I went to the yearly ob/gyn check up. I posted about last year’s auspicious visit here. Same guy, different year.
Sometimes, the doctor’s waiting room is a hard place. This place was hard. The oncologist’s is hard, too. (The plastic surgeon’s (in spite of the television) was never hard, because I love him.)
This doctor, the ob/gyn (but I am so past the ob part!) is the one who found the cancer about a year ago.
So I waited and waited. Finally the nurse (one I had never seen before) called my name, “Patricia?” She led me through the door and gathered my information – weight, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen level. Then she said,
“Ok, let me update your file. Have you had any surgeries since you were here last September?”
“Yeah. Like 8………..Starting with the mastectomy on October 17.”
She seemed a little taken aback. I was kind of surprised there was no record of breast cancer in my file. So I went through every surgery, one by one, not so sure of the dates or official titles.
“The latest one was the nipple reconstruction and a boob lift on the healthy boob. I’m not sure what a boob lift is called, it starts with an m.”
I am still learning about living through trauma; a very striking aspect of it is that I could lose my composure at any time. Often, I have to coach myself, keep it together, keep it together, keep it together…and I was ok here until the nurse said,
“Now I’ll do the finger prick to check your blood sugar.” I gave her my hand, but the rest of me turned away, eyes shut tight. The tears started to trickle from the outside corners of my tightly shut eyes. I did not want her to touch me.
“It’s over, you did great!” (Why do medical professionals compliment me when I am doing nothing but passively submitting?) Then she noticed my ridiculous tears. “I’m sorry, did I hurt you?” And she directed me to go pee in a cup.
It was in the restroom where I started weeping, and by weeping I mean my eyes are leaking and I’m sniffing, but I’m not actively crying. During treatment, I have spent entire days doing this.
Now I’m being led to the exam room and instructed to disrobe and put on the paper gown. Still weeping, making the nurse more and more uncomfortable. When she left me alone, I thought I could gather my wits. But no.
The doctor does his best to comfort me. “Sure we found the cancer, but we had to get it out of your body. That’s a good thing.”
“That’s not why I’m crying.”
“Well, fewer women who get diagnosed are actually dying from breast cancer. You’re not going to die from breast cancer.”
“That’s not why I’m crying either, I’m reflecting on the year I’ve just lived through. This is a milestone event for me.”
“Fair enough. Let’s start the exam. Put your hands behind your head…” He opened the gown and reached out to feel my boobs, and then he dropped his hands. “Oh my goodness, Patricia, they’re beautiful! Who is your surgeon?”
“He’s very good.” He continued the breast exam, even on the reconstructed one, which I don’t think is really necessary.
He directed me to lie back and continued the exam, all the while trying to be encouraging, gentle, and clinical. “They really are beautiful. He did a phenomenal job. It’s a new beginning for you, a new start.”