THE DAY OF
As I drove to the hospital at 5:30 am for a 6:00 arrival time, I realized seeing the sunrise that the last time I was headed to Women and Infants Hospital at this hour was when I was in labor twenty years ago. I remember thinking that the next time I would be driving home would be with our son and my life would be forever different. I would be stepping over the being married as a couple line to the being a family line and I was thrilled with all of the emotions that this would be bringing. Fear, anticipatory thoughts of all that could go wrong and all that could go right. Thoughts of not being good enough, but making sure that I showed on the outside the illusion of being a new (and excellent, perfect, happy, hold it all together despite the inner workings) mom and all of its silly self inflicted expectations new first time moms have.
So as I watched the early sunrise, twenty years later, now divorced for six years, my son in college, driving with a different man for a very different reason to the same hospital at almost the same time give or take an hour or so, I was struck by the full circle of it all. Where did twenty years go? How did I get here? What would the next twenty bring? Would there be a next twenty and if so would the next twenty go by as fast as this last twenty? Would this new surgery make me stay a bit more present due to its nature of facing mortality it has brought to my life? I sure hope that the seven hours of surgery I was about to face would be as smooth as it could be and that when I woke up I would be realizing my good luck at the medical world’s ability to catch this early and offer this as even a possibility.
The only thing I really packed was a pair of slip on Uggs, a pair of loose fitting pants, my face moisturizer and body soap so I wouldn’t have to use the antibacterial bullshit crap the hospital likely provided. I also had my grandmother’s button down lighthouse sweatshirt my grandfather insisted I take from her closet because none of the girls in the family would take it. When you see the picture of it, you will immediately understand why, but my grandmother wore this pragmatic button down sweatshirt all the time and my grandfather couldn’t imagine getting rid of it. This sweater would be me giving Isabelle her voice she deserved that was silenced because “women should just move on” after her radical mastectomy in 1957.
Besides this, what else did I need? I almost brought my laptop thinking that I would actually be writing, but realized that this was a idiotic thought. I decided to leave my cell phone at home and ended up bringing an old school journal and a few pencils just in case I was bored. hahahahahahahahahahah. I really had no expectations of how I would feel on DAY ONE, but I was at peace and decided to allow and surrender from the moment I rose up and got into the car.
Walking in to the pre-op was like an episode of The Twilight Zone. I don’t know what I thought it would be like, but it was ten couples sitting in a room waiting for their names to be called. Were they all here for mastectomies? There was only one mother daughter duo, everyone else was there with their mate. I had my mate and my Aunt. I noticed a few pregnant women. It was a curious group and my curiosity was peaked. I will ask my nurse when I get called for sure. I decided to wear my socks that said “mother fucking girl power,” that a dear friend gave me much before this last diagnosis and then take them off and pass them on to my rockstar surgeon before my surgery hoping she would wear them. I sat peacefully. I was not afraid.
When my name was finally called by a really kind nurse, it was time. I gave her the information she asked for and then I asked my mastectomy question to learn that some of the women were here for c sections, some for mastectomies and some ovary removal or some type of reproductive removal or adjustment. The common denominator was female and that created a link between us promptly. I will never know how any of them ended up but as we sat there as sisters, there was an unspoken comfort that happens between women that is calming and hard to explain. Maybe knowing that we are all in different phases of our lives but for some reason are sharing this unique experience together we had no idea we would be sharing this when we woke up that morning, kind of like a group of passengers on a plane to Florida in the unpredictable month of March.
As I changed into a Johnny opening in the back this time, put the socks on that had the grips on them I used to buy for my son when he was first finding his feet, and placed them into the assigned plastic bag, the posse of doctors, anesthesiologists. and nurses arrived in a fluster of organized chaos. When I saw my breast surgeon, I passed on my socks to her with a beaming smile as I knew I was in her care, her hands and had total peace because of it. I said goodbye to my aunt and my partner and was whisked off already feeling the effects of the relaxer drug they gave me feeling like I was being carried on a magic carpet ride to the next phase of my young life.
“Why have I not gone in for the surgery? “I asked my aunt when I opened my eyes like a nanosecond later. “Your surgery is finished,” she said sounding relieved the seven hours of wait time was finally over. Talk about disoriented. I was high as a kite. I just got there, how could it be over? Morphine button on my lap, lying in a private room, my family and friends around me, nurses waiting on me. I had to pee. Kind nurse: “We are going to let you rest now, Alayne.” Alayne: Ok, great, but I have to pee, how will I get to the bathroom?” Kind Nurse: “You have a catheter in so you don’t need to get up, just rest.”
OMG, am I in an alter universe? Maybe this is what the after life feels like. Lying in a bed, being totally cared for, high as a kite, control of being high as a kite in my own hands, peeing just by lying there and new tits. Holy mastectomy. This is seriously the best day ever. How did I get here? Good night Irene.
I moved in and out of awake and asleep seeing my friend (and as it turns out her mother who had died about five years ago), seeing my doctor and confessing the memory of a love of drugs from my teenage years because of this morphine feeling, (“wow, this feeling is why I loved doing drugs in my teenage years, never did heroin though.” Requoted, thank God not retweeted, from my disbelieving friend) then seeing my partner and being so happy to see him, then waking up and no one was there, feeling sad. Oh yeah, I have the morphine button, why bother the nurse, press, press, not wanting to over press thinking they would shut me off but digging the feeling. What the fuck, I just had both of my breasts taken off, my back sliced open, I have earned the triple press for sure. Sleep again. No need for perfection here.
The lighthouse sweatshirt. Who knew our sharing of it, we would also be sharing our breast cancer and mastectomy too?