Today, I sneezed.
I realize that might be an unexpected and weird ‘first thing’ to hear from me, after what has been a pretty grueling 30 days. But I promise you I’ll try to make that seem not so completely ridiculous by the end of this.
First, though, I believe apologies are in order for my radio-silence. I thought I would be on here every day; documenting my progress, sending out witty updates to my friends and family, and writing to those of you that have found my blog to act as some sort of respite or help from their own personal “mutations”, whatever shape or form they may have presented themselves. I picked up my laptop a few times with the intent to do so, but all that could come out was… well… fucking depressing. Documenting something that involves pain, coupled with mental and physical exhaustion, is not necessarily something I am used to or generally interested in putting down on paper. My emotional breakdowns that happened privately, or in the company of a select few, exist only in that moment. Then they are gone. Document them on the internet, and they live on forever. So, based on the fact that I don’t feel the need to contribute any more bleak and disheartening words to the world – because let’s face it, the world is certainly not wanting for in that area – I have maintained my silence. I hope you’ll accept my apology, and we can still be friends.
So here we are, exactly one month after my procedure. It’s pretty nuts to look back on, now that it is over. The relief is palpable… unsettling, almost. For so long, the threat of breast cancer has loomed over my head and now, after the pathologies of my breast tissue came back benign… that threat is a distant memory. Lauren: 1 – Genetics: 0. Obviously I still have the ovarian risks to worry about, and I’ll deal with that in the coming years, but right now I feel pretty accomplished. I suffer paranoia at least once a day that the infection that landed me back in the hospital for the better part of a week and forced the need for a second surgery has reared its ugly head again. Meet my phantom-infection – he’s rude, aggressive, and couldn’t give a crap about your feelings. He comes around once a day, usually after my shower, and casts an ever-so-subtle reddish glow on my left incision. Red enough to freak me out, subtle enough to make me think I am going insane. He’s a jerk. I hope he goes away soon.
I spend the majority of my time at home, on my recliner, watching Grey’s Anatomy and doing Sudoku. The pain is manageable and my range of motion is slowly coming back… but up until today I didn’t quite feel like myself. It’s pretty amazing what your body will do to let you know that something is wrong, and what your body won’t let you do when it’s not ready to do so. There have been a number of seemingly simple motions that I can’t help but laugh at my failure to complete. For one, child-safe pill bottles… push AND twist? ha, yeah ok. Better luck next time. Turning doorknobs was hard for a while, and Brian had to save me when I “locked” myself in the bathroom a couple of times. I couldn’t throw pills into my mouth, so i used a shot glass to dispense the medications into my gullet. It made me giggle every time. I didn’t wash my hair for thirteen days. THIRTEEN DAYS. I don’t think anymore description is necessary.
I like to think of myself as a pretty independent woman, and for the last month I just wasn’t me. Perhaps it’s because my breasts are gone and have been replaced by cold, round bags of fluid. Perhaps it’s because I can’t really look at myself naked in the mirror without looking away. Perhaps it’s because I can’t sleep in bed with my husband because I am unable to lie flat. Perhaps it’s because my digestive system is a mess as a result of the pain medications. Or, perhaps it’s because I have been unable to pick up Piggins in over 4 weeks. The fact remains – something has been missing. That is, until today.
I truly believe my body was telling me that I had an infection, and that something was seriously wrong when I came home from the hospital the first time. My usually punctual period came 12 days early, I couldn’t eat anything, and my skin around the incision was as hot as fire to the touch. The staph infection that was doing a number on my insides remained isolated and didn’t show itself through any conventional “you have an infection” symptoms – I never once ran a fever. But my body knew and was trying to tell me in other ways. The same can be said about the restrictions and the things my body has prevented me from doing this past month. Thanks to my incredible friends and family, my apartment has been full of beautiful flower arrangements (sidenote: your thank you notes are in the mail – writing also proved to be especially difficult) and from day one I kept telling myself, “please don’t sneeze… please… please… don’t sneeze. Lauren, you can’t sneeze it will be too painful, it will hurt so bad, don’t…sneeze.” So I didn’t.
Well, today while I was grinding fresh black pepper onto my leftover salad, I felt it coming. A sneeze. I panicked, grabbed my chest, and sneezed one of the biggest sneezes that has ever been snuzzed in the history of sneezery. And you know what… I’m alive. The discomfort lasted seconds and vanished just as quickly as it came. Sure, sneezing might be a gross and repulsive metaphor for what I am getting at here, and sure I probably could have chosen something less unpleasant, but it proves that something as insignificant and unexpected as a sneeze, can be a way of your body and your mind telling you that you can do anything.
The pain will pass and life will go on.
Excuse me while I get a tissue.