Anesthesia is a helluva drug.

Before I describe in great detail the best parts of my surgery (who begs for a catheter?) and subsequent recovery, I want to give everyone a massive thank you. I am absolutely floored by the outpouring of love, kindness, and support from people, some of whom I’ve never even met. If you know me, you know these last two years have not been super kind to me, but the amount of people that have turned out to back me makes it apparent that I am beyond #blessed, and that I am surrounded by an incredible community. You all have come together and have wasted little time in letting me know that I am loved. I am truly overwhelmed and beyond grateful- no one is better set to kick cancer’s ass than I am.

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After having made the decision to be flat and fabulous, I used my last Saturday with boobs to celebrate them. Even though they’ve only ever caused me trouble, they were still the center of attention at the Boob-Voyage. Yet again, I was humbled by the crazy support and love that my community is capable of. You guys have no idea how AWESOME you are! We drank, we ate, we gave kudos to the tatas in our lives, and it was a wonderful way to send these bags of rude fat off into the surgical beyond.

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Justin and I spent Sunday preparing for the hospital and the weeks to come. He was even sweet enough to include a cemetery detour in our last bike ride (#relationshipgoals). Neither of us could sleep, so we calmed our nerves with RuPaul’s Drag Race and three wedges of cheese. They told me I couldn’t eat for 24 hours, sooooooo….

At 5am on Monday, Justin, Lauren and I rolled out to the hospital to check in for my bilateral mastectomy. I don’t know how they were feeling, but I was glad that they were there with me and were both in good spirits! It made my walk back to the surgical wing seem less daunting somehow. I didn’t feel like I was walking to the gallows or anything, but it certainly wasn’t easy to go it alone. Undressing for the last time was surreal. I even said goodbye to my bra (as if we might never cross paths again) and slipped into my purple paper surgical gown. Très chic!

Because it’s me and because this journey wouldn’t be complete without one more person assuming that I would someday pursue fake tits, my surgeon described the procedure in terms that left me open to the option.

“When you get reconstruction…”

If you decide to reconstruct…”

BRUH, I AM NOT INTERESTED IN GIVING ANYONE THE ILLUSION THAT I MISS THINGS THAT ARE ACTIVELY TRYING TO KILL ME.

At this point, I think the nurse realized I needed whatever drug she kept talking up as “relaxation medication” and injected that into my IV. From here, I remember very little until I woke up in the dark (but in the light?) needing to pee badly. I couldn’t pee, so the nurses put a catheter in me. I have never felt so relieved. I believe I was then moved to my room where Justin was waiting.

I needed to pee again about ten minutes later. Again, I couldn’t figure out how those muscles worked, so I begged the nurse to put a catheter in me. She declined and stuffed a bed pan underneath me. Justin and I then had this conversation:

Elspeth: Did you talk to the surgeon?

Justin: Yes. The surgery went well. However, you were under for about 4 hours because they found cancer in your lymph nodes on your left side. 

E: **Single tear, unintelligible sad noises** Did you call my mom?

J: Yes, we talked. She knows.

E: Where am I?

And then, because anesthesia gives you the short term memory of a goldfish…

E: Did you talk to the surgeon?

J: Yes…

I made him break the terrible news to me over and over and over again until a nurse came in.

E: Did you call…

Nurse walks in.

E: I’m sitting in cold urine.

When I finally came to enough to understand where I was, I found out that I had been in surgery for over four hours. The surgeon had done a sentinel node biopsy and found cancer cells in my lymph nodes, causing him to have to remove about eight nodes on my left side. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t know the specifics until pathology came back. All I knew at the time was that I was in incredible pain, but that some lovable idiot had hooked me up to a morphine drip (score).

My surgery had gone well, thankfully, and I only had two Jackson-Pratt drains sewn into my chest. They absorb your bodily fluids to reduce swelling and pain, but they’re a right pain in the arse themselves. Justin and I enjoy seeing all the gross shit my body can produce, so there’s a bright side. I had many wonderful visitors come to bring me salty snacks and their love. I was up and moving long before I thought I would be.

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Thankfully, I was only in the hospital until Tuesday evening. My surgeon brought us the pathology report which stated that there was only cancer found in one lymph node (YAS) and then sent me home. I have to wait until I meet with my oncologist tomorrow to hear about actual treatment routes. Who knows what will happen? Chemo and radiation still remain on the table. Tamoxifen for 5-10 years will most likely be a definite.

