I put my bra on today.
Most women don’t think about this step of dressing each morning. Sometimes we do it half asleep as we’re kicking our husbands out of bed and longing for that first hot cup of coffee or sometimes we do it after a nice long shower and an invigorating run in the fresh fall air.
I did neither. Yesterday, I couldn’t even bring myself to put on my bright white, lace and cotton puff, prosthetic, post-op double mastectomy bra. The sweet nurse, taking her time with me, pulled two large handfuls of cotton wadding out of their plastic sleeves and shoved them into the prosthetic pockets before showing me the bra was a front-closure. I slipped my arms into the holes and as she was trying to clasp the front tears were falling from my face and I felt the bra was much too snug. I told her I didn’t want it and she told me I didn’t have to have it; That I should take my time. Joe sat to the side of the bed, with his arms dangling over the rails, his heart breaking for me, willing me and him to be strong. The rest of the day I went without a bra, only a few narrow bands of gauze hung between my skin and my loose-fitting tank top covering the incisions that run from my armpits to where my cleavage used to be.
The surgeon said from a surgical perspective the wounds look perfect and that was great to hear but I was dreading the “unveil” all morning. I felt that this step was even harder than the surgery itself.
In the weeks prior to my surgery I felt fine, I looked fine, most days I really was fine. A few weepy, emotional days here and there but nothing a few laughs and a hug from Joe or a friend couldn’t manage. But now, standing here, looking down at my large gaping incisions, covered in dozens of steri-strips with 5 drain tubes coming out of my body like some Marvel superhero comic book character, I felt raw. This was real.
I was a cancer patient. Something I had been not fully accepting until now. Cancer is what other people go through. What you read about, what you grieve about for other friends and elderly relatives. I was only 33, had three small children at home and felt physically healthy. Great, in fact. But deep down, under that layer of healthy denial was a fact I had to accept.
I have cancer.
The gritty, raw, chemo-receptive, radiation probable, double mastectomy, lymph node infiltrating kind. Cancer didn’t care that I didn’t have time for sick or ill or Adriamycin or Tamoxifen. It didn’t care that I had just finished planning my entire first year of homeschool curriculum or that I had agreed to lead a Bible Study this semester. It didn’t care that my Thirty-One business was going great and that I was loving holding Essential Oil classes for my friends. It didn’t care that I had a 15 month old that I would no longer be able to lift easily or that my sons related my 6 days in the hospital to a 9 day trip to China I took last May.
Cancer. Can.Cer. The kind people wear ribbons for.
But today I am celebrating small victories like seeing Lorelai for the first time in 5 days.
For flowers from friends across the ocean.
For actually getting the apple juice box I ordered with my meal last night.
For small gifts, tokens from people who love me and care about me.
And for Foobies. Soft cotton puff-ball Foobies. In a bra.