The day began before dawn in the rain. Dramas in my life are often washed clean by rainstorms. A cold front was pushing through like Yao Ming for a basket. I felt calm, so calm, my blood pressure was low. I hired a car to take me to Baptist East, so my children wouldn’t have to make the long haul to my house. It was a quick trip at 6 a.m. on slick streets. The Women’s Center was dark when I arrived at 6:15. My appointment was at 7. I’m always early, a habit bred in me by my father who believed an hour scheduled was the hour one should be there and not waste other’s time. It’s a good habit, not much appreciated.
A surprise was waiting inside the electronic doors: my son, looking sharp in his business suit and with a vente Starbucks latte in his hands (oops, Mom, I forgot you couldn’t have one). He too is an early bird (every day at work) and so we found two chairs and relaxed until the Women’s Center opened at 6:45. The hardest part about all this was NO WATER to drink. Maybe this is why God sent the rain. I didn’t feel as dry as I would have. Not eating since 8 the night before was already easy since each morning at the spa when we left for the morning hike, we waited for breakfast on the return about 7:30. But water? It’s the only liquid I drink if there are no fresh squeezed juices.
The nurse had been adamant about water, so I dealt with the morning crud (post nasal drip stuff), and the onion bread I stuffed down at dinner still hanging around, it seemed. The cell phone rang at this hour. Many called. People I love. My daughter in Nashville. Lopez, who is my partner in working with juvenile delinquents. Emails were downloading. Prayer had started. I felt surrounded by a strong horizontal spring. A wooden hand cross, a gift from Pat Tigrett, was in my purse. And prayer beads. But I didn’t need objects. I had God in my heart.
My daughter arrived, and so the three of us were first in the waiting room. Then the wife of one of my favorite persons (He runs a Drop In Center for homeless addicts) was having her annual mammogram. It’s like going to the grocery store, nowadays, when I go to the women’s center. I see so many friends, so many people I know dressed in that white robe and bring knitting, books, paperwork, for the long wait. They called me for my insurance card (every time). Soon I was led back to the inner sanctum waiting rooms. I was to have another ultrasound as the doctoress inserted a path for the surgeon to my Golgotha. After deadening the boob (a prick similar to having blood drawn), some plastic wires were pushed where the cancerous tumor rested. Had it grown any? No, it’s the same. Then another injection at my lymph nodes put some sort of magnetic particles in a sort of dye to identify the node to be removed for testing. Today, my boob was the star. Alas, I had to have a set of two more mammograms to have a photograph of all the instruments included to guide the surgeon.
Why do I call it a boob? I’m 68. When I was raised, there were unacceptable words - sex, vagina, clitorus, womb, breast, urine, bowels, ass - words related to questionable parts of the body as if we should be ashamed of them. Thanks to the women’s movement, we can employ this language today. But I’m still shy of it. At one point a Mother approved word for breast was bosom. Somehow, I condense all that into a boob. It hangs, it excites, it’s the best machine for nourishing babies, large ones (Men like) give us more form than many of us want - as we seek contraptions that are comfortable but snazzy in order to hold them up or, in the sixties, in a point like Marilyn Monre, or round like Denise Darcel - remember her? But if you have flat ones, women feel short-changed giving a certain kind of surgeon reasons to insert implants, make larger. Flat boobs are better for super athletes whose exercises make muscles of what for most of us are fat carriers of milk glands. They can also be harbingers of cancers and death.
As the first procedure ended, the doctor signed my boob so the surgeon knew she had accomplished her assignment. Sign my boob? This could be a trend. Each stage of the way someone signed the left boob. Even I had to initial it to agree that yes, this boob was the one. Maybe this could be a trend. I’m sure teens get rock stars to sign much worse than that. I have a little red heart on my left boob. No one questioned why, thinking it was a temporary tattoo for Valentine’s Day. (Already?)
I re-dressed (no bra this time) to leave the Women’s Center and there were complications. In the hall, I saw my surgeon en route to the out-patient surgery center. He said I was second in line. Although I had blood drawn the day before, there was more needed so quickly I was walked to the lab in the Women’s Center, blood was drawn, and after signing more papers, we were taken to the doors of the hospital to wait for the shuttle to take us one building over. I kept insisting I could walk. Not in the rain, they said. Ridiculous waste of gas. The driver didn’t even know where we were going. But at the surgery center, - show insurance card and driver’s license, pay 90 dollars co-share or something like that, they take Visa - I was quickly taken in for prepping. Leave anything metal with your daughter. I had already left jewelry I wear all the time at home. But I reluctantly slid off my thin wedding ring which I always wear even though I’m not married now. I commented the docotr had just inserted metal magnets in my boob. That didn’t count. No, my daughter had to wait outside until I was prepped.
