Today’s guest blog is something a little different; it was written by Katie from her hospital bed before and straight after her most recent breast surgery. It’s beautiful and real and raw.
Katie told us that she joined writing workshops with April Stearns from WILDFIRE Magazine which encouraged her love of writing. Katie says that she has found the process of writing has been a profoundly healing tool for her. Katie shares more of her story in her really beautiful posts on Instagram; you can find her at @1day_2019.
Here’s Katie’s story:
Breast surgery: pulling the threads of the stories inside.
“I know I need to pull some threads. To start unravelling my stories, they are choking me up and they need to come out. As I lie in bed the night before my third surgery, restless and hot, details from past surgeries, biopsies and conversations with my surgeon roil around my head. I am one conversation away from crazy. I am often surprised how normal I look when I look in the mirror. And when my children ask for breakfast or some simple task of finding their clothes, I am relieved I can carry it out. I can even chat happily away to other mum’s at the school gate, accept their compliments. But I’m thinking all the time, I am about to lose my mind. I have cancer and it is all I can think about. I am jealous of others with their healthy cells and minds that stoop upon the everyday matters, neatly stacked up in front of them, not like my mind, that romps across the heavens. Or swirls around the sink hole, stagnant.
It’s been nearly a year since diagnosis. I quite like that word, surprisingly. It is neat and secretive. You don’t know what lies behind it, fully. It’s been nearly year. A GP that thought I was fine. No lump to feel. Mammogram. Ultrasound. Biopsy. A week in Spain to wait out the news. Lobular breast cancer. MRi. Seven cm. Full body CT scan. The fear became so palpable I had to run every day. Away from my thoughts and my dread. My guilt and my shame. You have another tumour. PET scan. Chemotherapy. Head shaving. Joy and resilience. My husband’s love turned itself inside out and made me bullet proof. Nuclear imaging. Sorry, the tumour on your adrenal gland, it can’t be benign. Abdominal surgery. Panic attacks. Covid and hospital. Loneliness like nothing I’ve ever known. Rare and benign, to my surgeon’s surprise. I couldn’t walk down the street for over two weeks. It’s been four months and only now has the pain stopped. I am still numb across the whole of my tummy. Just breast cancer again. Relief. Celebration. Reality. More surgery. Biopsies. Lymph nodes. More surgery. Auxiliary nodes. Panic attacks. Small rooms and huge decisions. Alone.
So I write. I write to make myself real and make myself seen, by myself. With each soft, cursive curl and flourish of the pen, I bring myself closer. I write to bring myself home. As tomorrow lurches forward, eager and all encompassing, I just want to go and pack my bag. Like the well-chosen items will make all the difference. I am bringing my laptop, so I can write my way through the silence and the waiting moments.
Today. It is a cold, rather dull day, a crispness in the air, not the fresh kind, but more smothering, like it might suddenly get really hot later. Not that will matter to me, being in the hospital all day and night. A flurry of visitors, nurses, blood requests, needles, surgeon, felt-tips and listening to where the blood vessels are under my arm. With a Doppler, like when you listen out for the longed-for swoosh of your baby’s little heart, far off butterfly beats that when they rush in sound like horses, strong and determined flying across the sands towards you.
It is time go now.
Down to the theatre.
And I’m back! Physically, back in my hotel room. Coming round is brutal this time, I feel like I have been in a car crash, none of the euphoria and dizzy heights of medication that make you feel invincible. I feel broken. Sick. Sore. My hand?! Who sat on my hand during the operation? The incessant clatter and chatter of the nurses and staff only add to my pain. The morphine, now that is a friend. The prison-cell vibes due to not being allowed visitors also has a lot to answer. And, where the hell are my paper pants?
I fear there was not enough time between this operation and the last one. I have no flooding relief to carry me, arms upstretched (if I could move my arm) purely because I have done it and it is over. I know the real truth about waiting for a biopsy that reveals the microscopic but very real need for more surgery. It is too soon. The panic attacks and malaise, creeping fear and sudden dread I have felt all week make perfect sense now. The knife is only part of the trauma. The pretence that I am fine and everything is OK is another piece. Obsessing about how this is all impacting my children – not myself, is another. Loneliness. Isolation. The joy of being pain-free for oh, now, was it a week?
I will be finding new ways to be. I will not force positivity, but cultivate it, gently, one petal at a time. I will turn and face the sun, in the warmth and beauty of reciprocal love. I will walk with measured feet and weigh my beautiful soul energy in the palm of my hand every day. And if I’m depleted, I will rest, love, hug, kiss, garden, shut my eyes, jump in the water. Swim in my own beauty. Swim in compassion for myself and where I have been. I will go into compassion, not battle.”
Thank you so much, Katie, for sharing your wonderful writing with us. It’s exquisite and wonderful and painful all at the same time.
If you aren’t already a fan of WILDFIRE, you’re in for a treat. WILDFIRE is an incredible magazine written and created by women with experiences of breast cancer for women with experiences of breast cancer. Each issue contains written and visual work from women from all over the world. The ethos behind WILDFIRE is that reading the stories of others provides community and support for today’s young breast cancer survivors. You can find WILDFIRE’s website here and they are also on Instagram: @wildfire_bc_magazine.