tried to take my blood pressure using my mastectomy arm (a very big “no no”.) I told her not to come back.
- Friends and family are the best medicine. There is love in every meal that is made for me, every cup of tea, every bowl of chicken soup, every brownie, cookie, jelly bean, popcorn kernel and Swedish Fish. There is love in every card, call, text and email. There is love in every gesture, no matter how big or small, love in the flowers that fill my house, love in the lemon citron vodka the silver patron vodka, the truffle oil and all my favorite ice creams. I feel overwhelmingly grateful and overwhelmingly loved.
- My friends are better cooks than I. I hope that they are giving me their best stuff because right now I am feeling a little insecure. I am pretty sure they are giving me their best stuff. Every night at their houses cannot be like the dinners I am getting. This is what I choose to believe.
- Breast cancer is like crossing an ocean in a sailboat. You head out, you hope that as the weathermen predicted, you will be in for clear skies and calm seas. But once you have left the safety of the shore, you never really know what to expect, or how long it is going to take you to get to the other side. You just have to deal with what nature throws at you, and sometimes it is a very long haul.
Now that the surgery is over, I am recovering and having my follow up visits, both Mike and I have revisited the equation posed so many weeks ago, and agreed that it is decidedly false. Here is what is decidedly true:
Dental Surgery + shoulder surgery < mastectomy. Much less than.
Pain aside, body image issues aside, unlike dental and shoulder surgery, there is a good chance that there will still be no certainty about breast cancer when the mastectomy is over. And it’s cancer, for god’s sake. Don’t forget that one. There’s no disagreement here, but you can still leave a comment– we can take it.