Notes on my lumpectomy

The full moon straddling two days, June 12 and Friday the 13, offered enough mystery to spook me as I headed to surgery, well procedure. But oh it was beautiful last night rising over the tree, the clouds buffering it, in pastel grays and purples. I wanted a picture, to look but knew the camera would only show a dot.

When I walked the dogs it burned so bright, I looked behind the barn to see if I’d left the outside barn light on. I had not. Trees threw shadows. It burned like a smelters’ door.

At 4:30, the world was already awake, with enough light, the farm shone like it had its own light, the moon, dilated, though far from the horizon.

Friday the 13th. Pam Houston, a writer I’ve admired for years because she knows how to use her life in fiction, wrote her nervousness over her own biopsy on this day. She unabashedly asked for support. People addressed the superstition saying Friday the 13 was a holy day for the Mayans. I saw a picture of at least one black cat.

Black cats, for me, well, Onyx, are powerful healers, soulful. They know how to lie down on your belly, warming the seat of your own power. They come by when creativity starts to sing, and they celebrate joyous bodies. This is just my opinion, but I think they got a bad rap because they have this power for good, only dressed in Night, darker than night, at night. And we all know, night can be a great healer. It calls us to rest and mystery, and a new kind of light. I have walked the mile long road from my childhood farm, praying, deep, rending prayers. Barbara Taylor Brown’s Learning to Walk in the Dark, gave me a clue. It’s an extended meditation about the goodness of darkness. She explores blindness, night time, caves among other things. It’s a lyrical, good read. But I’m off subject.

Today I too went for a procedure that would cut open my breast and take out tiny cells, getting ready to be cancer. Dread hung over me. And I believe Lissa Rankin is onto something when she talks about the nocebo effect, how our beliefs can kill us, how a doctor telling us you only have so much time, can become a prophecy. My docs have done no such thing. But they did to my mom, who lived nine months after her doctor said she had that long. Her death year, 60, hangs over me. I’m a year and a half away. My friend tells me to be careful of those thoughts. I know. I had them for this, that something would go wrong.

Then I remembered the days I rode Tessie, just sure she’d smash me into the ground, because she did once, the fear bitter, and she did not. She did not even flinch when geese flew up, the wind rattled. I remembered an Psalm put to music, “I will bless the Lord at all times”, the line, “And he delivered me from all my fears.” All kinds of fears. So I leaned into this, into a God who delivers me from Besides there’s a saying that I think begins in Byron Katie’s work, “Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Bruce sat with me, said he’d prayed hard that everything would be all right. We forgot our Divine Hours book so I read the psalm that tells us to praise God from creation. Tears set up in Bruce’s face. He gave me his presence and kindness. We watched some show on fixing curb appeal.

I have been afraid of the wire they stick in your breast to guide the surgeon, ever since I’ve heard of this. I see barbed wire. But it was only a tiny filament. For a bit of time, it felt like a raspberry pricker stuck way inside. I could hold still for as long as it took. They placed a Dixie cup over top to shield it.

The operating room, well, that was way more scary than you see on Gray’s Anatomy. Spotlights as big as the lights that come on with a bang in football stadiums. A bunch of women who introduced themselves as though I’d walked into a party of old friends. My surgeon’s eyes merry, almost joyous, and kind. (For me this surgery would mean wannabe cancer taken out.)

I said the oxygen mask made me claustrophobic. They took it away. They wrapped me in warm blankets (luxury) and wrapped me in these cuffs that squeezed my legs and arms that were deeply comforting in themselves.

The surgeon asked what I would dream because we’d talked about how I’d dreamed while I was under. I told her I’d think about driving my horse at the top of a beautiful valley that glows like blown glass, her sashaying tail.

Would you hold my hand? I asked. Two women took both. I felt their warmth. Then the drug hit and I said good night.

 

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About Katie Andraski

I come to the ground, the ground comes to me. My novel The River Caught Sunlight was just published. Here's a description: "Sometimes a person has to leave home, even if that home is the most marvelous place she's ever lived, even if her mother will be diagnosed with terminal cancer, and her beloved farmer, a man she's loved for years asks her to marry him." I have taught composition at NIU for twenty years and have been writing ever since I was a little girl. My husband and I live on a farm with horses, dogs, chickens and one not so feral cat.
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12 Responses to Notes on my lumpectomy

  1. Kyle says:

    Katie, your bravery in this piece is beyond amazing. I remember the news from when my biological mother was diagnosed with cancer from within the prison walls. Although we weren’t really close, the terror that hung over me was unbearable. To be able to write about something that I can only imagine is much hard is commendable. I gained a lot of insight, especially as a man, what this must be like. I am glad, though, to hear everything went well. Thanks again for sharing.

    • katiewilda says:

      Kyle, thank you for this very thoughtful and heartfelt comment. I hear you on that terror. I felt it when my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. There’s something about our moms and our very physical connections with them. I’m sorry to hear about your mom too. Thank you again for your kind words…

  2. Peg cannell says:

    Sounds like all went well..I hope. To quote someone..we don’t come with an expiration date! My parents both died at 54, my brother at 44. I just too damn stubborn I guess. I was given four years to live seven years ago and keep on ticking so don’t allow yourself to think of dates. Just live each day with love.

  3. Jeanne Rankin says:

    Lovely Katie, you’ve been in my prayers…I love you.

  4. So glad this is behind you! (The wire was the worst part for me — I passed out while they were trying.) Ugh. Yay, you are done — time to celebrate and heal.

  5. Hal Fickett says:

    So powerful. Brought tears to my eyes. How are you feeling now?

    • katiewilda says:

      Hal, thanks so much. I am feeling very well now. I only had to take two pain pills which surprised me. I thought I’d be more sore. I feel very relieved.

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