pathology and belonging

The pathology report….drum roll, please….all clear. All 9 nodes negative. After leaving 3 messages for the surgeon this week, she finally called to read the report that was sitting in her inbox since Monday. Frustrating, to say the least, but also a great relief. The size and nature of the tumor (HER2, ER/PR positive) make this cancer more aggressive, but because it’s not in the lymph nodes, it’s treatable.

With the actual tumor gone, I’m not quite sure how to describe my situation, especially given my difficulty with holding the idea of dis-ease in my body. I continue to recognize that I am not this cancer; that this experience is my journey and that the scars across my chest are my own reminder of where I’ve been. But does that mean I can now join the ranks of those women who carry the bold title of “survivor”, or do I have to wait until my head is free of my wiry hair and I have had chemicals pumped into my bloodstream? I feel lost in this period between surgery and chemo which feels like an in-between place in which I am empty of belonging, and free to pretend that I am merely healing from surgery. I suppose it helps that I feel fierce and fabulous, and that my flexibility is returning in recognizable daily ways. It also helps that I continue to receive strong embraces from people unafraid to hold my new frame and calls and emails as reminders that I am not alone as I traverse a new, foreign terrain.

seasonal reflection

I returned to work yesterday on the morn of the Autumn Equinox. The seasonal shift had me thinking of all of the change that has happened since the beginning of summer when I initially found the lump in my breast. On my first day of summer classes, I was told that the lump was malignant, and that it was an aggressive form of breast cancer. I couldn’t have felt more put out- “I don’t have time for this”, I thought (and said out loud, many times). But I was energized to do research while I worked and went to school. The sun and warmth of the seasons helped me to stay focused and to soak in the beauty of the nature around me. As summer ended, I prepared for surgery, had surgery, and I continue to feel strong in my recovery. Now with fall and the rain and darkness that I know lay ahead in these coming months, I’m trying to prepare for chemo. Like many trees and plants, I will be losing more of myself as my body reacts to the drugs- my hair will most likely fall out, my skin will become dry, and I will become tired. Autumn and winter will be a reminder that I need to rest and to prepare for the new growth of spring. As long as I remember the beauty of cycles and of the need for deep sleep in order to set my roots deeper into the earth, I know that I will not only get through this, but I will be stronger and more beautiful for it.

Yesterday I returned to work, and although there are some painful and sad changes happening, it feels good to be there. This may be partially due to the fact that my desk looks like a wildflower garden with all of the bouquets I’ve been graced with, but also due to the loving embraces and kind words and thoughts of my co-workers. I am blessed, and I take none of this for granted. And still, I await the official pathology report…

ta-ta, tubes!

The dreaded drainage tubes were removed today! Hooray!

One week from surgery, and I’m feeling incredible (although just a wee bit stir crazy, I must admit). The visits from friends have been such a sweet gift- I can’t tell you how much it means to see your faces, hear some news from the outside world, and to recieve so many loving embraces. Our home is filled with  flowers, delicious food, and cards a-plenty, and we are just blissed out of our minds (and our bellies are full and happy, too!).

Mom and sister Tami left Sunday after realizing I was doing so well- thank you so much to Jessica and Andy for the beautiful space that you allowed them to stay in! What a huge gift that was to have my family close by, and yet able to retreat for much needed rest in the evenings. Irene’s been slowly increasing her hours at work while maintaining a daily schedule of being my nurse, personal chef, and maid. I’m actually quite self-sufficient these days; capable of dressing myself, showering on my own, and even preparing some of what I eat, but I haven’t received the full go-ahead from the surgeon for exercise or lifting anything heavier than 5 lbs (which I think includes bed making and scooping the cat litter…).

For those wondering, the pathology report has not been released yet. I’m scheduled to have a port surgically placed on October 10th, and will start my weekly chemo routine that day- phew! I should be back to work by Monday of next week, just in time to show off my new, sleek figure (I lost 7 pounds with those breasts removed!). That gives me just 6 days for cami shopping and catching up on all the movies I missed during my busy work and school schedule!

Much gratitude to you beautiful people in my life- I am blessed beyond belief!