Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stitched Nipple

As opposed to the Fuzzy Navel. I always ridicule the Fuzzy Navel as a wimpy, package-vacation sort of drink; but I would happily choose it over the Stitched Nipple. I'm sporting one now, courtesy of the surgical biopsy I had to have on Monday.

This is what I get for submitting to my first mammogram. They took one set of 'grams, then called me back for another set, stating a dissatisfaction with the entire left side of my left breast. Well, fine! Picky, picky. Calcifications, they said. Naturally, they wanted a core sample. And since the area is large (takes up half my breast), they wanted a big core sample.

Well, OK. I was imagining a little bitty incision somewhere in the underwire region. When the surgeon told me that he makes the inch and a half incision at the edge of the nipple so the scar won't show, I cringed. My scalp crinkled, and I thought, "You're gonna cut me WHERE??? THERE??" Oh, ouchie. Think of the bad old days when I would have been offerd a leather strap to bite on. Or the slightly better old days when I would have been chloroformed. I love modern anesthetic. In a truly bizarre moment, I walked into the operating theater and greeted my capped and masked surgical team. So many people! And they're all here for MOI! Hi, guys! I climbed onto the table and extended my arm to the (attractive) anesthesiologist. He found a vein. I was about suggest removing my glasses, but then I woke up and it was all over.

Well, all over except the cancer.

I kept calling the doctor's office all afternoon, asking whether the results had arrived from the lab as promised today. First, "They aren't up from the lab, yet." Then, "They're on Dr. Naylor's desk. He'll call you today." Much joking at the office. What does it mean when he doesn't call you first? How long should you wait before you call him? That's what I get, letting him feel me up on the first date. Maybe he's just not that into me? By the time I got the call, I was standing in the grocery store parking lot with the kids. So the whole time he's telling me that I have cancer, the kids are climbing on the cart return and jumping off, then tugging on my coat. "Mom! Are you good? Are you fine?" It was, like, "So, if I decide to have the radia- Nate, be careful, please. Sorry. So as I was saying, if I decide to- just a second, OK, guys? Yes, we'll go into the store in a second." You get the idea. I have another appointment with him in a few days, to "talk about the options".

As we walked into the store, Sara asked, " you have cancer or not?" She rolls her eyes, as if the idea was just ludicrous.

I have cancer. Well, well. I guess I am on the spot, here.

"Well, yeah, I do" I say, picking up a shopping basket and pulling my list out of my purse like I always do. "But it's no big deal. He told me it's totally curable. I'm probably going to have to have some more stuff done to me, but then that'll be it."

This is the great thing about little kids and being in the supermarket. You can hardly break down and start bawling. The groceries must be bought and the kids mustn't worry. No choices, which should not be mistaken for courage.

They were reassured and forgot about it almost immediately. We were walking through the store and they were pestering me (again) for a donut (which they NEVER get, so why do they keep asking), and I am staying totally focused on the groceries. A little part of my brain is amazed that I am doing this. In the middle of canned fruit, I feel this strange flash.

I have cancer.

But I don't have a chance to process the whole "I have cancer" thing. I have to check out, drive home, get the mail, bring the trash can up from the curb, start supper. Oh, yeah. Gotta tell Si at some point. I suppose this will make him even grumpier. Now we don't just have The Knee as a permanent member of the family. We get to welcome The Boob, too. I thought I'd better practice telling someone, so I called my parents. Sorry, parents. "Hi, Dad! Its Kate! How's it going? How's your gout clearing up, you old codger? Me? Oh, I'm pretty good, but I do need to tell you some kind of bad news. I have breast cancer." Yeah, this does take practice. I'll try it out on Mom. She is (as always) unflappable and has been in this same exact position, herself: making the choice between keeping part of the breast and having radiation/chemo; or going with a mastectomy. Indeed, she was just what I needed: totally calm, telling me about how it felt, how long it took to recuperate, how the rehabilitation was. Mom is really brave. But.

"What about reconstruction? How long did you wait to have reconstruction?"
"Oh, about five years."
"WHAT? You waited five years?"
"Yeah. Well, it was expensive. But I got tired of my prosthesis. It was itchy."
"But what did Dad-"
"He got used to it" she said in a flat, final tone that indicated he was not at the top of her list of concerns.

WTF??!!?? Of course, this is the difference between me and Mom. She was post-menopausal when she found a lump. Being a cute, sexy chica was not high on her list.

I'm 41! I'm young. I flirt outrageously with everyone. I wear sexy lacy stuff. I wear two-piece swimsuits. I am vain and spend long minutes in front of the mirror, sucking in and admiring my abs. I still like to have sex with the lights on.

I have cancer.

That's just too crazy, putting those three words together about me! I must have had cancer last week, too. And the week before. But I was lifting weights and skiing and running for miles and bossing people around. I feel great! I'm too busy being healthy to have cancer.

There must be some mistake. They have mixed up my test results with someone else's.

So, eventually Si came home and I told him. The black raincloud that has been hovering over our house since last September when he hurt his knee crashed with thunder and began pi*ssing down rain. Oh, for Pete's sake. I told him that there was only one thing that I asked of him. No gloom. No brooding. I want to laugh and drink too much and screw like rabbits (after I get my boob out of this bandage). Then I want to have the stupid mastectomy, allow people to fuss over me for a day or two, then get back to lauging and drinking too much and screwing like rabbits again. I told him that I was planning on shaking this off like it's nothing. He said he know that; that I'm really tough. People say that about me sometmes. They have no clue that it's all b***s***. I guess we'll find out, won't we?

