Monday, August 9, 2010

UPDATE: Ma and the Mastectomy

In June, you can taste the east coast air. You can also grab a handful of it and use it in lieu of hair gel.

I hadn't been back to PA in the summertime since 2003. And it wasn't a joyful occasion. I felt oppressed by the heat, and oppressed by the anxiety attached to cancer invading my beloved mother.

This was the state of the atmosphere when I got off the plane in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. My high school boyfriend (and still good friend) picked me up at the airport and took me to my childhood home about an hour and 15 minutes outside of Philly. I was disoriented and feeling strangely 17 again when I walked into the house.

Ma was not as chipper as I would have liked, but it was understandable- losing a breast is no small matter, and as the day drew closer, even our family's customary dark humor couldn't dispel the reality of the situation.

I gave her the card with all the wonderful words of support and sympathy that so many of you good folks sent, and the donations made for her health care, and she was astonished. She said "But this one and this one and......they don't even know me!" She was deeply touched, and, as I hoped, the realization that so many people, many of them strangers, cared enough to help her, in a recession(!!!), moved and cheered her.

However, Ma and I went for a walk around Birdsboro the night before the surgery, and that's when she let slip the admission that her last mammogram had been in 2004.

I flipped out. I had been consoling myself with the notion that this was her first bad mammogram, and so we were obviously catching the cancer early. But 2004? When the doctor cut into her, what would he find?

Thank God, he found no more than what I'd originally hoped for- the beginnings of cancer, which he was able to remove. In fact, she did not even need chemo, and was a good little patient from start to finish. We watched her every day to make sure that there wasn't too much blood coming through the tube attached to a small drainage bulb (kind of like a plastic grenade). And we chased her down to REST, while she evaded us like Bugs Bunny and scurried about trying to do things around the house.

Her only complaint has been that she feels a bit lopsided. This was met with our hugely inappropriate rejoinder that now she was a proper Amazon woman, set for a new bow and arrow, and archery practice, which would now be better than ever.

She promised to keep me a'BREAST' of things, to which I admonished her not to be a 'BOOB', and life went on in our bizarre family unit.

We dodged a bullet.

But, as my brother said, "Let's not do this again, shall we?" From now on, mammograms WILL be done regularly. And yes, I will even drag my perky rack to the the squashing machine to make sure all is clear on my end.

Ladies- PLEASE do the same. Although Ma is fine and fit, she will always have to be mindful: of her limitations when flying, of having her blood pressure taken...of a surprisingly large scar and a space where a part of her used to be. Breast cancer is very treatable, yes, but it is still life-changing. Catch it early if you can.

This week Ma was given the all-clear to get her new mastectomy bra, which will even out the landscape, so to speak. My sister and I thought it would be great for her to get an impressive Playboy-bunny bosom, but Ma was not enticed. She'll settle for just being even.

May it be said of all of us.


Jean Tomaselli said...

Beautifully written, Viki. And praise God for the positive news.
Jean (Tomaselli) & Herb (Stahl)

Anonymous said...

VK..we know what a horrible disease it is and I am sorry it hit your mother but also glad her prognosis is so good! My wife's aunt had it in the pancreas, aggressive chemo and they said she looked pretty good for a few months.She just had a pet scan I think they call it...shes got it spreading all over and the Dr. says she can do treatment again but itll only give her a thirty percent chance of "prolonging things a while".Not trying to bring anyone down, but listen to VK and get those exams as soon as possible! Good luck as always to your dear mum VK and love and warmth to you my friend!
Sincerely James P. Moses