Monday, December 5, 2011

Random Thoughts

I'm living on the edge here.  Posting random thoughts without the safety net of a rough draft.  I just don't feel like it today.  Forgive the upcoming ramble.

When days pass and I don't post anything new, I sometimes wonder why I bother with rough drafts at all.  Why don't I treat my blog like a diary and just write?  Why try to craft the perfect sentence?  Who cares, really?

When I was 11 years old, I started a journal after reading the book, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.  In that story, Harriet, carried a notebook with her where ever she went.  It was a companion, a place to share her observations.  A safe haven for all the thoughts and fears she wasn't brave enough to voice.

Something about that struck a chord and on October 16, 1975, to be exact, I started writing in a composition notebook and didn't stop until February 26, 2001. I wrote nearly everyday for 26 years.  In the time since, I would occasionally wonder why I stopped, why it no longer felt right, so today, out of curiosity, I found that last notebook and read its last entry.  It takes place three days after my wedding and 11 months after my mother died.  I didn't intend for it to be the end, it just was.  Blank pages fill the rest of the notebook.

It's my guess and I'm no psychoanalyst, but I stopped writing because life as I knew it, was drastically changed.  Glancing through that notebook, something I never, ever do, I realized most of my writing that last year talks about encountering life's dividing line.  I clearly felt the first part of my life was over.  No going back.  I no longer had a mother.  I had a husband.  I had a very different life than the one written by a young girl growing up or a single girl in college or a young woman with a big job in the big city.  With my current perspective, it's no wonder I stopped.  That girl was gone.

The interesting thing here is why I started writing again after so many years.  The catalyst pushing me to unburden myself through writing, as those when I stopped, was again, a life changer.  Hello, breast cancer.  When there was no one left to turn to who would understand, no one with an ear left to listen, instead of speaking the words aloud, I wrote them.  Not in a black & white notebook this time, but on a laptop, sharing with an invisible audience, and it felt right, but I edit.

Some of these posts are just too personal to go out without rewriting.  Tempering, in a sense, some raw emotion that might seem a bad fit for public consumption.

Along comes today and I'm uneasy.  My first instinct is to blog about it, but can't.  I'd have to write it out, revise it, make sense of it.  It could take days and in this case, I'm in need of instant gratification.  That's why I remembered the notebooks. How it used to be, when I wrote freely all the time, head to pen, without stopping until I said all I wanted to say. Can I allow myself to do that now or do I need to edit myself simply because my personal dilemma is going public?  I'd like to think I can just put it out there.

Tomorrow, I step again onto the path of breast cancer reconstruction.  My plastic surgeon has a whole hour of precious time blocked out just for me...and I'm not excited.  I'm very hesitant actually and can't figure out exactly why.

Tattoos.  The last phase of my 2.5 year ordeal, seems anything, but final. There's inner turmoil because tattoos, by nature, are permanent reminders.  A lasting souvenir, commemorating a journey's end, but how could it, when this journey is never truly over?

What happens next?  Am I supposed to walk out of his office as if things are all right in my world?  Just move on? Like the questions asked by Nancy's Point the other day.  I don't know that I can return to who I was just because my reconstruction is declared finished.  I'm changed and not only physically.

There are constant checks and recurrence fears, coupled with guilt that I should quit whining and (here it comes), be grateful it's not worse.  I am grateful, but that doesn't take away the worry.  Still there's something more here today. I don't know what it is.  Tattoos aren't that big a deal in the long run, and I should stop making it an issue...at least that's what I tell myself.  It's not really working.

I sometimes think my blog posts should contain a definitive answer to whatever I'm questioning.  That's probably why I revise so much.  I'm always trying to tie up loose ends into a neat, complete package, but on this day, writing off the cuff, I can't do it.  I don't have an answer to why tattooing yet more physical evidence of what I lost is bothering me so much.  This procedure is supposed to help it all look better, not worse.  I just hope it does.

I hope this post makes sense.

Anyone else face reconstruction procedures with trepidation?


