Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Full of Grace

1.  Planting the peas.

2.  Rainbow connections.

3.  Nutella pie, left anonymously on my desk.

4.  One last walk around my childhood home.

5.  Transplanting perennials from my mom's garden into my memory garden.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Full of Grace (a little late)

1.  Playing hooky to spend a shopping/lunch/movie day with Peachie.

2.  An incredible mastectomy massage  (didn't know there was such a thing)

3.  Being able to use my new boobs as stress balls. 

4.  Having both Beanie and Peachie home for 48 hours together.   And the turkey dinner Martha made to celebrate.  Apple pie.  Yum.

5.  Eating outside. In March!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The New Girls

Ever since my surgery, I have been going every where flat chested. A friend of mine who had a mastectomy years ago told me that she just wore her old bras and stuffed them with socks. And then she sent me a box of socks.   I was swollen and sore for quite a while and couldn’t even think about fastening a bra around my chest.

But it was winter and I was wearing bulky sweaters. Flat wasn’t so noticeable. Then one morning I put on a tight, V neck sweater and started to cry.  It wasn’t the flat that bothered me but the fact that my chest is still lumpy. The scars are not smooth, there are still hard pockets of fluid, and the area between my right arm pit and chest is very ropey.  I could see all this weirdness through my sweater. So I put on a bra and stuffed it with socks.  But in the mirror all I saw was my skinny, twelve year old self, so insecure about my lack of breasts that I stuffed my bra with tissues. It was the first time I felt a serious sadness and grief about having my breasts amputated.  I took off the bra and changed my sweater.

With the warm weather I realized that I would have to make a decision about clothing.  To go flat, there would just be some clothing I could not wear,  including one sexy little dress I wear to weddings.  That pissed me off so I made an appointment to be fitted with prophylactic boobs. 

After some getting to know you type questions, the women asked me "so what size do you want to be?"   Peachie, who had gone with me, thought this was my chance to go for a real big rack.  Tempting,  as it would balance out what has happened to my butt in these last few months of inactivity.   But I finally chose a standard B cup, which I've always been.
Here they are - my new girls!

The first day I wore them to work, I kept taking them out to show everyone.   They are weighty and  very "real" feeling.   Every boob joke in the world ensued.  The funny thing is that they are high and firm.  They are my 20 year old breasts.   It's an odd and nostalgic feeling to have them riding so high on my chest.   I may have to stand next to a heater to get them to melt a little.   But I don't think I'll wear them everyday.  I really like the freedom of being flat chested, of just throwing on a Tshirt when going to the gym or running errands or just hanging around the house.    And I get a free pair every two years, so I can do different sizes, or mix and match.   That would be fun.

I know that many friends and co-workers think I have just breezed right through the whole breast cancer thing.   But it is not true.  I have had moments of great insecurity.  Days I could not look in the mirror.  I have had many, many tears.  I have had a couple of major triggered  meltdowns.   I continue to have waves of sadness.    And now, taking hormonal drugs to reduce the risk of recurrence, I am dealing with wicked nights sweats and fatigue.   Not so much fun. 

In the cancer boutique, there was a big poster that said "Laugh 'til it Heals."   There was a time in my life when I could not laugh at all.  When humor came back to me, I realized how much laughter can heal a soul.    And personally,  I can find a lot of humor in a bunch a straight women, passing around and feeling my boobs.   I am going to get so much mileage out of this . . .

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Full of Grace

1. Knowing that we missed a Broadway road production of The Jersey Boys while I was with my mom, my colleagues at work chipped in and got us new tickets.

2. And they got tickets for a night I usually have to attend a really boring meeting. And now I don’t have to go. Doubling the pleasure.

3. Peachie home for a whole week of cuddling and girl talk.

4. Our neighborhood ice cream store open for the season.   We all went to celebrate.

5. Getting through the first Sunday of my life that I didn’t talk to my mom.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Last week my mom died. Even as I write that, it does not seem real to me. My mom, who was always, always, always there for me, is gone.

It started simply enough. She was not feeling well so my sister took her to her house. But very atypical, she asked to stay. I traveled down to visit her. She looked fine but was complaining about some weakness in her legs. She thought she had some medication imbalance, had some doctors’ appointments lined up and I came home.

I had barely put my suitcase down when my sister called and said that they had taken her to the hospital. When I arrived the following day, she was mumbling The Lord’s Prayer, over and over. I remember a day in my life I did the same and wondered if my mom was in the same state of panic I had been. I laid down next to her, held her, and cried. And then the next day, a day of agony. My mom in obvious distress, obviously scared and crying out in pain. Over and over, for hours and hours. They gave her morphine and more morphine and nothing touched it. For me it was a day of sobbing and praying and so much anger that her god would put her through this.

And then there was quiet. A massive stroke had affected both sides of her brain. There was no longer recognition. Just a gentle staring and a rhythmic but labored breathing. We made the decision, based on her request, to remove all life support. Her lungs started to fill with fluid and the breathing got more and more labored. All through the night I would sit beside her, holding her hand, and listen to her breathing. But still she hung on. We moved her to hospice.

After a few days I left to return home, needing to restock my meds and clothes. On the train I got a call. Her breathing had changed. Barely discernible. I returned to her side and then she finally passed. It’s been a long, emotional week, but not without its blessings.

  • Long estranged from my brother (because of his homophobic wife) we shared a small hospital room for a week and sobbed in each other’s arms over and over again. The estrangement broke my mother’s heart. I hope she knows it’s going to be okay now.

  • Sharing tears and stories with my mom’s best friend, Joy. They had been friends for more than 60 years. Everyday Joy came and shared stories. How wonderful to see my mother, as a single working girl, as a newly wed, as a young mother - all through the eyes of her best friend who was with her through it all.

  • Meeting the myriad of women who came to say goodbye and tell us stories of how my mother had impacted their lives. I was bursting with pride.

  • After my father died (and donated his body to a medical center) there was no wake, funeral or memorial service. I never really understood why. Now, having read my mom’s final wishes, it came to light that my parents wanted to have their memorials together. My mother also donated her body and when we receive her ashes in two years, their ashes will be buried together. Just as they wanted. Together in life. Together in death. Theirs was an amazing love story.

I am not sure what life will look like now. How much will I miss our regular Sunday chats? Who will I piss and moan to when Martha is driving me nuts? Who will give me parental advice when I worry about my children? Who will gently nudge me when I’ve screwed up? Who will be my biggest cheerleader when I’m on a new challenge? I am now officially an orphan and I feel an enormous void.

I know how fortunate I’ve been to have my mother in my life for as long as I have. How blessed I have been to have an inspiration and model for healthy relationships, for deep and abiding friendships, for volunteerism and citizenship. I can only hope to be a fraction of the parent/spouse/friend she was.

Saying goodbye is so fucking hard.  But remembering is so very sweet.