In little dressing rooms, no mirrors, take off all your clothes, put on this robe and tie it in the back.. In the back? It’s not my butt that’s of concern, it’s the boob. "They’ll pull the robe off the shoulders when needed." They need to invent robes made up of tie-able pieces. I tied the back so as not to expose my butt, as if anyone was interested. What I hated most - and maybe what made me realize this all was going to happen, was to put that flimsy shower cap over my hair. I hate shower caps (even swimming caps.) I shivered for a moment and then got back in control, praying the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Marys all the way. In the prep room that’s so full of machinery and curtain cut offs that it’s not worth looking at in detail, I crawled on bed One. Once again the questions - who am I (look at the Id bracelet), what is being doing to me today, who is my doctor, which breast (I wanted to say you can tell by all the autographs.). Are you allergic to anything? Not that I know of. At some point I got a couple more autographs on it. Indelible ink? I asked. No, you can wash it off with alcohol. (Alcohol? Need to buy a bottle.) I could hear people commenting on the strong rains outside. Ahh. What peace that brought. I would have been happy with rain drops on my head.
Since I have no primary doctor (just plenty of specialists to visit), and I don’t know when the last EKG took place or where (probably in Uruguay or Jackson Hole), they needed to take a electrocardiogram . Boy those are much faster than they used to be. The first showed movement. Had to tape up again. This was better. Have you ever had heart problems or high blood pressure? No. I had unhappy thoughts something could be wrong and stop this procedure which I was so ready to endure. They rigged up my right arm (I had blood taken twice in 24 hours in my left one) for the anesthesia and I guess to have a ready-made hole in case some sort of emergency happened and they needed to put in life-saving whatever. My daughter was allowed to come in but it was the exact moment they were ready to roll me off. I love you Mom. I love you honey. A little tear squeezed out my eye because I do love my children so much. And they rolled me into the surgery room.
Now I felt a pang of fear. Could God get through all this metal? Was this a way to keep Him out and lock science in? I knew the place was surrounded with prayer. I think the idea someone cared is much stronger than metal. All those giant round lights (Normally I’m comfortable in a spotlight - a holdover of my theatrical days) and people in blue masks and scrubs. Shift onto a skinny bed. Thank God I was fit. There was no extra space. Once again the questions as they put the sleep juice (Ha Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream) into my veins, I asked, have you started? Yes, you’ll be asleep in a minute. I said, I want to bless each of you. It counts. I’m an Anglican deacon-priest - Pow. I didn’t know I was gone. Next thing I knew I was really groggy but felt I was continuing the conversation I had left off with.
A nurse said, it’s over. You are in recovery. It’s over? I didn’t even get a good dream in. I don’t know how long the operation took. Less than an hour. Most of the time the doctor said was waiting for test results while the operation is in progress. I started rambling until I realized my mouth was stuck together. Please, may I have water now? (That was the worst part of all this.) Yes. She gave me ginger ale at first, then water. And I couldn’t get enough. I felt pretty dud-dy. Not like I could get up and do a treadmill. I could also feel my boob had been danced on. I had been given pain pills. I had to hang in there for thirty-five minutes oblivious to what was going through my mind. The surgeon peeped in, I think, and said the initial tests of the nodule were negative. That’s brilliant news. I do remember wondering if my guide Jim Williams had made it to the summit he was tackling in South America.
When I was allowed to get in the exit wheel chair (I can do it myself, thank you), I was rolled out to the car where my daughter rescued me from the hospital moment. We went to Subway so she could get a bite to eat, (It was 1 p.m.) and I could get ice water and a chocolate chip cookie. (Well, what do you want?) And I had placed a bag of home-made health gorp in my purse, and my morning pills (which I wasn’t able to take prior to operation), so I quickly gained energy. It was raining still, but lighter. And strong wind gushes made driving something you had to work at. We picked up the prescription for pain pills. But I can happily say, I’ve not had to take a single one. I wouldn’t know anything had happened to my boob, except I’m walking around even climbing flights of stairs without a bra and there are band-aids and autographs all over it. Home and my well-pillowed bed were the best refuge. Novella, with her healing powers, dropped by to anoint me. The sun burst through the clouds, but winds were violent outside, and that means my house shakes. My daughter got a bit nauseated on the third floor and went down to the more solid first floor to sleep.
I did find out what happens to removed tumors. They are kept forever. They might be used for further testing, or if some new invention allows doctors to have more information, in other wise, my tumor has a future. And so do I. God bless you all for praying me through this moment.