Whoops, 6:00! No more time to ponder. I dished up supper, poured wine, played some upbeat music, supervised showers and stories. Nate read his Star Wars book to me. While he was reading, I glanced down at my (petite, but shaply) set and thought, "In a couple of weeks you won't have a left breast down there." It made me feel dizzy.

Oh, yeah! Almost forgot. I have cancer.

What will it be like, having a body part cut off?
Will my insurance cover reconstruction?
Will I have to wait, going around with a flat chest that scares my children and disgusts my husband?
Or will I go to sleep and wake up with a new boob?

Is it awful that I'm so obsessed with my looks and sex life?
Shouldn't I be thinking of more weighty matters?
Like, will it hurt a lot?
Will I be cured, like the doctor says?
Or will they make further sinister discoveries? I tell you, I am not like SueSun. I won't be able to go through chemo and lose my hair and feel like h*ll all the time without being a huge ungrateful brat.
Geeze. How will I tell my friends?
My staff?
(Gasp!)My students? They will worry. About me. Unacceptable.
I have loads of contract work lined up for March and frankly, now I'll need it more than ever, to pay for all this. Will I be able to do it?

One thing I know for sure. There will be scope for humor. Are we ready for lots of boob humor?


Enough about this. I have stuff to do. PLUS, this is a red-letter day. I get to peel off my dressing from the biopsy and say hi to my left breast. Hello, and good-bye, baby.


Anonymous said...


Weber said...

Kate....when it rains....Once again, we are here for you. This time I'll try not to say I'm busy. Please call if you need ANYTHING.
- Shirley

Alice Kildaire said...

I was the same way when I received my vulvar cancer diagnosis. I was all about the "will it hurt" question though, on top of all those "are we talking horrible disfigurement here," "will it kill my sex life," "will my husband be disgusted," "will I be disgusted" kinds of questions. Then I got mad, because mad beat being scared.

Much love to you, Kate, you're not alone.

Rich said...

Kate, we're there for you. Anything we can do to help. Keep the attitude: you feel great and you're too busy staying healthy to have cancer. Maybe we can run the Race For The Cure together this year. Let's see......

Anonymous said...

Best wishes from a lurker. Beauty as you know comes from the heart, rather than the breasts. And so does good sex.

The World According To Me said...

I know we have never met in 'real' life, but I do feel I know you through your blog. Your sense of humour is contagious and refreshing. Even in these times.

It sounds like you have a great support network, which you may need to lean on now.

As Alice commented, your questions and thoughts are perfectly human and understandable.

Look after yourself, lean on people if you have to, and I hope you never loose your sense of humour. I'm sure it's being tested right now!

Please let us know how you're doing and how you're feeling. It's good to talk.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Kate, it's hard to know what to say about things like this except that I know what I would want--a sense of humor and strength like you have.

Your mom beat this and so will you.

Lighting a candle for you, my friend and know people--even strangers--will do whatever they can to help.

Trysha@Toasted said...

Anything you need, do not hesitate to ask. I'm not sure how much help I can be from New Mexico, but if it's just a shoulder (or email) to vent to, feel free.
Much love to you, Si and the kids.

Maria said...

Believe me, I understand. And it does get better, truly. You can say the word out loud and not feel like someone just punched you in the stomach after a while.

I used gallows humor a lot with my family and friends, including one funny dinner with my sister when she reached across the table, took my hand and said, "How can I help?"

And I said, "Well, first you have to promise to do it."

She said, "ANYTHING."

I said, "I want you to sleep with Bing because I am just too worn out lately...."

The look of terror on her face was priceless and once she realized that I was joking, we laughed and laughed.

I also got my own popcorn at the movie instead of having to share with my popcorn hogging wife because I had cancer.

No. Not had. Have.

It gets better. Really.

suesun said...

What the fuck!? I am so pissed off right now I want to fucking SCREAM! You AND Maria! And here you are making jokes. And here I am cursing and ruining your chances of reading your blog at school. can delete my comment after reading it if you must, but I'm not taking them out.

Be thankful you have kids right now... they truly are the only things that will keep you focused on what needs to be done, like the grocery shopping and the laundry and the toothbrushing.

And I want to kill that doctor for telling you OVER THE PHONE! WTF?!

Lots of love. I just don't know what else to say, except that part about the sexy.... I understand.

Here's my email if you want it:

And I'm sorry for not commenting sooner... I've been distracted by Facebook for the past week, and haven't been reading blogs. I love your blog, and mine, far more than I do facebook.

Susan in Lille said...

You know...I make a trip to the US, get back and I hear about your boobs!! Now, I must say that I am super relieved (read: was holding my breath so glad you included this fact) that your doctor says it's curable. I have two relatives and multiple friends who have been through this. Most did the whole chop off thing and then reconstructive. I must say...I now have boob envy of them.

Doctors are doom and gloom, so if he says you can beat this sister, you can. And you can have a frigging fan club from around the world. Though I am moving back to Texas so the ONE cool thing about me is going to disappear. You go sister. You tackle this head on. If you decide to have a mastectomy have a "Goodbye Boobie Party" and let me know when it is so I can drink with you. You are a special person and I for one can feel in my uvula that you are going to make it through this. Plus it's such good fodder to tell Si to shut up about the knee thing. That would be sarcasm. (I have to say this because apparently here in France they don't import it.)

Chin up girl. May your glass be half full. With anything really....