Living In Your Body After Cancer is Like Staying With an Unfaithful Lover

Potted Tulips photo by jparadisi

I’m lying prone with my face planted in a holder similar to the kind on a massage table. My left hand holds a soft rubber ball at my side, which I am instructed to squeeze at the first sign of discomfort. My body is swathed in two warm blankets, because the room is cold, and through the headset I wear to protect my ears, the tech in an adjacent room tells me to hold as still as possible. She explains how many minutes each slice will take. As the MRI begins, I will my body to meld into the table and begin a post in my head to distract myself, but the interruption of the tech’s voice between slices makes that impossible, so I begin to count the hammering sounds of the machine instead. Bah-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa-dipa, fifteen rapid blows that sound like a pile driver pounding steel pilings into the ground during the construction of a skyscraper. That noise is followed by the organic sound of a chirping bird, which the tech says indicates the time between the magnetic resonance images. I lie this way thirty minutes, and after each couplet of pounding and bird chirping, the tech tells me I’m doing a fabulous job of holding still. Through the microphone of the headset, I say, “I aim to please,” and she says “What?” I say it again, and this time she laughs.

I am in this position, because late last Sunday night, or maybe it was very early Monday morning, I woke up from a sound sleep caused by a very sharp pain running across my chest. It was so sharp, I said,”Ow,” and woke David from his sound sleep. It hurt no matter which side I lay on, and even lying on my back. By morning I had a low-grade fever, and every muscle in my body hurt. I slept most of the day. On Tuesday, my chest ached rather than hurt, I had a headache, and the low-grade fever, so I made an appointment with my primary care physician and saw her in the afternoon. That’s how I ended up on an MRI table Wednesday morning.

On Friday evening, my doctor called with the MRI results. She said, “Well, the good news is the bad news; there’s no cancer, but there are bilateral ruptures of the implants used for your reconstruction. You need surgery.” I am relieved. Even though no one said the “C” word out loud, we were worried. Living in your body after it tried to kill you with cancer is a little like staying with an unfaithful lover. You might be able to forgive it, but you never forget.

So, I’m feeling like crap from the inflammatory response to the ruptures, waiting for the insurance company to authorize a surgical consult. I’ve been lucky. The expected life span of implants is ten years, and I’m going on twelve. Reconstruction options and issues come with the territory of surviving breast cancer.

The journey continues…

No information provided in this post or on this blog is medical advice. If you experience similar symptoms, or have concerns about your personal health, contact your licensed medical provider immediately. If it is an emergency, call 911.


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