Life is Unfair (Duh)

My godfather, Uncle George, was in a motorcycle accident this past weekend. He has always loved riding motorcycles, and I love seeing faded old pictures of him back in his (how my Mom phrases it) “old hippie dog days” sitting on his bike, wearing a long braid and a full beard. When he retired, he bought a Harley, and his greatest pleasure in life, besides being with his granddaughter, is riding his Hog. This past weekend, he was at a stop sign, and a young driver (she’d had her permit for two weeks) somehow lost control of her car and jumped the median and ran into him, mangling his leg. The doctors will make their final assessment tomorrow about whether or not to amputate. After hearing the news yesterday about the potential loss of his limb, he (understandably) was not in the mood for visitors, so I haven’t been able to see him and show him some love. He has always been such a wonderful uncle to me. He consistently goes out of his way to support, encourage, and motivate me. He is a patient, kind, gentle, hardworking man. Please pray for him (or send good vibes/thoughts/juju). Let waves of positivity find themselves in his hospital room.

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GAWD DAMN IT! I DID NOT intend on the message of this post being so damn palpably real for me right now! Blast! I just lost my Internet connection as well as the rest of this essay. ANGER. ANGER. ANGER. Ok, I will start over. Because life is unfair.

Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Take Two, aaaaaaand ACTION:

My youngest sister welcomed little Ella Jean into the world this past weekend. She is just a little doll baby, and my sis and bro-in-law are just in awe of her. She is especially miraculous since her parents had to endure the emotional and financial strife of In Vitro Fertilization. Last year I had a student who was a bit of a sociopath, and she got pregnant. After she turned in her two-sentence “essay” that said something to the effect of “having five in my mom,” I remember thinking: “REALLY, bitch? Really? YOU and your fertile, wicked womb can so easily bring a child into this world, and my sister has to spend thousands of dollars and shed thousands of tears to bring a child into a stable, loving home?” Digression–> I wish I would have asked Knocked-Up Sociopath if she meant A) five fingers in my mom or B) five inches of dick in my mom. Another digression–>  I think that one of the hallmarks of a good teacher is accepting the fact that some kids are douchebags (A very witty colleague once said that there is a class of students known as the doucheouisie). BUT even those kids deserve the best education possible. Little Susie Brown-Noser and Little Johnnie Dickhole both deserve my best pedagogical efforts. I really do wish the best for K.U.S., and I hope she has a good life and is a good mother.

Life is unfair, but it has to be unfair. The world needs balance. If there was only one element, we’d be at an uncomfortable tilt at all times. Remember in ninth grade English class when you read Friar Lawrence’s soliloquy in Act 2, Scene 3 in Romeo and Juliet? (I’m sure you’re nodding your head ‘yes’). While tending to his garden, he says,

The gray-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,
Checkering the eastern clouds with streaks of light,
And fleckled darkness like a drunkard reels
From forth day’s path and Titan’s fiery wheels.
Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye,
The day to cheer and night’s dank dew to dry,
I must upfill this osier cage of ours
With baleful weeds and precious-juicèd flowers.
The earth, that’s nature’s mother, is her tomb.
What is her burying, grave that is her womb.
And from her womb children of divers kind
We sucking on her natural bosom find,
Many for many virtues excellent,
None but for some and yet all different.
Oh, mickle is the powerful grace that lies
In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities.
For naught so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give.
Nor aught so good but, strained from that fair use
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,
And vice sometime by action dignified.

If you need Sparknotes, that’s OK:

The smiling morning is replacing the frowning night. Darkness is stumbling out of the sun’s path like a drunk man. Now, before the sun comes up and burns away the dew, I have to fill this basket of mine with poisonous weeds and medicinal flowers. The Earth is nature’s mother and also nature’s tomb. Plants are born out of the Earth, and they are buried in the Earth when they die. From the Earth’s womb, many different sorts of plants and animals come forth, and the Earth provides her children with many excellent forms of nourishment. Everything nature creates has some special property, and each one is different. Herbs, plants, and stones possess great power. There is nothing on Earth that is so evil that it does not provide the earth with some special quality. And there is nothing that does not turn bad if it’s put to the wrong use and abused. Virtue turns to vice if it’s misused. Vice sometimes becomes virtue through the right activity.

As Forrest Gump coined, “shit happens.” Sometimes you’re 35 and get breast cancer and you have to get your tits chopped off and your hair grows back grey after chemo. But that experience reminds you of how blessed you are in terms of the loved ones in your life. Sometimes the best musicians die (while Nickelback continues to perform), but then epic Prince dance parties happen all over the world.

I leave you with one of my favorite poems. It is from Edgar Lee Masters’ 1915 Spoon River Anthology, a collection of poems told from the perspective of fictional characters buried in the town’s cemetery.

“Lucinda Matlock”

I went to the dances at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out at Winchester.
One time we changed partners,
Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
And then I found Davis.
We were married and lived together for seventy years,
Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,
Eight of whom we lost
Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick,
I made the garden, and for holiday
Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,
And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
And many a flower and medicinal weed —
Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you —
It takes life to love Life.

