STRIPPED AND BARE
There is an intense feeling of simultaneous vulnerability and power when you go through a double mastectomy and reconstruction. At least this has been my personal experience at 52. I surely can’t speak for anyone else and I am really not “Wonder Woman” and “Amazing” as many people, including me, have made occasional kind of humorous, kind of serious reference to. Who I really am is someone who moves through grief instead of around it and at times I plow through rather then move gently.
Plowing is not always the most productive way because occasionally the intensity skips some important steps like quiet time and reflection and tears. I think the “we caught it early” element of my yellow brick road minimized my need for this and this isn’t always a good thing. What Grief and Grieving has taught me is that steps cannot be skipped because they find their way out somehow and when they do it is usually a surprise.
So when my fire alarms started blaring the Saturday before July 4th and I had to call the fire department, the experience in hindsight was a massive trigger. A lot of the grief (because one must grieve loss and go through its process; it cannot be avoided) poured out because the fire alarms and the sirens were like the primal scream bottled up that needed to be released. Of course none of this made sense to me during the situation. But in the wisdom of retrospect, the wailing of the alarms were the metaphor for the vestiges of trauma that continue to inhabit my body. Now some people reading this may think- holy crap- this is a bizarre way to look at fire alarms blaring. When the assistant fire chief and the volunteer fire(kids) came barrel-assing their way into my home, this was a trigger I was unprepared for. I am a solution oriented woman and the vulnerability and being the recipient of the eye rolling vibe felt patronizing and misogynistic, I am sure unintended, but nonetheless alive and well in our illustrious male force.
When a woman has her breasts removed because of cancer or as a preventative measure to the possibility of cancer, it is soul baring- it is cape removing, talk about feeling a removal of power. I learned when I left my husband how to really fend for myself- after all I chose to be on my own. I had been married to a man for twenty years; there were many things I didn’t choose to learn regarding home care. When men in power situations, and lets face it, when 7 men storm your house looking for a fire, it was a trigger when their attitude was not solution oriented but patronizing. I wanted to scream to them- I just had my fucking tits cut off and put back on and the screaming fire alarms that would not shut off was opening up my grieving flood gates that I didn’t know needed to still be drained! Talking down to me like some little girl who needed to be scolded for bad behavior was not fucking helpful and what could have been a really kind experience gave me the feeling of not wanting to ever call the fire department again. Like bottled up grief needing to be let out, the feelings that I have is that I am making a big deal out of nothing. Maybe I am OVERTHINKING this, maybe I am being dramatic, maybe I am acting like a drama queen. Whose voice is this anyway?
I am guessing that Ann’s (aka my mother) birthday, (July 4th), yet the second one that I have chosen to not acknowledge because of the “I PREFER THAT YOU NEVER CONTACT ME AGAIN,” email sent a year ago last June, has had something to do with this feeling. A grown woman never stops needing her mother even if her mother is a sad, ineffective lacking introspection mother. The perception of a mother and the loss of this is something to grieve. I am guessing I am not finished with the grief of this.
I am also guessing that the firemen storming my home was a trigger from the time we all almost died when I lived in Fall River from carbon monoxide poisoning and we all had to be rushed to the hospital. This was when my parents were still married, my brother was still alive and we lived as a happy family in Fall River, Mass- before everything went south in our lives. Grief is so strange and writing about it brings out stories like this one that I haven’t thought about in years. Triggers and grief are really special when I pay attention and I am so glad I do. I am glad because when I allow the shit to come pouring out because of a trigger, I feel better, I feel calmer.
Yesterday I decided to call the head Fire Chief to let him know about my experience and I feel way better today. Literally getting things off my chest is the only way for me to move through stuff like this.
Then after talking to the fire chief, I called my grandfather and he told me about my aunt (my father’s sister, also BRCA 2 positive) who was going for her regular preventative check ups and BAM, they found a spot on her lung. Is there no end? I really started questioning my entire life last night. If I only had a few years left to live, and I was lying on my deathbed, what would be the one thing I regretted not doing? You know what came up? My only regret would be not selling everything, buying a Mercedes camper and traveling the country. My brother always wanted to do that with his VW Bus that he gave me before he died.
What I realized yesterday is that who knows how much time any of us have left, but based on the cancer history of my immediate family- there seems to be a little more pragmatism to my life when I look at my future. I don’t have a deathwish, I am not even worried, just a realist about the possibilities of my future. The fire alarms jogged all of this in their primal scream and I like that they were my unintended wakeup to the awareness of living my life as I choose.