Tomorrow is game day! Hopefully this will be the last step in major surgeries designed to return my body to a pre-CancerLand state. I just came from my plastic surgeon’s office, where Dr. White marked up my chest like a high school JV football coach. I have arrows and ‘X’s all over my chest, showing my surgical friends the best place to adhere my new squishy boobies. This time he even broke out a tape measure, which will hopefully mean that my new memory gel girls are symmetrical. Dr. White was perfunctory and more unfriendly than he has been in the past. I hope that it was just that he was busy and not that he is annoyed with me and my arm-pit-tits. After all, it isn’t like I moved my implants from the center of my chest to the house of sweat commonly referred to as my underarms. If he had done his job the right way the first time, I wouldn’t have to go back to the chop shop, in my opinion.
As I picked up my keys to my time share in CancerLand, I thought about the path that has led me on my journey thus far. How would I best share my experience with someone who has just been kidnapped by The Guys in the White Van? What information would be most important to highlight? What does someone newly diagnosed need to know? What are the answers?
First, I would say, if you’ve been kidnapped and brought to this party, I’m sorry. I don’t have the answers and it sucks. Now don’t get me wrong, some of the people in CancerLand are really awesome, but there is a small clique of folk that just want to cut you or take your blood, and they aren’t even part of the whole ‘Twilight’ cult. You will learn, almost by osmosis, who is coming to take something from you and who is coming to give something to you. Sometimes the outcome is the same–for example, the Breast Surgeon is going to take something from you. Sorry, that is the long and short of it. Even if you have radiation, you will have to have a lumpectomy, so be prepared. The polar opposite of the Breast Surgeon is the Oncological Surgeon, a Plastic Surgeon who specializes in reconstruction of sweater monkeys taken by cancer. S/he will give you something, if you choose reconstruction. If you know what you want and your personal expectations of reconstruction and share this with your Plastic Surgeon, your outcome will be much, much better.
Once you’ve sorted out the players in CancerLand, your next step towards initiation is changing your last name to ‘Oncology.’ Why change your name? If you notice, there are whole wards of hospital and research centers dedicated to the Oncology Family. Adding Oncology will give you all sorts of membership benefits at the club house in CancerLand. Oncology patients get surgeries scheduled faster, get free wigs, when necessary, and have marathons and fun runs held in their honor. Some even get their houses cleaned at no cost to them. Medical professionals with the last name of Oncology are held in higher regard than those healers who are not part of the family. Clearly, changing your name to Oncology will yield a plethora of benefits.
Once you’ve taken the plunge and become part of the Oncology Family, you are ready to ready to proceed to the cashier to pick up your keys to your time share in CancerLand. Some of the newly initiated will stay longer than others, and you wont know how long you will be there till you get there. Be prepared to wait. While you are waiting, you can also be prepared to lose all personal modesty. No longer will your boobies be something special you share with your spouse or a source of nutrition for your children. Once you’ve picked up your keys to your time share in CancerLand, your boobies (or other Cancer-infected areas) will become property of the hospital where you have your treatments, your Medical Oncology family, and any lab that receives your tissue samples for pathology analysis. Yes, in addition to losing your modesty, you will literally lose a part of yourself. Some of you will lose your breasts–they will become tissue samples written up in a pathology report. But don’t worry! You are part of the Oncology Family, and we take care of our own! When it gets to be too much for you, relax. Others in the Oncology Support branch of our crazy, mixed up family will make sure you don’t walk the path to your time share in CancerLand alone if you don’t want to. If you ask, we might even let you feel our reconstructed lactose-free milk melons, just so you know what yours will feel like.
A person I know once told me they enjoyed having surgery because it made them feel important. I gotta say, I’d rather be important for something greater than allowing my body to be a sharpening stone for the surgeons’ tools. I might be providing a valuable educational activity for budding medical school students, but they can practice on someone else. Tomorrow, hopefully for the last time, I will approach the surgeon’s scalpel with a different approach. Instead of laying on the operating table as a waiting canvas, I’m going to turn the tables on my Oncology Family. This time, I will write my own notes on the white board that is currently my chest…I think maybe something like, “Good luck, we’re all counting on you.” Maybe this time Dr. White will read my order for ‘Rockin’ Tits’ and get it right so I don’t have to do this again for a while.