 

It takes life to love Life. ♥

*Potential band names: “Old Hippie Dog Days” (would be a jam band) or “Little Johnny Dickhole” (punk)

Titties 2.0 (but more like 1.5)

The past 10 days have flown by. I haven’t felt high, but considering the fact that the majority of the past 240 hours have been a blur (and the fact that a friend posted a flower on my Facebook wall and I responded to it with an emoji of a cat on a scooter) lets me know that my vicodin/valium duo has had a greater effect on me than I realized.

Surgery went well and a bit longer than expected (they rolled me away to the surgery room at about 1, and I was ready for visitors at about 8). My friend Jes is an anesthesiologist at Barnes, so she had contacted her people at Missouri Baptist to let them know when I would be there, so it was nice to have that connection to the people who would lead me into unconsciousness. I don’t remember feeling pain when I woke up, but one of my drip bags had leaked, so I was a little wet. Of course, my entourage (aunts, uncles, Mom and Dad) came into my room as soon as I had been moved from the stretcher to the bed. They only stayed for a bit, but of course Mom stayed the night. Dr. Maclin had told her many times to go home and get some rest and come back in the morning, but Dr. Maclin clearly does not know my mother. If she had been given a stern directive to leave, she would have just nodded and then snuck into the bathroom across the hallway and stayed there all night, stealthily creeping into my room when the coast was clear.

Things I enjoyed about my overnight hospital stay:

  • tasty orange jello
  • delicious scrambled eggs
  • fairly flavorful cod
  • having a catheter (my blood pressure med is a diuretic, so I’m used to peeing approximately a thousand times a night)
  • pushing a button to make pain meds course through my veins (although it never fully dulled the pain)

Things I have not enjoyed about having my boobs chopped off:

  • THESE. DAMN. DRAINS. It’s like having four ball sacks that fill up with boob juice (Boob Juice* would actually be an appropriate name for a paint color if you wanted to create a tropical-themed room. It’s the color of diluted Hawaiian punch). The right drain under my armpit (so not the ball sack part, but the actual drain tube sewn into my skin) often hurts like hell. I don’t know if it’s right by a nerve, or what, but it is NOT pleasant. One of the drains on the left side leaks at night, so there’s always a little wetness to greet me in the morning. Last Thursday was the day that the right drain hurt the worst, and I was dropping occasional “f-bombs.” It was also the day of my follow-up appointment with Dr. Maclin, so before we got out of the car, my mom suggested I think of another word to say when I was feeling intense pain (we are a non “f-bomb” family–unless it’s understandably merited–like if you just had your tits chopped off and had tubes coming out of your chest causing you severe discomfort). So, when I got into the patient room and they tried to lay me back on the table, it hurt like hell, and I yelled, “Fuck!” and I apologized to the nurse and told her that my mom didn’t want me to say that word. ::I really do strive to be a good girl:: That right drain has hurt a lot less since they removed my wound vacuum during that follow-up visit. When it was on, I had to wear this bullet proof-type vest, and it irritated the drain site. I also had to wear this Geiger counter-like contraption that powered the wound vac, so it was nice to lose some of the excessive flair around my neck.
  • Having loved ones wash my ass. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this.

Now let me tell you about my new boobs. Of course, they are under construction, and at this point I would say they’re about a B cup. AND THEY’RE HARD and a bit lumpy. I don’t even know what to compare the hardness to, but if you see me, I won’t be offended if you ask to touch them. They are filled with saline (which you would  think would be soft) and Alloderm (cadaver tissue). There is adhesive over the incision (where the nipple was), so it will be interesting to see what they will look like once the adhesive is removed (hard Frankentitties? I don’t know). During the follow-up appointment, Dr. Maclin  commented on the fact that I had a lot of breast tissue removed (’cause you know I rocked them DD’s), and they currently don’t make an implant big enough to expand to that size. Clearly I misunderstood something about that situation because there are porn stars with Triple J’s walking around, but I had taken two valium before I went in, so that could explain my confusion. However, I asked my mom about this later, and she didn’t understand this either. I’ll be back to see Mac on Tuesday, so I’ll have him elaborate then. I also get one set of drains removed on that day (hallelujah!).

And more good news (que drum roll) my pathology report finally came back this past Friday, and the margins in my left breast (where my tumor was) look great, AND in the right breast, there were (insert science words) that would have eventually become malignant, SO PRAISE BE that I opted to get a bilateral mastectomy.

My parents went out of town last night since my youngest sister is going to have a baby any minute now, so my middle sister stayed over last night. Jessi, I never imagined saying this to you, but thank you for draining my excess boob fluid and washing my ass. To honor you, here’s one of our favorite movie scenes:

 

*I think Boob Juice would be the band name resulting from this post (maybe Boob Jooce?)

Mastectomy Eve

Last time we talked I was visiting my grandparents in Pennsylvania. The trip ended with me going to the ER to make sure the swelling in my leg was not the result of a blood clot, and after an ultrasound and a $225 copay, it was determined that my swelling was just a result of chemo/cancer/being a mess. Since then I’ve begun to feel much better. My energy level is better; my skin looks better. It’s obvious that the (necessary) toxins* are leaving my system.

