And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
One year ago today was the one day that I did not write a Today’s Moment blog, in the year I vowed to do so every day. It was the one day that I failed; I simply couldn’t find any words to write. I’d made it through the cancer diagnosis, the surgery, and radiation and I was embarking on long-term oral chemotherapy. While things were still difficult, we thought we were on the way back up.
And then my husband suddenly and with no warning was let go from his job. And of course, that meant we were “let go” from our health insurance as well.
You know that children’s book, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Yeah, it was like that, but worse. We were completely blindsided.
And so I didn’t write my moment. Something I’ve regretted.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my Today’s Moment year was that happiness isn’t always obvious. Sometimes you really have to look. And I mean LOOK. Over that year, my perspective changed from believing that happiness is a gift to believing that happiness is a choice. You choose happiness. You reach for it.
And right now, up to my, well, breast in an acute infection that showed up a year after surgery, an infection that isn’t cancer, but is there because I had cancer, an infection that is basically under control, but is resisting going away completely, and an infection that occurred at a time when I planned on going insurance-less until Michael’s insurance from his new job kicked in, rather than continuing to pay the ridiculous COBRA costs – well, I could very easily choose to skip a week of This Week’s Moment Of Happiness. But I’m not.
I choose to be happy.
I choose it.
So I was blindsided again yesterday, when I went in to see the surgeon for a follow-up. The drain in my breast was gone, but the bandages had prevented me from seeing what it looked like. The night before my appointment, I took the bandages off as the adhesive was starting to get to me. I looked in the mirror. And what I saw was not anything like what I’ve seen in the last year, a view, a difference, that I’ve grown accustomed to.
The removal of the tumor left me with what I called an ice cream scoop taken out of my breast. I didn’t like it. But I could live with it. Now, it looked like a part of my breast collapsed. It’s like someone took a golf club and slammed it into the side of my breast. It looks misshapen, mangled, unnatural – I would even say butchered. The nipple no longer looks forward. It looks to the side, away from its healthy twin.
I couldn’t say a word. But I covered my breast with my hand. I held it the way you would hold a stunned bird who just flew into your window.
When I saw the surgeon, I asked her what was going on. She said that apparently, there’s been a pocket of fluid in the surgical site pretty much since the day of surgery. That pocket of fluid gave me a more rounded appearance, and somehow, a year later, it became infected. The fluid has now been removed.
“So…” I said slowly, looking down at my breast, bared in the examination room. “This is it? This is the way it will look? This is the way I will look?”
My surgeon, who has gone through breast cancer herself, put her hand on my shoulder. “Yes, Kathie,” she said. “This is it.”
She left the room. I fell apart.
When I pulled myself together, I left the office. As I waited for the elevator, a mom and her young boy joined me. He was probably about four. He glanced up at me and I smiled at him. He looked at his mother, then back at me, and he took his free hand and slid it into mine.
“I like you,” he said. “You’re pretty.”
“Thank you,” I said. I don’t think I’ve ever meant two words so sincerely before.
It took gargantuan effort to hold the tears back until I got to my car. I didn’t want to alarm him. I didn’t want him to think he’d said the wrong thing. Because he hadn’t.
Last night, after an evening of googling prostheses for partial mastectomies and being thoroughly turned off by their colloquial name of “chicken cutlets” (why don’t we ever just call things what they are?), I got ready for bed. I stood in front of the mirror and looked again at this battered breast of mine. This breast I refuse to call a girl, a tata, a boob, whatever. She’s a breast.
She’s a part of me. Still.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I still like you. We’re still a team. I will continue to hold you as you heal.”
I wrote this today. I choose to be happy.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.