The only way out is through

As a kid, I had a book – I can’t remember the title now – about a group of children having an adventure in the woods. They encountered a variety of obstacles, from mud pits to bubbling brooks, and each time, they and I, as a young reader, gleefully would repeat the same chant: “Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it – gotta go through it!”

It’s been at least a decade and a half since I’ve seen that book, but I’ve been repeating that mantra to myself over and over again for the last few weeks.

As Joseph Conrad wrote in Typhoon, “Facing it, always facing it, that’s the way to get through. Face it.”

We had a bit of a Drain Emergency today. I woke up this morning with a small dollar-sized patch of shirt soaked through with fluid, and couldn’t seem to figure out where it was coming from. Eventually, I just put it out of my head and went about my day, until I was sitting at the computer and realized that I could feel the wetness leaking down my side. I reached around and felt the drain site, as best I could with my limited post-mastectomy arm mobility – it was weeping clear serum. I reacted calmly and with a clear head. Just kidding, I totally lost my mind in panic.

My mom and I called the hospital, but they didn’t answer, so we texted the plastic surgeon, who made the error of giving us crazy people her personal cell phone number. Eventually, we got in touch with the nurse practitioner, whose completely calm, 180-degree reaction perfectly rebalanced the universe following my own freakout. She said this happens in about 50 percent of cases (NO ONE WARNED ME) and that it’s not a big deal and they’ll just take the drains out tomorrow and the little holes will close up and it’ll all be nothing. But just to be sure, she added, “Check for swelling in the area where your breast was.”

Wait a minute, where my breast was? Oh yeah, I don’t have breasts anymore. I might have rock-hard tissue expanders or, eventually, nice soft implants, but I’ll never have breasts again. Reality check.

In happier news, post-surgery shower #3 popped off today without event, except that I FINALLY shaved my legs, which was amazing. I feel like a werewolf reentering human society after a full moon. My armpits are still off-limits, however, and weirdly I’m okay with it. I’ve developed a severe case of armpit hair Stockholm Syndrome and I kind of think it maybe doesn’t look so bad to be a girl with hairy armpits? Maybe? I don’t know anymore! Up is down, black is white, body hair is the new no body hair! Cancer changes everything!

5 thoughts on “The only way out is through

  1. Don. K. Bohner says:

    We’re going on a bear hunt!
    Yay for getting the drains out today-one more thing you’ve gotten through!

  2. Yes, it is “We’re going on a bear hunt”. My son’s favourite book of all time, but I’d never made the connection of how appropriate it is to describe our Breast Cancer journeys. Me too, I’m on one. Your writing style is beautiful, but also made me laugh out loud a couple of times, thank you. Good luck with what’s coming next – I’m about 6 months ahead of you and considerably older, but it is doable if you take one day at a time and hang on for dear life to that wonderful sense of humour of yours. I keep a blog too, and it really helps me keep my sanity intact at least some of the time. Very best wishes, love & hugs, & to your lovely supportive mum too. Yvonne

    • Michelle says:

      Yvonne, sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this as well. Thank you for the sweet words about my blog!

      It truly is a fantastic book, isn’t it? Good luck to you on your journey and glad to hear you’re almost “thought it.” 🙂

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