Op. Day – 1. The Curtain Call

The knock of the knot –  Breast Cancer with Lacanian Angles

No Universal Reality

We arrived on the day of surgery, October 8th at 7:30, pretty much on the dot. Dot dot dash dash, yes it seemed a bit of a dash but no elaborate preparations were made. The appointment was for a “speedy” out-patients operation so no toothbrush, only my cell phone and a choice of after-op boneless non-scaffolded underwears. Despite doubting their efficacy they were purchased precisely for their purpose and weren’t that easy to hunt down. Bravisimo was the chosen retailer for obvious reasons. Although there is still little out there informing about fit and comfort for pre-op purchasing. In September Stella McCartney, whose mother passed away from breast cancer in 1998, launched her “Louise Listening Bra” sizes S/M.

Louise Listening Bra by Stella McCartney

 Quite a snazzy front zip fastening mastectomy compression bra, the proceeds from which will help benefit the Hello Beautiful Foundation. After much deliberation I chose a 32G maternity model the Royce Ava Bra (1154) that promised to accommodate my post lumpectomy breast. Without underwires it had a release catch (for breast feeding) but this seemed appropriate to relieve possible pain from pressure along the top of the chest and to give space for the surgical

maternity bra
Royce Ava Bra

gauze. The second design I preferred had a padded shell design. The cup was scaffolded to enable the breast to nestle in supported elevation and the side wires were set back more laterally against the ribs. Both of these bras needed customising with a scissor snip to cut away material under the arm. This was to avoid any clash and rub of stitching both animal, mine post surgery and mineral, the hemmed elasticated zigger zagger fabric in the underarm design.

Only a week ago I’d optimistically booked a batch of five yoga classes. Shockingly I managed just three on my “old-self” schedule: Wednesday and Saturday were part of my old-normality but the night before my hospitalisation the call to yoga was just irrelevant. So, essentially the guru yoga instructor is still in the dark as to the gravity of my seemingly casual absenteeism. This “mind before body” pre-op karmic choice, brings me one session closer to losing my toned arms and fitness. So instead of the chaturanga and chanting, the evening before the morning after involved a nice supper, easy chillax and a good grateful sleep. A clinging to just being. I’ve always, since birth, slept on my front so this too was a last chance to retire freely bellydown. A last sleep without pain. The last chance to be me before an unknown “x” that marks the spot. Nope, not even a pre-hospital hair appt. Neither preparation of an over night bag. All optimistic details, swamped out by just sucking in the last hours of normality, my normality…because is there ever a universal reality?

Zero Hour Arrives

The morning arrives and the taxi has little traffic to navigate. It all seems so ridiculously early. Up and active far earlier than a work day. Our timing was impeccable and we sat. Sitting in public. Sitting in the waiting room. Waiting to begin. Waiting as a pause. But isn’t sitting usually about waiting? Sitting involves anticipating, feeling the time, being “immersed in” the moment, whether it be travelling from here to there, driving or being driven, or taking in the time: sitting to relax, sitting back embraced by the hands of time, engulfed in the lap of time, gazing into the watch-face. Using the minutes to breathe, to be, to pause. Sitting as one waits: to eat, digest, or to hear the other person who sits and shares that time with you. (If you are, of course,  fortunate to have comfortable company). A companion to weigh the time with. Oh heavy hour. Be light with me.

Sitting, waiting: it’s actually unlike me not to make eye contact with others, but looking here into the eyes of those who reflected the same situation as me, looking at them seemed so inappropriate. An intimacy shared in a moment seared and pierced by the obscene audacity of gaze, of daring to look them in the eye. Risking seeing myself, my fears, my doubts, mirrored back. Stepping in, making that advance, that cut in their reality, invading the moment of the other. I didn’t look. The power of the “gaze” and the gaze-returned. The gaze of the other freezing us in time. Seeing myself perhaps as another rabbit willingly waiting to see where this road will lead. Not yet trapped in a path of no return but given hope to cross and continue. Let’s face those lights, it’s not bravery, but a combination of ignorance and trust. A faith in science. A belief in statistics. Each person waiting was mentally and emotionally preparing for a scalpel that could prove to save their life. In the headlights, the footlights, the theatrical light, waiting for the curtain to move and for their newly assigned role to begin.


Mind the Gap between Diagnostics and Surgery

The knock of the knot – A Breast Cancer Blog with Lacanian Angles Curves

 Cancer Tests…Patience! Warrior or Worrier?

