I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
T.S. Eliot The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock
It’s 9:15 a.m., a frantic and rainy Monday after thanksgiving weekend, cars spinning like plates on 85, the 280, the 101. Crashes and minor accidents dot my GPS maps. Not too late for an appointment with a knife. Today, happy to wait in a room of nervous caregivers and their cared for loved ones with cancer, to get a lumpectomy more like a mini mastectomy.
We thought my surgery would take less time and tissue, however my former tumors left corrupted and genetically damaged breast lobes, and even with clean margins for the the 4mm tumor more must be removed. I imagine a pit inside a peach and the radio oncologist agrees with the metaphor except the peach grew in my breast. Not on trees. Like money grows on trees.
The surgeon uses a marker of sorts for navigation in the form of a very thin wire inserted into my breast using radio mammography and a good amount of numbing agent. Cannot recall the x- ocaine used, but no matter. A wire like a fuse on a bomb extends from my right breast as I await my surgeon, Dr. Tran, an affable, confident doctor who instills in me a feeling of relief rather than fear. The first surgeon with whom I met months ago, asked why I was there in the office since, “we don’t operate on stage IV cancer patients.” He’s not going to make the team. He’s cut immediately as the odds against the procedure become tougher to beat.
Patient. A person who waits. A woman without patience makes an awfully poor patient. However, this impatient patient won the battle against the oncological team who abided by the predetermined treatment bible for all people with metastatic disease. “Biblical” may seem somewhat overstated. I assure you, somewhere in a dark room under a thick museum grade glass box, sits a jewel encrusted tome with instructions for medical personnel by which they must abide. I lean towards choosing those willing to simply consider my strategy for my battalion to fight along side me in battles I can win as parts of a war I can never truly conquer. They are special ops forces. Doctors who missed that part of the oncological specialty curriculum. Willing to listen and see patients as people. Individuals.
When I entered metastatic pergatory, I found that treatments come and go in the cancer high fashion set. Metastatic cancer patients become the lab rats for the next new wunder drugs and all sorts of treatments. The anesthetic wears off as I lay in recovery, my mouth dry and sticky like my brain. For some unknown reason, I begin cracking bad jokes with the nurses. Nurse Sandy gets a no arms no legs at the beach joke and doesn’t find it funny, yet the others snicker and let me in on her emotionally serious nature. To balance things out I say what do you call a girl with one boob? Ilene. Ha. Funny day. Steve Miller sang, “I really love your peaches wanna shake your tree.” Well, maybe one peach is enough.