Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What constitutes a meltdown, anyway?

When I went to the polls today to cast my vote for Obama, I was surprised to find John Edwards still on the ballot. Gosh, a long time ago-- nearly a year, almost-- I went to see his wife speak in Lexington. She moved me to tears countless times, most of all when she spoke of her breast cancer and of the need for this country to declare "war against cancer." Cancer is curable, she said, as long as we throw enough money into research. If we just saw cancer in the same light that we saw terrorism-- as an enemy, as a threat to the world-- that we would find a way to conquer it.

Today was a grim day in the world of politics and cancer. As a former New Englander from a family that's been New Englanders since they arrived in this country, I am a card-carrying member of the Kennedy Fan Club. And dear old Ted was diagnosed as having a (so says the media) an inoperable malignant brain tumor today. Be well, sir.

Also today, President Carter's chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan, succumbed to a twenty year battle with cancer during which he endured more than three different types of cancer.

My Obama vote didn't do much good. Part of me wishes I'd just voted for Edwards. But I'll keep the faith.

I'm a political junkie, so presidential politics have been on my brain since the candidates first stepped onto the playing field (seemingly years ago). But since my diagnosis, I have to admit that my thoughts have taken a more fatalistic turn. When imagining worst case scenarios for myself, I find myself musing about how willing I would be to fight to live if we ended up facing four more years of a Republican president. Mawkish, perhaps. But I do go there.

It's been a relatively lousy couple of days. I'm not really sure what counts as "meltdowns." Did the fact that yesterday I couldn't get a dentist appointment, got off the phone, and bawled count as a meltdown? It was only tangentally related-- I feel like anything I can do to be "clean" when I have surgery will help me fight against the possibility of infection.

Does the fact that I'm already having (minor right now) insurance woes and cried because I got frustrated with that count as a meltdown?

I guess the biggest news right now is that, unbidden, my uncle/godfather is coming down from Massachussetts for my surgery. I was not consulted. I still haven't been consulted. My aunt called my mother and told her that my uncle had made a reservation.

I am weirded out, and perhaps weirded out most because there's a weird (that word again) little quirk in me that feels somehow like this is an honor. I'm not close to him, although I consider him-- now that I have lost both of my grandfathers-- in a fatherly sort of way. He is my father's eldest surviving brother, and when Dad was alive, they were best friends. Went to college together, played hockey together, pledged the same frat. He has three (gorgeous, perfect) daughters of his own. He's also a very important businessman whose family bemoans the fact that he works too much. It's hard to imagine him asking for time off (does he even have to ask?) to be with his niece during her mastectomy.

My mother thought I would be upset at the news that he was coming because of my neurotic need for privacy. But I never even thought to be upset. I'm happy for her; she shouldn't have to be alone during this. And, I guess I see this as his tremendously generous effort to be my father's surrogate during this difficult time.

These past few days when things have felt very dark, I've become worried about my ability to cope with the aftermath of this. But I don't think I want to talk about it right now.

Today I purchased two post-op mastectomy camisoles meant to comfortably hold my drains (the word makes me want to hurl) and replace, I suppose, my psychological need for a bra. They both also include little breast pillows to tuck into the shelf bra, so I can approximate a figure after my surgery.

Speaking of which, last night, for the first time, I dreamt about it. I dreamed that I had the operation and was leaving the hospital and it didn't hurt and I already had tiny little breasts. Generous A-cups maybe. I put my hands over my breasts, and they were hard, but they were breasts. And I thought, what's the point of doing any more reconstruction? I can live with these. Overall, a good dream.

I'm working on a handbook, mostly for my mother, with the nuts and bolts of directions to local grocery stores and passwords for my home wifi. But I'm also including a list of desires. Things like: "At least for a while following the operation, I hope to approximate a very healthy diet. I expect my sedentary recovery will negatively impact my weight. Without the blessing of my ample bosoms to offset the rest of my voluptuous figure, I expect that I might appear a bit chunky after surgery. I'd like to lose weight if anything."

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