My body is not used to being horizontal and sedentary. I am not used to letting people take care of me. All of this has been a learning experience, and I can only imagine it will become more difficult (I’m not allowed to lift a fucking coffee mug right now). When I left the hospital, my chest, back, and arms were pretty numb. I am currently regrowing nerve pathways to those places and, let me tell you, it does not feel nice.

But the one thing I can say about this surgery is that I feel GOOD. I looked at my body three days after the operation and I felt positive. I didn’t see what I expected to see- I saw a strong woman who looked even better than she had before. A woman who wasn’t mangled, ruined, or socially-unacceptable. I was simply me. Feeling that was more empowering than anything I’ve ever felt. I love me, my partner loves me, my family loves me, and this incredible community loves me. It’s more than I could ever ask for. And thanks to all of you, I look fly as hell:

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More updates to come, I promise. And please disregard my writing. Hydrocodone was made for taking naps and not feeling feelings. It isn’t the greatest catalyst for wordsmithing.

Forgiveness (as told by a typical Scorpio)

I’m a Scorpio. The Zodiac is a fickle thing I guess, but why don’t we indulge for a moment? This seems to have a lot of bearing on who I am as a person, though I’m not totally convinced that star signs are a real thing. Whatever. My dear reader, perhaps you know what my title entails. Perhaps you don’t. Let me clearly define this for you.

JK, I’m not going to do that. I’m only going to paraphrase it.

Scorpios are dark, broody, and mysterious. Adorable. They feel a lot of emotions. Cute. They hold grudges until someone sticks them six feet in the ground and then they dig that shit up and come back to haunt the fucker who did them wrong. SO ENDEARING.

I’m sorry! I’m just going off what the internet tells me.

Had you talked to me before The Burn, I probably would have agreed with you on this bleak character assessment. It is what it is and I am who I am. Why would I ever forgive someone who raped me? Why would I ever forgive someone who abused me? Why would I ever forgive someone who broke my heart?

Why?

Because that’s what people tell you to do. The path to happiness? Forgive them. The path to self-acceptance? Forgive them. The path to loving yourself? Forgive them. But this type of forgiveness is based in fear. Fear that you will never move on. Fear that you will never be your full self without acknowledging this shit. Fear of losing a part of who you had been. Say ‘yes’ because it is the right thing to do.

That isn’t forgiveness- it’s acceptance.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Burning Man and my recent exploits in life- it’s that the only path to forgiveness is to forgive yourself- wholly and truly. This means telling yourself that ‘it’s not your fault’ multiple times a day. It means believing it. It means that whatever happened to you was not your fault, but the fault of someone who couldn’t see themselves for who they were. It was the fault of someone who was so incredibly damaged that they felt the need to take it out on you.

On that note- the people that perpetrate terribleness against you? They don’t know any better. They are the product of their own upbringing. Their parents raised them to be the person they are today. And do we blame the parents? I mean, we could, but they, again, are only the product of their domestication. And so it goes, until someone breaks the cycle.

For example: if someone tells a child that they will never be attractive unless they are under a certain weight limit, then that child will grow up into an adult who has body issues- a woman who hates their body and actively attempts to destroy it. This isn’t their fault- it’s the fault of the person who told them at age 10 that they wouldn’t be good enough if they didn’t conform. It can be hard to see outside of that idea when it is something that has been instilled from such an early age. But, it is possible to break that confine.

I just read this incredible book  The Four Agreements, written by Don Miguel Ruiz (thanks to its recommending party). It’s a very short and simple read, but it presents these ideas that are completely confounding and life-changing, at least for me. There’s a bit in the end about forgiveness that struck me quite hard:

…We must forgive those we feel have wronged us , not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because we love ourselves so much we don’t want to keep paying for the injustice.

Forgiveness is the only way to heal. We can choose to forgive because we feel compassion for ourselves. We can let go of the resentment and declare, “That’s enough! I will no longer be the big Judge that goes against myself. I will no longer beat myself up and abuse myself. I will no longer be the Victim.”

I finally understand. I finally feel compassion for myself. I finally see that I am only abusing myself by hanging onto anger and resentment. I get it. And I want to let it go. I love myself (star sign and all).

So, I forgive you, not because I feel you deserve to be forgiven (at this very moment), but because I deserve that forgiveness. I thought about going into details here, but I won’t. It doesn’t matter. Whatever I’m holding onto that a certain person perpetrated- it doesn’t matter. I forgive you, and that’s all there is.

It wasn’t me- it was you.