Who knows the depths of this rabbit hole? When will the falling stop? We came away with the diagnosis of IDC Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. “Cancer Patient” what an earth does one do with that title? What a hot potato! The recent history of vitamin D deficiencies and femur pain alerted the specialists to arrange a full body CT scan and MRi, the results of which would be known before surgery. In the meantime celebrations were in order for remaining whole. It seemed appropriate to run the first of the month 10K. Who knew how the surgery and treatment would alter my running ability. My breasts, my lungs, my thorax and my general ability to be me.

run girl 3b run girl run britania yoga

The run was steady and just over the hour. My PB stands at 54 minutes but that was several years ago and before the Half Marathon Training. My times had become slower after learning to run over longer distances. My Barcelona Half Marathon Time (la Mitja Marató) was two hours and seven minutes. Considering all that had happened throughout August I was not going to beat myself up with some ‘self-flagellation’ for taking a few extra minutes on such an amazingly sunny day. Running in London in a crop top at 48, who wouldn’t scream “Carpe Diem” and take a few snaps. What’s wrong with being a self voyeuring narcissist! In fact why hadn’t pictures been taken more frequently! Notice the word “pictures” not “selfies”. Perhaps because a body is taken for granted on the day-to-day and no-one expects alterations to come out of the blue.Who ever expects a personal Frankenstein to step into their lives? In fact who wonders if they will become the next wretched monster. With the zing of post- biopsy nerve pain easing, to run was bliss.


My preferred sports’ bras are both Royce and Shock Absorber. I combine but tend always to wear two bras if I want to go under the radar. The visible jiggle, joggle, jug-gle is both discomforting for me and distracting for onlookers. Not to mention damaging for the jugs in the frame! Mine are still pretty pert – two sports bras, see! We don’t wish for casualties!

2 reasons for 2

The knock had come as a warning to wise up, chivvy and prepare for an impending change. Atishoo, atisshoo, pass me a tissue as self indulgent tears are welling, not of pain but of fear and impotence. Dates are marked on the calendar as time slows whilst smiling like a super-trouper to keep up the formal normalcy of each working week.http://www.drugs.com/mcp/breast-biopsy#Image_What_you_can_expect  September 7th and it’s time for the bone scan. Why oh why do my veins vanish when shiny needles appear. Of course it was impossible to put the cannula in the crook of my arm. Deep veins, narrow veins, delicate veins, I’ve heard it all. So the tube was plugged into one of the bulbous veins in the transparent skin upon the back of my bony hand. Ouchy. Stripped into the hospital robe I lay upon the machine as the nurses fled for cover in their little bunker. Once switched on, a burning hot sensation seeped into my hand as the radioactive liquid rushed into my body. It was burny. I called out in case that was unusual. My voice was swallowed by emptiness as no-one replied. Silently, eyes closed the machine whirred. It’s drone-like shadow inches from my face. It’s metallic greyness leaving a cybernetic taste upon my lips. In a different life those mineral atoms and molecules may have become a mountain bike or a child’s scooter and these living cells of mine may have had a reprise: no hawk-eyed nurse, with hours of CPD training would have noticed tell tale signs of cells showing suspicion of malignancy. Who is this person being scanned for cancer?

Some days after the whole body bone scan came the breast MRi. Wearing two medical gowns the specialist eyed my veins which once again hid away, having to be coaxed into action from the dark bruises on the back of my hand. A cannula was attached and a cold dye injected in order to achieve clear images once the machine was activated. Despite waiting some time before my turn came, no-one had explained the postures required. A slight confusion and sense of humiliation and impotence flooded over me as I was asked to mount the machine on all fours. I felt incompetent like a child and emotion chugged hot behind my eyes. Clambering upon my hands and knees I lurched my stomach forward lizard-like, before lowering these pendulous dugs into the hollow depressions within the scanner. How ungraceful. The clinician adjusted my chin on a padded rest and fiddled with the side openings where my body dangled. If only I had seen a photo of the machine and ungraceful posturing then maybe the sting of salt would have been prevented. It was tolerable and over in a flash but those moments of confusion had left a heave of sadness and desolation. On September 11th the results came through to confirm that things were as before, no worse, no better, although the lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy would bring the final judgement by determining if the lymph nodes were clear. All that was left was to wait for the date of surgery. Breathing into these events my hope was to maintain a modicum of normality.