“Use a mirror in difficult times. You will see both cause and resolution.”
~ Deng Ming-Dao
Tomorrow, in 11 hours and 45 minutes to be exact, I will once again be under the knife. In my last post, I noted that I would be having a prophylactic mastectomy tomorrow, almost seven years to the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As I prepare myself for tomorrow, I continue to think about that year of treatment and the following year of reconstruction. It was terrifying, a new mother of 24, told she had breast cancer. I, unfortunately, am not alone in that terror as millions of others before and after me will be told the same. But as I reflect back, I am able to see how much I’ve grown. While the fear is there, it is held at bay with each passing year I am cancer free. But during that time, I was in a wholly darker place. Below is a poem I wrote about a year and a half after my diagnosis as I continued to deal with the fear of the unknown.
Panic I clutch my throat as I lie exhausted— a feeling that seems to press down on me more and more in the last few years. The air I am able to suck into my lungs seems stale and wholly suffocating. In the pit of my gut, I feel heavy—bloated. It turns in nauseated whirls, and my heart leaps against my chest cavity. My head pounds against the inside of my skull directly above my left eye. Seized by Worry, Fear, and Guilt— identifiable entities that all take on their own qualities and when gathered together, seem to relish in their increased capability to conjure in to being, Panic. Unable to sleep, conquered by my own thoughts, I thrash against the sheets. The darkness, the silence, the solitude are my foe. When my body is idle, my mind finds itself incapable of standing still. In the light of day, the happenings of life keep my thoughts occupied, but when the world around me sleeps, the realities of life haunt my thinking. I kick out of the bed and trudge to the kitchen. Looking out at the pale moon, the water tastes gritty and metallic. Returning to bed, I once again entangle myself and wait. Shadows slip over our bodies in the darkness. Soon—though not soon enough— the drugs pull me down and force my body into sleep— and hopefully, oblivion. ©Stephanie Nugent 2007
Today, I find myself in an all together different state of mind. My husband of 11 years still stands by my side and thinks I’m beautiful. I have two healthy and gorgeous daughters. And so I go tomorrow knowing that this surgery is a conscious choice unlike the first time. Tonight, I sleep knowing tomorrow brings peace of mind. And so the image reflected back at me in the mirror will change once again, but is this not the way of life?