I just returned from the hospital, where I was given my radioactive injection. Remember when I thought that was going to be so cool? It totally wasn’t cool at all. It was just four needle stabs right in the nipple, accompanied by some nice burning and stinging sensations as the isotopes made their way through my lymph system. It was pretty much a nonevent. I didn’t Hulk out or anything, so that’s good, but we’ll have to wait a few days to see if I get accepted to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
After the injections, some big, clunky machines were used to map the radioactivity as it traveled through my system. My surgeon gave me a little tattoo over the sentinel node, which turned out to be the original chunky node that was spotted on the first ultrasound. That’s good news, because it means that if that little chubby guy is cancerous, he’s the only suspicious-looking node in there. I’ve nicknamed him Season 7 Fat Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s kind of a mouthful but he’s worth it. Anyway, there could be more nodes affected by the Big C, but my surgeon reassured me that if I were at a very late stage with lots of lymphatic invasion, that would be noticeable by now. He says it’s sort of a toss-up whether or not the cancer’s made it to my nodes, but if it has, chances are good that only a few are affected. No matter the outcome, he said, the situation will be treatable and, hopefully, curable.
The funniest part about the whole ordeal was when the nurse offered me some privacy so I could change into the gown. I literally laughed out loud because, at this point, who hasn’t seen my boobs? I feel like I should be getting Mardi Gras beads every time I have to go in for a test, which is every 10 minutes. I pretty much just start stripping as soon as I get into any exam room. I’m like a compulsive flasher any time I’m within 100 feet of a hospital.
USC is a teaching hospital, and my surgeon thinks that I am just the coolest (probably because of my winning personality, but it doesn’t hurt that my case is really unusual), so he had a whole team of fellows and medical students come to meet me today once the procedure was finished. I felt like Miss Cancer America. The strangest thing was meeting the medical student who will be observing my surgery from the operating theatre. Since my roommates back in Richmond are two med students and a nurse, I know that plenty of people my age are working in the medical field, but it was weird to look one of them in the eyes and share a silent acknowledgement about just how unfair it is that we’re on opposite sides of this divide right now.
I find that it helps not to focus on the mastectomy I’ll be having tomorrow, but instead to focus on the reconstruction I’ll be having in the weeks to follow. With that in mind, I’ve chosen to think of this as my very unorthodox boob job. But real talk: I’m really, really scared. I’m scared of so many things, like whether or not there’s going to be cancer everywhere, exploding out of every orifice and in every organ in my body, which seems unlikely but I feel like anything is possible because hey, I’m 25 and I have breast cancer! I’m also irrationally scared that I will wake up in the middle of the surgery and the team won’t realize it and they’ll operate on me for hours and hours and I’ll feel everything. I actually brought that one up with the surgeon who laughed and assured me that would not happen. He said machines will be monitoring pretty much everything in my body, and if anything looks off, they’ll adjust the anesthesia accordingly.
Tonight, I have to sanitize basically everything in my life. I need to wash jammies, bedsheets and blankets. I need to use a nasal antibiotic to kill of potential Staph or MRSA germs. I need to wipe down my whole body with these weird germ-killing towelettes. I have to take off my nail polish, wash my hair and I’m not allowed to shave anything, so I hope my docs enjoy operating on my hairy armpits.
Me: “Will you still love me tomorrow?”
Boyfriend: “Yes. Why wouldn’t I?”
Me: “I’m not going to have boobs.”
Boyfriend: “And cancer. You’re not going to have cancer.”
Helps to have someone to put things in perspective. Plus, having talked to my surgeon today, I truly feel that I am in the best possible hands. But it wouldn’t hurt to have a few extra prayers on my side.
Say ta-ta to my tatas, ’cause this is the final entry I’ll write with them. See, boobs? When you mess with me, you get the death penalty and get carted out of an OR in a biohazard bag. Take note, other organs who may be considering mutiny. I will literally cut you.