17/09/15-Pre assessment Clinic: I’m sitting in a waiting room, waiting, again. Waiting for my turn to pee into this pot and bleed into that tube. Waiting for my turn to share the beats of my heart or the pressure of my blood. Waiting for my turn to be weighed, to be measured. They’re sizing me up for putting me under!
And the carousel keeps moving and in between the physical they slot in something mental, the history of my health, the story of my life and then it stops! I get off. I enter the centre. The eye of the storm.
And there is quiet.
And there is stillness.
And there is…
Consultant No.3: So it’s a left breast mastectomy and sentinel node biopsy. General anaesthetic and plenty of local (they don’t want me to feel any pain). Here is where I read. Here is where I sign.
But my mind wanders off. It’s back in the Breast Care Clinic on the day before today. I’m looking at the post surgery photographs of numerous, headless, breastless women with smooth line scars and bumpy lumpy scars and thick, angry ragged scars and ‘dog ear’ scars. And I’m staring at the screen, staring at those bodies who walked in my shoes, ahead of me and I wonder if they made it back okay.
And in my hand I hold an example prosthesis so heavy…so weighty reminding me of the weight of my loss.
I DON’T WANT TO PUT ON A PRETEND BREAST!
I DON’T WANT TO PUT ON FAKE HAIR!
I DON’T WANT TO HIDE THE TRUTH ABOUT THE TRADE OFF FOR A CHANCE TO KEEP MY LIFE!
Back in the calm centre of my storm I suddenly feel so very vulnerable, so very small against the enormity of it all. The health care machinery still clanking and banging faintly in the background. All around I am surrounded by business as usual at the NHS.
“It’s all moving too fast.” I blurt out “I feel I’m being swept along by other people’s agendas it’s like I’m on a speeding train and it’s going too fast and I cant stop it. I cant get off.”
There’s no time to think-I think.
“What if I don’t have this surgery!” I throw down defiantly. “What if I don’t let them pump me full of toxic chemicals then fry my chest wall! What if I want to just let nature run its course! The cancer is me, it’s my cells, my body!” I protest.
You see it’s not the cancer that scares me. It’s not the cancer that I feel angry at it’s the treatment. The treatment will leave me scarred and damaged and still there are no guarantees.
“The treatment is diabolical, it’s savage!” I accuse.
Consultant No.3: I don’t have to consent today. My worries are understandable. The treatments are only recommendations. Its up to me whether I choose to have any, all or none of the treatments. The treatments are aggressive. The treatments are to protect. For me we are still looking at treatment and possibly cure.
I sign my name and leave her room.
I leave the waiting room. I leave the waiting room behind me and in front of me the room for more waiting opens up. Waiting for my procedure. Waiting for my surgery. Waiting for them to take my breast away.
Still…on the walk home I can’t help but smile to myself as I think about that perfect prosthesis with its perfect form and its perfect, pert imitation nipple and I imagine it poking through my t-shirt on a hot summer day, doing what its supposed to-like a teacher’s pet whilst it’s lazy mate, the original it’s supposed to be imitating, simply lounges about languidly staring at my shoes!