15 comments:

  1. To some degree, I think reconstruction surgery is the companion bookend to diagnosis, and treatment fits on the shelf somewhere in the middle. Reconstruction is supposed to signify the end of this terrible chapter of our lives, when in fact, there will never be an end. We'll ALWAYS be survivors, regardless of whether we have a recurrence. Any hesitancy revolves around the open endedness of "always." Always a breast cancer survivor, always wondering when or if it will return... Always doesn't fit neatly between our bookends.

    XOXOXO,
    Brenda

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  2. I don't care whether you write off the cuff throwing random thoughts all over the place. The bottom line is you're a great writer and I'll read your stuff any time. P.S. This post made complete sense :)

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  3. Thanks, Brenda, for that perfect image of the bookends. You are exactly right, although I'm picturing space beyond the reconstruction bookend. As you say the open endedness of always...always a question. Hard to take, but there it is.

    Hi Rachel, thank you for that! I needed it.

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  4. Hell yes! First, I love your writing off the cuff. Second, with each stage of recon, deeper feelings are dredged up (at least that is how it's been for me). Initial recon was done at the time of BMX so a flurry of activity, decisions, emotions. Can't really tap into the root of all *that*. When I had my failed tissue expander removed (which I have yet to blog about, BTW), it tapped a tiny bit into the darkness lying below the surface. But 4 days ago I went back into surgery (I promise to write about that soon too) and after 5 months passing from TE out to new TE in, WOW lots of new emotions there. Fear too. I know too much now. I know what can go awry. I've had it happen.

    So getting tattoos may be the simplest of your recon surgeries to date, but I think it's probably the most loaded emotionally.

    Very normal my dear. Good luck. Can't wait to hear how it goes! That is the route I will go down too, but not for another year the way things are playing out.

    ;-)

    Renn

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  5. Stacey,
    This is one of my favorite posts you have written yet, and not just because you mentioned Nancy's Point! ha ha. It's uncanny that I'm reading it today because my next post is on the tattooing thing and like you, I found this step of reconstruction to be soooo unsettling for so many reasons. Like you, I found it to be so difficult to write about, well to share about actually. I kept asking myself over and over, should I share about this, and if so, why is it so hard? Finally, I am blown away by the fact you were such a faithful journal writer. That's truly impressive. Also, your insights as to why you stopped, astounding. Forgive me for rambling, but this is a great post that really got me going. And good luck tomorrow. Can't wait to hear how it all goes. Thanks for writing this post, actually, like Rachel said, thanks for writing period. Lastly, thanks for the mention. Ok, I'm done. For now.

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  6. Hey Stacey,
    You're pretty good at random! Wow! I tweeted this to you too (Blogger doesn't like me) but I really looked forward to getting this last item crossed off my list and was shocked at how awful I felt when I got up that day. Like I could cry awful. After the procedure I took the rest of the day off so I could just have some quiet time with music. I think it's pretty common to feel weirdly let down at the end--a friend told me that she burst into tears after her last chemo treatment. I think it's just all the pent-up emotion.

    The tattooing itself was a piece of cake. Weird to be looking at color swatches like picking out lipstick :)

    Oh, and wanted to comment on writing too--I've been writing professionally (if corporately) most of my adult life but what I had stopped writing was poetry and personal stuff. And like you, breast cancer acted as a very weird (but welcome) muse.

    Best of luck on this next step!

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  7. I love this post. The randomness perfectly leads into your trepidation and ambivalence about your next symbolic visit to the plastic surgeon. It's another 'dividing line' in your life, and it's supposed to represent 'the end' of the breast cancer experience in a tangible way. And yet we know that's never true anymore. And that has to feel so fraught, given all that is represented by reconstruction. Oh, Stacey...

    ...we all understand, even those of us who have not gone down the recon road. We are never the same. Just keep writing, okay? Promise? And I'll keep reading, believe me.

    Big hugs.

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  8. Harriet the Spy was one of my absolute favorite books growing up! I loved Harriet so much, and felt she was so misunderstood when her friends read her notebook.

    As for your final reconstruction tattoos, I've never felt like you do since I've never had reconstruction. But I do remember that I was upset when my surgeon told me I didn't need to see him anymore. After visiting him for six years, I didn't want to give him up! But he was right; I needed to have one less doctor to see.

