Friday, March 8, 2013

Frank -- Part Two

It’s kind of funny (funny-weird, not funny-ha-ha) that I have written so little about one of the most important parts of my breast cancer journey – my double mastectomy. Let’s be honest, all anyone really wants is an "after" photo, and since I already provided that, what more needs to be done? Joking. Because a lot happened that day and only now am I starting to climb out of my cocoon to examine it.

Thanks to Ativan, writing, Ativan, and my weeks of mental preparation, I was surprisingly composed when I arrived at Brigham & Women’s Faulkner Hospital on Wednesday September 12, 2012. I vaguely remember checking in, surrounded by my whole family -- dropping my head onto my Mom's shoulder as we waited for the woman behind the glass to find me in the system. Then, like a mini-parade, we marched over to the waiting room of the OR. Kathy greeted us and we started to settle in.

Perhaps it was the Ativan(s), or the stress, or my selective memory, but the hours before I went under anesthesia are stored in my brain more like snapshots than like a movie. I remember some moments so vividly, but then there are chunks of time that I don't remember at all. Today, I will share two snapshots.

Before my surgery, a nurse handed me a johnny and directed me to the bathroom to change. I shut the heavy door and found myself in a rare moment -- alone. I took off Brianne's Battle Mode t-shirt and folded it up. I unclipped my bra, and looked at my boobs. I mean it when I say that there was no part of me that was sad to see them go. Despite that they looked droopy and innocent, they felt like ticking time bombs planted inside my helpless frame.

I stood there for a few seconds -- half naked, in my hospital socks with the grippy bottoms (love those). I remember thinking, Should I pray? Should I ask God to help me today? But it didn’t feel like the right thing to do at that moment. So I said a different kind of prayer -- almost guided by some higher being to do so. I stopped and I tried to feel the energy of the many people in my life who had sent me messages in the days prior, messages like, I will be thinking of you, praying for you, sending good thoughts your way. You can do this. I swear, those thoughts and prayers and encouragement were almost tangible for a few fleeting moments in that sterile hospital bathroom. I truly believe that they were holding me up, strengthening me when I needed to be strong, clearing my airways so that I could breathe. It felt almost magical.

The other snapshot I have in my memory from that day is from the last minute or so before I fell asleep on the operating table. My eyesight is horrendous and I usually wear contacts (except in the past few weeks thanks to these persistent infections at my lash line). For surgery, though, contacts weren't allowed. Before the nurses rolled me down to the OR, they also took my glasses. I remember getting into the OR and seeing countless blobs of blue moving around me under the bright lights. Then I heard Kathy's voice. Kathy, is that you? I asked her, even though I knew that it was. I was already feeling the effects of drugs, but still, I was certain that she was right beside me.

Yesterday my friend Lynne sent me the kindest email that included this quote by Maya Angelou: 

People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did 
But people will never forget how you made them feel. 

I don't remember what Kathy said to me in those last few moments before Dr. Nakhlis got to work removing all of my breast tissue. But I know that she was there, next to me, and I know exactly how she made me feel. She made me feel like I could go to sleep and everything would be OK. 

*  *  *

Alright – here’s some blog trivia for you: today is March 8th. What is March 8th? Perhaps you most loyal of followers remember that March 8th is the day that “Frank” will receive his bone marrow transplant at the Brigham. Frank is the reason why I got to thinking about those few minutes alone in the bathroom before my surgery. He is the reason why I remembered the powerful energy that I felt from so many of you that day; why I thought of what Kathy did for me.

For all I know, Frank will have more prayers and good thoughts sent his way today than I ever did. Maybe he has his own Kathy who will stand next to him while he falls asleep. Unfortunately, though, my gut tells me that’s not the case. My gut tells me that Frank may be much more alone in this world.  

Nevertheless, today's a big day for Frank. Somewhat like my surgery, his surgery will largely determine his fate. Maybe it's strange that I'm still thinking of this skinny little man with rotten teeth after meeting him for just five minutes in the valet waiting area at Dana-Farber. Or maybe it's useful that he's still on my mind and that now, at least for the next few sentences, he's on your's, too. Perhaps the energy that you send Frank in the split second after you finish reading this post will be just what he needs when he finds himself scared and alone. As crazy as it sounds, our collective energy could provide him the type of comfort that Kathy gave me -- so that he believes, even just for a split second, that he can go to sleep, receive a stranger's bone marrow, and have everything be OK. I know, it does sound totally crazy. But crazy things happen every single day. Wouldn't life be so boring if they didn't? 

1 comment:

  1. The morning of my bilateral mastectomy, I bade a cheerful goodbye to my boobies. They were saggy and lifeless with cancer festering inside. I had to be at the hospital at 5 a.m. (in my glasses, too) and remember the colors of everything seeming so vivid. And the plastic surgeon coming in and drawing on me and being so dad-gummed PERKY for that time of day. Thanks for sharing your story.