On Monday, I had surgery to have my port (or portacath) out. That event was a marker in my breast cancer treatment path but also a reminder of the journey and its beginning, the advent of the terror and wonder.
Getting ready for surgery was much easier this time than back in September when I had the port “installed.” That time I was very nervous. I’d not had surgery since I had my tonsils out when I was three. I’d just gotten a breast cancer diagnosis 13 days earlier. I was confronted with so many unknowns. I felt overwhelmed and emotionally shut down. But this past Monday, I knew what to expect from surgery prep, what it was like to be wheeled down the hall on a gurney, what it was like to wake up from surgery, what it was like to go home with a new scar (actually, this one is a new wound on top of an old scar). This time I was having the surgeon remove a foreign object from my body instead of put one in, and this object represented my undergoing chemotherapy and all that it entailed. He was taking it out. This was a happy surgery.
But this surgery stirred up emotions from the first one as well as the second one, which was the lumpectomy and the node-removal, my December surgery. Even though the results of that surgery were clear margins and no evidence of disease in my lymph nodes, there was another eight-week round of chemo and a whole series of radiation treatments awaiting. And that was a long ride. Having this surgery to remove the port seemed too far away even to consider back in December.
I remember walking to my vehicle last September right after getting the cancer diagnosis. I sat in the driver’s seat and thought to myself, “Cancer. This is terrible and wonderful.” I knew that dealing with cancer would push me into areas that were frightening and into which I’d never have the courage to venture – unless I was forced there. I also knew that, in those areas, I’d find blessings that I couldn’t imagine until I got there. I was right on both counts. There was terror. There was wonder. There were blessings.
And the journey is not over.
I had the opportunity to walk a labyrinth on Wednesday with some of my centering prayer group. The walk out from the center is usually lighter, more free for me. But it wasn’t this time. I felt a tension in my hip, a kind of catch, something not released, not let go of. I realized later that that catch, that tension, is that I’m not sure how to be a healthy, cancer-free person yet. That I still have to digest what I’ve learned in this cancer journey. That I’m a new person, but I don’t know yet just who that new person is. So this post is Chapter One as I spend some time considering the cancer treatment path, what I learned, and what that means for me now. What that means for who I am becoming.
And for who I left behind – or am trying to leave behind.