Last Tuesday I met with the surgeons (breast and plastic). When I was leaving the plastic surgeon’s office, he told me that my twin was coming in after me. “My twin?” I asked. She is another 36 year old breast cancer patient about a month ahead of me in the reconstruction process, and we even look alike. However, as Dr. Maclin phrased it, I am “fluffier” than her. (Really, Dr. Maclin? Was that a necessary detail?) With my permission, he gave my number to my “twin,” and we spoke on the phone last week. She couldn’t be any nicer. In fact, she texted me this evening to wish me good luck with my surgery tomorrow and to tell me that she’d be checking in on me in the next few weeks.

After meeting with Dr. Maclin, I went to see Dr. Oruwari, the breast surgeon. I asked her to clarify exactly what’s going to happen during the surgery, and I still don’t totally get it, but here’s how I would paraphrase it if I was pretending to be the doctor:

“I’m gonna cut out a football-shaped area around your nipple and then scoop out the boob meat. Then, the plastic surgeon is gonna take some cadaver tissue and some saline thingies and stuff your remaining boob skin. Then, we’re going to sew you up, and when you wake up five hours later you’ll be about half the size you are now. We’ll attach four drain bags–two on each side–to allow for the draining of excess boob juice. You’ll also have a wound vacuum to aid in the healing process since you’re post-chemo, and this wound vac will be powered by a Walkman-looking thingy that will make a constant white noise.”

I tried to watch a YouTube video of a mastectomy and reconstruction, but I couldn’t stomach it.

Another thing while visiting with the surgeons: They both encouraged me to take as much time off from work as possible. Originally, I was just going to take off a little over two weeks, but they suggested I take off more than that to allow for maximum healing. Dr. Oruwari filled in “April 7-May 23” on my Family Medical Leave paperwork. Then (forget what the surgeons said!) my mom suggested I take off the rest of the school year, and if Mama says it, I take it to heart. She was the one who suggested I consider a mastectomy, and I know it’s the right thing to do. I value her input more than anyone’s, and I know her suggestions are sound and logical. Therefore, yesterday was my last day of school for the semester. So many thoughtful students wished me well and brought me gifts; my department arranged a luncheon for  me. Many staff members throughout the building wore pink. I felt very loved.

Tomorrow I lose my breasts, and I will miss them, but I am OK with them leaving. I met them about 26 years ago, and I didn’t like them at first. When I was about 10 or 11, I performed in a tap dance recital, and I had to wear this tight top, and my little breast buds stuck out, and when I danced, they’d jiggle a little, and I felt so ashamed of having them. I remember watching the video of that performance a few years later, and I was embarrassed at the sight of a younger me walking out on stage with my arms awkwardly crossed to hide (what Bridget Everett calls) my little nippy titties. I didn’t actually wear a bra until 6th grade, and I remember wearing it to school and thinking throughout the day, “How the hell do women deal with this cotton nightmare on a daily basis? I can’t wait to get this damn thing off of me.” I grew to tolerate a bra and to appreciate my breasts. One of the d-bags I dated once told me (in his mind it was a compliment), “A girl your size usually has saggy breasts.” ::He also told me that if I exercised a little bit (he suggested Zumba) that I could become a model:: But I digress…After the reconstruction process, I really look forward to A). having permanently perky tits, and B). not having to wear a bra.

Another funny thing: A few days ago I was Facebook-stalking my plastic surgeon, and I came upon these pics of him:

At first I was all, “Oh hell no, Maclin! I know you’re not trying to operate on me with some broken hands and a concussed brain!” The funny (disturbing?) thing was, when I saw Dr. Maclin just a few days before discovering these photos, he had taken a tissue to his ear because some fluid had come out of it (I didn’t see any fluid; he just apparently felt the need to explain to me why he was taking a tissue to his ear. He also said that he’d hoped it wasn’t the result of brain trauma). At the time I just thought that he was trying to be funny, but when I saw those photos, I thought, “Shit! A brain damaged man is going to be operating on me, and I’m going to wind up with Frankentitties!” I texted the pics to my “twin,” and she was going to be seeing Dr. Maclin the next day; therefore, she’d be able to report back on whether or not he had any bruises, cuts, or concussion symptoms. Turns out the pics were just an April Fool’s joke. That Dr. Maclin! but those are the kinds of people I like: a whole lotta funny, a little bitta crazy.

I thought I’d be more emotional on the eve of my mastectomy. At this point, I just want to get it over with. Let’s chop ’em off. Let’s start the process of creating new ones. In my immediate family, we have a rally song: AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” It gets us pumped up, and so I just want to crank this tune, put on my metal face, and head into that operating room. Give me that sedative, doc! And let’s getter done!

CRANK IT UP, YA’LL!

 

*Whenever I write I always think of band names. Wouldn’t “Necessary Toxins” be a good band name?