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  9. Renn, when you write it all out like that, it's no wonder our emotions are so screwed up. You know you reminded me I had trouble with one implant for nearly a year before having revison surgery and the guilt I carried over that was crazy. Thought I didn't deserve to have it fixed. I'll write about it sometime. Looking forward to your upcoming posts. Thanks for writing. I hope your recovery is going well.

    Nancy, you're so funny. I love when you're on a roll and as always, I look forward to reading your thoughts on this topic. I'm glad I'm not the only one finding it hard to accept. It's frustrating that I can't say exactly what my issue is, but something isn't sitting right with me. I don't know. I guess the whole cancer experience is just too "out there" to sit well with anyone. Maybe, I'll have more insight after tomorrow. Thank you for your comment.

    Hi Jackie, thank you so much for sharing how you felt. I feel awful, too. I keep questioning my desire to see this through, but that's not it. I know I want it done, but yeah, it's emotional. I'm not carrying any expectations with me tomorrow. I'll just let it play out. Everyone commenting here is telling me it's okay to feel messed up about it. So, there you have it. I'll keep you posted.

    Kathi, thank you so much for this comment! You made me smile at a time when I'm feeling crappy. Yes, how can we have this symbolic "finish line" when of course, we're never really done? You get it and thank you for reading. That matters more than I can say.

    Hi Ginny. I wanted to be Harriet, too! My very first entries were observations about kids in my class, like Harriet wrote and like Harriet, I was afraid someone would find it and read it. I remember going nuts one summer at camp, trying to find the perfect hiding spot. I shared a room with about six girls and I had a lot to write about. Funny, I guess in some way it brought me here. Thanks for writing!

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  10. Hell, I am PISSED off that the TSA agent in the full body scanner at Logan got to look at MY tattoo's. I don't think more than three or four people have seen them up close and personal (doctors aside).

    It's normal to feel exactly how you are feeling. It doesn't just go away. You don't just stop having cancer. We don't get to pick up our marbles and quit the game. IF ONLY!!!!

    Here's the really great thing...... you see all the responses here? We are your support. And on twitter, too..... We are all at different points in the "process" (I hate calling this a journey-that sounds adventurous and I don't find cancer adventurous.... it's just sucky) and there is always someone ahead of you and someone else, behind you. And when we reach out with our words, we help ourselves (mostly I entertain myself like an idiot) and we help others. WIN WIN....

    Good luck tomorrow....

    I like my tattoo's. Like I said, hope the SOB TSA guy liked them too....

    xoxo

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  11. AnneMarie, if only we could quit the game! Love that and the whole TSA thing, although, it does suck. It all sucks, but comments like yours help make it all better. Thank you for writing and being there.

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  12. Stacey - none of this is 'small stuff' - as I have found with my recent 'minor' surgery for nipple recon. It's all a big deal - emotionally charged and loaded, and it's never 'over' - ever. Even if you are finished surgically.
    Sigh.
    Your emotion around gratitude really struck a chord with me too.
    Best, Sarah

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  13. I chose not to do reconstruction...just MY choice. Still, this post makes sense and resonates with me. I say that you are entitled to approach this with trepidation. Every woman who has had BC stands with you!

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  14. This is a beautiful post, Stacey. You write. I read. It's that easy.

    You may not be ready for this but, congratulations. You're at another fork in the road. Cancer may not have left your mind but this last part of treatment will be "finished" tomorrow.

    And now that you have readers, you can't stop writing. We won't let you off the hook that easily!

    Hugs,
    Jody

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  15. I get it. I totally get it, and I hear ya. Tattoos seem to be the final step, the "cherry on the sundae" as my surgeon says, but the procedure is fraught with worry. I'm not there yet, not ready to take that next step. We all go at our own pace, and we feel what we feel. Kudos to you for expressing it. Better out than in, like Shrek says!
    P.S. I absolutely LOVE Harriet the Spy and hound my 9-yr-old girl to read it. I know she would love it, but she's stubborn! I may just read it again, myself. Thanks for reminding me how much I love that book.

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