The pain that the drain was inflicting no me on Friday morning was proving too much to bear. I consider myself quite resilient and someone who can cope with pain well. Having been waxing my legs from the age of 13 or so, being pierced a number of times as well as tattooed twice has contributed to my healthy threshold of pain (I think). So how could a drain be so intolerable? I had a look and it was not pretty, but not that ugly either. Around the tube, a scab was forming, and where the two stitches were it was looking rather red. The problem was that every time I moved the stitches would pull, or the scab would break. Ouch.
Faced with the prospect of being totally immobilised by such a little thing, and holding back the tears, I called my breast cancer nurse to see if I could get rid of the drain. After all, they were going to do it on Monday and I felt I could not stand the pain. She nicely said “no, you have to wait till Monday…I know it’s painful”. I was still draining 120 ml of lymphatic fluid a day, so really quite far from the 30 ml target needed to remove the drain. I put the phone down. I cried.
Later on that day, I had an appointment with my practice nurse to change the dressing. I was in the car with nick. Phone rings. “Hi Rosa, I spoke to ms. C, she says you can have the drain removed”. I was the happiest woman in the whole of Hackney. This was a little mount climbed.
Because this is what it is like to have cancer for me. You have the big thing to deal with, the big mountain to climb, as my friend Andy put it. But to conquer that mountain you have to go through all these small mounts, some steeper than others. I do not want to see it as a battle, as if I’m fighting against it. The cancer is part of me, my body and my life. Fighting against it would feel like fighting against me. I live with it and I am going to have to do this for a long long time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather not have it, obviously. Cancer is the one thing no-one wants. But I cannot reject it ‘cos it’s here and there is nothing I can do to change that. It is now part of my biography. And I never thought I’d think that it was unfair, as my philosophy has been pretty much “it has to happen to someone, and in this case it was me”. But there was been a few of occasions in which I have felt cheated and hard done by.
On one of those occasions I was on the train back from the hospital the day that I went to the fertility clinic for the first time, I had the misfortune of choosing a seat in front of this couple who’d been taking something, some sort of drug I presume. “Are you feeling anything yet?”, “No not yet”…”oh wait wait”. His stare was vacant. Their skin was rough. Then I found myself thinking, “I bet they can have children and look at me, poor little me… with cancer, awaiting chemotherapy, which could potentially leave me infertile…their kids would go to care…Oh-my-god. I can’t believe I’m having these thoughts. Cancer’s turned me into a mean person”. I could have put my hand in front of my mouth in disbelief. As the sociologist that I am (well I prefer the title social researcher), I like to think of myself as someone who strives to be non-judgemental. What was happening to me?!?!
Then there’s other times when it just hits me “I’ve got cancer. I’m going to have chemo. I’m going to be bald and sick”. And it shocks me, because I am so used to it now. It has become so normal to talk about chemo and radio and lumps and cancerous cells and tests and results and wigs and scarves that sometimes I stop and go “shit, I’ve got cancer”. Usually it makes me cry. It’s daunting. But the crying doesn’t last for too long. It’s not like I spend hours doing it. A few minutes will do. Very cleansing.
Oh! and tomorrow I will hopefully get the results of the 2 cm margin that they take along with the lump. If there are no cancer cells there then the next stop is chemotherapy. This should be sometime between mid to end of July. But if there are cancer cells I shall get rid of the boob and have it reconstructed.