You won't read this tonight, and certainly won't have time tomorrow. You and your daughter will be driving to the outpatient surgery center in Fort Worth early in the morning so that you can check in for your double mastectomy.
It was about five weeks ago that I saw your instant message to me on Facebook. It read, "I found a lump in my breast". We spoke on the phone that night and you told me about how you had been sitting on the couch watching television when you found the lump, which you said was about the size of a grape. You promised that you would make an appointment to see a doctor the following morning.
I remember hanging up and then hanging my head. It didn't sound good to me.
A week later we spoke again. You had been to a doctor and had a mammogram. The doctor told you that he wasn't going to mince words. He said that he'd been looking at mammograms for a long time and that yours looked like you had cancer. A biopsy confirmed that diagnosis. You said, "What the hell? I have breast cancer." I said, "Yes, you do."
More testing. You have the "bad kind" of breast cancer (as if there were a good one), the kind that grows fast and spreads fast. They saw no signs that the cancer had spread to your lymph nodes, so we crossed our fingers then (they're still crossed). You met with your surgeon. She said that a lumpectomy was too conservative and advised you to have a mastectomy - just the one breast. With your delightful sense of humor you were able to talk about how, after the surgery, you'd still have one of your "girls". Your boyfriend loves your breasts, you said, and we agreed that he would still have one to admire.
Two weeks ago you told me that you'd decided against breast reconstruction - you don't want additional pain and discomfort. I told you that I thought I would make the same choice. We are, after all, seasoned women on the wrong edge of middle age and if our men don't want us with flat chests they need to find other old women to sleep next to. A couple of nights later, you told me that your surgeon had called to say that she thought a double mastectomy would be your safest route. I asked you how you felt about that and you told me that you didn't want to spend your days and nights worrying about whether or not your particularly aggressive form of cancer was germinating in a second breast, and had decided to go with the doctor's recommendation. I believe I would make that same decision.
I can't be in the waiting area tomorrow with your daughter and boyfriend because I am in nursing school in Alaska and you're in Fort Worth, but my spirit will be in that operating room with you when they put you under, and with you in the recovery room when you wake up with your chest bandaged. The doctors will be testing your lymph nodes before the actual surgery, so with luck we'll finally uncross our fingers when they tell us that they found nothing worrisome in those nodes and that your double mastectomy removed every trace of malignancy. We'll hug (gently) and then I can tell you what I've wanted to say ever since you first told me that you had found that lump, but have been too afraid of bursting into tears to do so.
You're a beautiful, feminine, smart, wonderful woman. You wear sparkly shoes and have striking eyes and gorgeous hair. You're strong and willful and so very, very funny, and I've had some of the greatest laughs of my life with you. I've cried with you, lived with you and shared secrets with you. I count you as one of the great blessings in my life.
Tonight after I called to tell you that I love you and that I'll be thinking of you all day tomorrow I got down on my knees (which I do rarely) and I said, "God, I usually don't ask You for things for myself, but tonight I am begging You to let Michelle get through tomorrow with no lymph node involvement, no complications. Please. PLEASE."