In an effort to keep this blog from becoming too focused on cancer and surgery and all their accompanying emotional and physical after effects, I’ve been making it a point to write a few non-cancer posts in recent days. I guess if I had begun this as a cancer blog, I wouldn’t have second thoughts about writing on that subject because that would be the blog’s main purpose.
However. There are a few of you wonderful Smithellaneous folks who have been checking in with me by e-mail to see if I really am as okay as my posts seem to indicate, or if my cheerier writing is merely camouflaging ongoing difficulties and continuing cancer stresses.
I guess the answer to that question is that I truly am doing well, all things considered. I don’t think that I have burst into tears for no reason for four or five days now, so that’s good progress. Steve can attest to the fact that it was getting to be quite interesting there for awhile. He and I would be talking about nothing much in particular and then, all of a sudden, I would just burst out crying.
In fact, a couple weeks ago I took Sarah in for her 6-month dental check up and when the dentist came out to tell me how things had gone, I actually found myself tearing up while he talked with me. I’m sure he went back to his notes and wrote, “Patient was delightful. Patient’s mother? Not so much. She seemed to get emotional over a discussion of flossing habits and wisdom teeth.”
But I think tears after surgery and after a loss of the sort I experienced should be considered pretty par for the course. Grief is grief, regardless of whether you’ve lost a family member, a beloved pet, a cherished friend, a job, a marriage, or a body part. (Obviously there are many degrees involved, but all of those experiences have grief in common.)
As an example: Last week I was near Goodwill so I stopped in for a few minutes. When I got to the dressing room with my little stack of shirts, it suddenly occurred to me that the last time I had been at that particular store, in that particular dressing room, I’d had The Girls with me.
This time, though? The Girls hadn’t made the trip. The Girls were gone.
That was something worth crying over.
I read another breast cancer survivor’s story and she wrote that after the surgery, it was like loved ones had disappeared, they had just been taken from her life. Suddenly, they were . . . gone. No funeral, no burial, no closure.
Go to sleep. They’re there. Wake up. They’re gone. Just gone.
So yes, it is a strange and sad season of life, in many ways. But in other ways, I’ve noticed a subtle, ongoing shift in my attitude.
During the first couple weeks after surgery, I would look at the surgical area and shudder and think, “This all just looks so sad and pitiful and ugly and violent.” I undressed and re-dressed as quickly as possible in an attempt to try and make it all go away. Out of sight, out of mind. Make it stop. Make it not be what it is. (Isn’t denial a wonderful thing?)
However, over the past week or two, my mindset has begun to change. I now look at the surgical area and what is left of my “original equipment’ (and thankfully, with a skin sparing mastectomy, I do have some of “me” remaining), and the words “ugly” and “damaged” no longer come to mind.
Instead, I feel like I am looking down and remembering brave and beautiful comrades in a war that we fought and won together. The scars I see there represent healing and a total cure and I find myself being grateful that cancer-infested loveliness has been replaced by cancer-free unloveliness that affords me every chance of living long enough to hold my grandbabies. And grow to become a very old and very thankful lady.
It’s so much about attitude. And reality. And accepting the fact that grief happens. And grief is part of the journey. And that if you don’t grieve, you’ll never get over the loss. And that there is, indeed, loss involved. Huge loss. Scary and sad loss. Tear producing, grief inducing loss.
But this loss brings life. And I like life. And life is good.
So I’m good with that.