18 September 2007

It Goes On

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." ~ Mark Twain

It dawned on me a couple of nights ago that things may never be the same. The swelling in the new girl had finally gone down a bit and I was able to feel a ridge running underneath it. It's like having an underwire bra under the skin. That may theoretically seem like a good thing, but it's not.

Everyone I know who's had reconstruction surgery has always told me that, in the end, no one will know that the "breast" I end up with isn't a breast at all. No one, they told me, will even know I had breast cancer unless I choose to tell them. I sort of had my heart set on it. Of course, I also had my heart set on everything being finished a year ago, but this is a lot harder to accept. I've gone through so much to make that outcome possible when it may not be, after all.

The problem is definitely radiation and possibly, to some extent, my body's tendency to create massive amounts of scar tissue. I heal quickly, but thick ridges of scars form almost immediately. Radiation caused a lot of tissue necrosis. There was a lot of radiation because of the wide-spread nature of the cancer (which wasn't a tumor) and the fact that it came so close to the chest wall and my neck. Once tissue is irradiated, it gets very hard.

When I was at M.D. Anderson a couple of weeks ago, I talked with a young woman while we waited to give blood. She had exactly the same conditions as I had and the doctors weren't enthusiastic about even trying to do reconstruction surgery on her. It was the memory of my conversation with her that clarified my own dire straits.

Dr. Kronowitz did an excellent job of cutting some of that necrotic tissue and scar tissue out, but there's still some there. Maybe there always will be. I thought about calling him last week when I had this epiphany, but then I decided that I might not be able to stand the answer. Not yet.

I was devastated last week. Today, I'm emotionally numb. I can only feel that bad for a limited period of time. Plus, I'm still exhausted and in pain from the surgery a couple of weeks ago. This is no time to obsess about visual wholeness.

Next week, a new round of medical appointments begins. I have an appointment with my psychiatrist (whom I'm probably going to try to fire because she's more than I can afford) and a blood check/medical oncologist visit. The next week is my annual physical and a trip to my dentist.

I'm not a human being anymore. I'm just a series of medical events.

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