I have been undergoing breast cancer treatment for more than a year and the reason I won’t write about it for anyone other than Blunt Moms today is because I feel like laughing my long-gone titties off about it and non-BluntMOMS might be moved to giggle about the cry until you laugh times…
Like after my double mastectomy last October, when the post-surgery nurse was rattled by my drug-induced wails and profane declaration that everyone in the post-op “should just eat the fucking cookie!”, an opinion I shouted after being roused from anesthetic stupor by the announcement that I had been surgically sealed up flatter than the seemingly endless salt basin in Death Valley – with no reconstruction. A totally rational response, because, fun fact: if you have a muffin top (I don’t) the extra tissue can be used to reconstruct your chest, so you get a flatter stomach and reconstructed boobs all at once. So, cookies and muffin tops for all (dammit)!
Maybe the nurse was taken aback by my demand that they “wheel me to the front of the hospital and leave me there on a gurney as a Halloween decoration – drain tubes poking out of my sides slowly filling small dangling bottles with bloody fluid, and mummy like bandages wrapping my chest, bony ribs peeking out below. Who knows why she thought I was upset? I’m not crying. YOU’RE crying!
No, she was right, I was spilling maniacal tears and talking a lot of drug-induced shiz. So, she asked numerous times if I wanted to see a chaplain because she felt I needed to “get some things off of my chest.” Yes! She actually said that! My rage crying turned to –stitch ripping roars of laughter as I noted that everything that had been on my chest was now either in the operating room’s biohazard trash bin or on the way to pathology. Back off! Or, front off…that’s the problem, Sister!
Or the time a few weeks later when I thought I was part starfish. Well, not really, but it did cross my mind in a fit of fantastical thinking. A nasty case of cellulitis coupled with a seroma made my chest swell to the point that I thought I’d developed the power to regenerate a boob. Seriously, if it wasn’t for the bright red rash and sloshing fluid, I might have bought a bra for the thing. If you pressed on one side of the site, formerly known as my left breast, it looked like Mamma Cass was sitting on a water bed – one side flattened to the bone while the other side forced into a swell the size of a Grand Teton (yes, pretentious Francophiles and geography nerds, I know what I did there). The fluid could have filled a C cup. Mastectomy? Schmacectomy. Alas, antibiotics took care of that excitement. But, a few days later the docs implanted a chest port to ease chemotherapy. On an ironing board chest, it protrudes more prominently than my former boobs ever did. Does Victoria’s Secret make a tiny lacy sling? Seriously, I could use some run(a)way bling.
I’m pretty sure that if you stuck a hose up my ass right now and turned it on that I could water your garden and provide hours of summertime amusement for kiddies big and small. I’ve had so many surgical incisions this past year (and in a few weeks I’ll have an oophorectomy and sport four more) I could do endless pirouettes and sprinkle your roses. If you’re concerned about decency laws regarding a naked woman standing in your garden with a hose up her ass, fear not! Now that I am sans nipples, I am G-rated up top.
If I hadn’t turned 50 this coming June, I would swear chemo had me aging in reverse, ala Benjamin Button, undoing what puberty once did to me. Weight loss, boob loss, balding baby head…and the first blast of chemo I said bye-bye to my period. After chemo rounds, my husband would often find me in Child’s Pose, or – better yet – Happy Baby, crying like an infant as I try to work out treatment-induced intestinal issues.
Oh, and who would have thought that hair loss hurts not just emotionally, but physically?! Each little hair follicle makes a desperate attempt to hold onto its off-spring…everywhere. And, yes – the bald carpet matched the invisible drapes. If only what I saved in razors this past year balanced out the medical bills! I’d (still not) be rich, I tell ya (still not) rich.
And, while I’m laying it all out there like a breast cancer patient on an OR gurney, I wish people would stop saying “cancer sucks.” It does suck metaphorically, as it sucks the energy out of you. But what they should say is “CANCER IS SHITTY.” It is, literally, shitty. And I will write for Blunt Moms because you will let me use the word shitty and talk about shit. After all, shitting and the texture of shit is a popular topic of discussion with my oncological team. Shit matters. The lack of shit matters. The shit is the shit. If only my shit when I developed a gastrointestinal c-diff infection was a tenth of the firmness of my hard, bald head, that would have been fantastic. Cancer is shitty.
The thing that makes me laugh so hard I cry? I have heard, “Oh wow. Now you can write a book!” OK…what?! It isn’t as if cancer gives you some super-energy and the time to create a literary masterpiece. Cancer does not make one a great writer or automatically give one the genius and perseverance of a JK Rowling or the wisdom of a Khalil Gibran that enables one to pump out sagas and spew profound advice. I worked as a writer before cancer. Now, when I am perpetually exhausted with juggling appointments and dealing with the side effects of treatments and am often unable to conjure the word for the thing that is resting on my nose enabling me to see the computer screen. This is not the time to bare my soul and try to inspire strangers with words of wonder. It would only create a spectacle (Ha! There’s the word, well, sort of!) of inappropriate puns and endless frustrations thinly disguised as borderline jokes and …
After much thought and deliberation and this little thing called the big C, I have found out that I am a person who needs people. And now is not my time to write about my cancer for anyone but you, Blunt Moms. So, help me do what Blunt Moms do. Go tell cancer to fuck itself. Then, if you know someone with breast cancer, please DO NOT offer unsolicited advice or inspirational stories about others waging “war” against the disease. Do you want to wake-up every morning itching for a fight? I don’t. DO NOT proclaim that a “positive attitude” conquers all. Although, it might be nice if “thoughts” could clean my c-diff infested toilet while “prayers” pick up dirty underwear and scrubs away the shower scum (There are teenagers in the house! Teens!)
Instead, check-in with your cancer-laden friend frequently, I promise you won’t be “bothering” them. Laugh like a fiend when they need a good hee-haw after feeling like a horse’s ass for putting on their ER gown backward, since they became accustomed to the much more stylish Breast Care kimonos that always open in the front. Trust me when I say, YOU and the gift of your chuckles are warmer than a cute beanie on a cold, craptastic chemo day.