Here’s some of the many (somewhat) rational things that should be keeping me up at night in the weeks before I go under the knife to have a cancerous breast removed:
That the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes.
That I’ll be one of those one out of a million patients for whom anesthesia doesn’t work, and I’ll be screaming in pain in silence while they operate on me.
That they’ll cut off the wrong breast.
That some 26-year-old resident will be holding the knife instead of my big deal surgeon.
That they can’t, as they promised, actually fix me.
But inexplicably, those things don’t actually keep me up at night (I only obsess about these things during the day.)
Here’s what is actually keeping me up at night:
At 4:00AM, when my head is full of anxiety and I am tossing and turning, I worry that the woman they bring in to surgery will not be the woman they bring out of surgery.
As I wrap my robe around me and make my way down the stairs to start my day in the middle of the night, I worry that I will somehow be fundamentally changed.
As I make that first cup of coffee while the house is silent and it is still pitch dark, I worry that I only have a few more weeks of being me.
I worry that they are going to cut out my sense of humor along with my right breast.
I worry that I will be a fundamentally sad person, not a fundamentally happy one.
And I really, really don’t want to be Debby Downer.
I inherited my sense of humor from my dad. He didn’t have much of a filter, especially if my mom wasn’t around to rein him in. He loved to tell us kids “dirty” jokes. And we loved to hear them. It was BPC (Before Political Correctness.)
“Did I ever tell you about the 3 breasted woman I knew?” he’d ask us.
“No…” my brothers and I replied in unison. Of course, we had heard about the 3 breasted woman before– multiple times. We had all heard all his jokes before,
“She had two breasts in the front, like everyone else,” he’d tell us very seriously. “But she also had one in the back.” He’d hesitate just the right amount of time, then he’d continue.
“She wasn’t much to look at…” he’d say, and then he’d hold out his arms, one in front of the other as if dancing with his arms around a phantom woman, one of his hands on her shoulder, one on her back. Then he would throw back his head in laughter…”but she was a pleasure to dance with…”
And even though it was rude, and sexist, and totally inappropriate for a dad to tell his teenage kids, we would join my father in his hearty and infectious laugh.
I’m afraid I might not find this joke funny anymore.
I’m afraid I might not find any irreverent “dirty” joke funny anymore.
Mike tries to reassure me: “They are cutting off a breast. You will be the same person you always were. You will still have the same sense of humor.”
“I’m not sure. I think this will change me. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me.”
“You will be the same person.”
“I know it’s just a breast,” I tell him. “I know they are not messing with my head. I know that.“
“But, do you think you would you lose your sense of humor if they cut off one of your balls?”
Chew on that.