Friday, September 12, 2008

How Things Fit

Today, as I was walking up the hill on Ash Street to the cancer agency, I was messing with the waistband on my skirt. I had this feeling that girls get sometimes when they're wearing skirts (please tell me I'm not the only one) that the back somehow had moved to the front. So my hand moved down to the waistband in the front to see if the tag was there or not, or sideways. Instead, my fingers only felt my underwear. I looked down. My waistband had migrated down to the pubic area. Good thing both my underwear and the skirt were black.

I can't tell where and how my clothes are fitting me anymore. I mean, I guess I haven't been able to for a while, since the surgery. But it was only recently that I've stopped wearing support garments as frequently; I used to wear those girdle panties, a girdle, sports bra, etc--anything to keep the stitches tight and stuff. But I a) just don't want to wear that shit anymore (it's difficult not to feel like an 80-year-old with all that armour on); b) am lazy (you know how long it takes to suit up?); and c) think it's time to experiment with regular undergarments again. Thing is, even when I'm not wearing that stuff, I feel like I am. My abdominal area and chest are still pretty tight and numb, with little sensation. Which is why I didn't know that I was practically flashing people my thong. And which I why I didn't know that my bra was riding up halfway on my chest, threatening to choke me, during most of Wednesday, until I stripped to take a bath that night.

All this is to say--I'm having a really hard time feeling "normal" again. I mean, shit, I don't even know how to wear clothes properly anymore, apparently.

Perhaps I have a wild imagination (yeah, okay, so I do), but things seemed to get even more abnormal today. Before I set off for my ultrasound, I got a call from a dude from CBC who was doing a story on the report that come out today stating that genetic screening for breast cancer doesn't cut it for Asian women (Risk of Breast Cancer Mutations Underestimated for Asian Women). He said he heard me talk about my story before on CBC radio, and he confirmed that I'm Asian. I said, actually, I'm half Caucasian too. But the focus of the discussion was on this twist for me: the Asian part. It's true that I've filled out the paper work for genetic screening, as my cancer was determined to not be hormone receptor positive. And because I'm under 35 years old, that makes me more qualified for genetic screening. However, I did run into difficulty when I came to the part where I had to write up my family tree and state when and where people where born, and if they had died, when and how. I sat down with my parents and asked them for all the information they could give. My mom and dad had a helluva time figuring out the Vietnamese side. It was this nearly total void. If anyone on my maternal side had ever been affected by cancer, I will never know. And that's kinda a bitch when it comes to being a woman with breast cancer. And that's how it's always been for me: when it comes to my family medical history, I'm an orphan.

So now, according to this study, I'm even in more of a bind. Some of the key variables that are plugged into that genetic screening program aren't accessible for me. And now, even in its most complete state, turns out the test wouldn't be accurate for half of me anyway. WTF?!

Anyway, as CBC dude was chatting with me about this, he apologized to me for being the bearer of bad news. He asked me how I felt about all this. Honestly, I hardly felt anything. I mean, after all I've been through, it does kinda come down to, "so what?" I thought about this. Have I already counted myself a goner, that my years are destined to be cut short? Yeah, kinda. I mean, I do have dreams of making it to see my grandchildren some day, but I also know that there's more of a possibility that I won't get to see my kids graduate from high school.

So now, more than anything, I have dreams of just wanting to live. That sounds so cheesy and Zen, but what else is there? Yet it is one of the hardest things for me to do.

Then we come to the ultrasound today. They know me there, on each of the six floors of the cancer agency. I got off on the third floor, where they do all the diagnostic tests--the ultrasounds, xrays, MRI's, mammograms, blood tests. The receptionist said, "You know where the ultrasound is, right? Down on the left, sit by the photocopier." Yeah, it's that fancy.

Then I see my good ol' buddy, Mr. Ultrasound Dude. Sorry, I don't know this guy's name, even though he's seen my boobies more often than most people. But this was the first time he saw them post-op.

He's an alright guy, Mr. Ultrasound Dude. The first time I saw him, he wasn't what I would call "warm." But after a while, he started getting nicer, telling me to tell him when he was pushing down too hard or hurting me. Today was much the same like the other times. Except I never spent that much time in that room, with that man, before. He musta took a billion images of my lump, which is extending itself out into a ridge. He also took images of my lymph nodes on my left side. He took measurements of the lump. When he finished the imaging, he went to his computer at his desk and took a closer look at some of the images and wrote down notes.

I lifted my neck and glanced at his monitor. I could see two images enlarged on his screen; the dual image of the lump looked like evil black alien eyes. I closed my eyes.

He sighed, came over, and we chatted a bit about the surgery, the discovery of the lump, and what's been done since I found it. Since he's a technician and not a radiologist, he's not allowed to give me any information or advice on the imaging. But he did say that it was odd because there's no visible scar tissue surrounding the lump. Then he quickly muttered that he couldn't see whatever it was that well, and that it would take a week to get the report. Yeah, I've heard that before.

When I left the ultrasound room, I felt so very tired. That's all--just tired. I waited for the elevator. It took forever. I thought, I'm not patient; I'm not a good patient. I'm certainly not a patient patient. Most of all, I'm pretty damn sick of cancer, and I think denial is a good thing.

I'm good at denial, until the problem is completely in my face. I've had a bum foot for a couple months now, but I said, "Oh, it's just my bunions. Whatever." So then I signed up for tap dancing class. And then I went to said tap dancing class on Wednesday. On Thursday--yesterday--I was at the doctor's office. My foot throbbed and burned. So then I also got an xray, and I'm going to see a podiatrist. A bum foot is a good distraction from cancer, no? But I thought I should probably cancel tap dancing and ballet, just to be safe. But not bellydancing--that starts next week. And bread making, too.

I'm going to knead my worries away.


Animae said...

Oh, Brandy. I wish I could just wrap you up in a great big bear hug and hold you tight and make all of this go away.

On a brighter note, at least you gave the good folks of Vancouver a show with your public flashing and all that :-)

DDixon said...

hope you get results soon, and praying it's pesky but nothing! - Deirdre