Before the diagnosis, we didn’t have that many family photos up around the house. Now, though, we have a bunch. I wanted to see our smiling faces looking back at me from every room in the house, so we selected our favorites and had them surround us. For the most part, I love looking at them. We look so happy, so healthy in them. But once in a while, they act as a reminder of the me I was before the diagnosis and I feel a bit sad. It’s not nostalgia, because that is too wistful a word for what I feel. It’s not quite a feeling of mourning either, although on some days it feels that way. It’s more like something bittersweet, the sting of having experienced something so sweet and lovely and recognizing that it is gone for the moment. While at the same time, hoping that it makes a return sometime soon.
These photos bring me happiness but they also act as a sort of “before” photo, an image of a person about to be transformed. Life right now feels very much like a series of before and after moments. As I think back on the last few months, I find myself categorizing all the many stages we’ve gone through: before the diagnosis, after the diagnosis; before chemo and now after chemo, and of course, tomorrow (Wednesday) there will be another milestone in the treatment process. After Wednesday will be the after surgery portion of my life.
I knew the surgery was coming but because I had been focusing so much on the physical and emotional challenges of chemo, I hadn’t processed yet what the surgery really meant. Now though, as it looms so close, I can’t get it out of my head. I alternate between wanting to run away from it, and from wanting to just get it over with. I went to a pre-operative information session last week and the nurse went over some of the details. Here are a few: The surgery will take place at 8am on Wednesday and will likely take about 3 – 4 hours. I will be under general anesthetic and will stay at the hospital for one night. On the left side, they will be removing my lymph nodes, but the lymph nodes on the other side will stay intact. I will be unable to lift my arms over my head and will not have full range of motion for at least a few weeks. I have been given a whole slew of exercises to do to help aid in the healing process.
The nurse also told me about the stitches, and the drains, and that although I’ll be in the hospital for only one day, a nurse will come to check up on me at home daily until the drains are removed (usually within 10 days). She also warned me that I would be unable to pick up Nate for some time. During the session, I had felt relatively strong, but at that moment I couldn’t help but let a few tears fall. Because that’s what makes me want to cry – the thought of him reaching up for me, and not being able to scoop him up in my arms. Hopefully, it won’t be long till I get full mobility back, and am healed enough to pick him up and cart him around on my hip.
Mitchell, as always, is amazing. Instead of referring to Wednesday as surgery day (as I have been), he’s calling it Cure Day. I love that. I hope that in the days and weeks and months to come, that’s how I remember it. I hope that one day I will be able to look at the scars on my body as the traces of a life-giving surgery, a surgery that I hope will cure me of this disease.
But, unfortunately, before I have scars, I will have wounds, and I have to brace myself for that. In the meantime, I’ll look at the family photos we have around the house and think how lucky we have been.