The knock of the knot – A Breast Cancer Blog with Lacanian
Being whole is taken for granted – The Scare Begins
Despite assuming that we are whole, we all have holes, gaps, absences we’d like to fill. But those are part of who we are. Some holes we parade, others we hide. To our best ability we suture with pride, nobility, secrecy and these become part of our life-armour as we grow in experience. Our life scars, from old sutured wounds that have mapped our journey conceal the cuts and cavities within us. Being pre-advised of a future harm gives time to prepare. To throw on the chain-mail to choose our weapon.
Reading the writing on the wall or seeing “las orejas del lobo” is very different to suddenly facing the Lacanian real in the lion’s den. Where did the lion come in? Where fight, flight or freeze are inappropriate. Ready to be eaten alive, the cancer patient struggles as the very jaws of unspeakable change close around us. Hurled into a foreign future by one life changing incident. When do the wheels of fate turned irreversibly? How will this duel in the gladiator’s ring terminate?
August 17th 2015 – From Friend to Foe
My first appointment was casual. How crazy is that. I’m not a pill popper, I take no daily nor occasional medicines nor am I a believer in herbal snake oils. However a month earlier, in July, after mentioning pain in my legs. The pain emanated from the bones not the joints. Tests had shown quite a significant ‘vitamin D deficiency’ for which I was prescribed a 20,000 IU supplement to be taken twice weekly. Or in Spanish un suplementazo containing 20,000 IU of Vitamin D per capsule. Now a pill is a pill but this dose was huge when compared to a similar capsule from Vitabiotics. The Vitabiotics dose is a measly 25 microgram (1000 IU) and a typical Cod Liver Oil tablet with its heavy load of Vitamin A has 200 IU of vitamin D. An eye opener and certainly confirmation of deficiency. Fortunately the blood test results had indicated that everything else was fine.
Regarding the breast, I knew there was a nodule, a knot of tissue that had slowly risen to the surface over a year or so, to make itself known as an unknown. The GP had thought it fine, part of dense tissue but symmetrical and in harmony with my shape. Clearly being sent to the specialist clinic was the precautionary part of the government’s latest “routine” services. So I rocked up alone and confident. The appointment unravelled in three parts.
At each step I was getting closer to the finding myself lost in the forest of Hansel and Gretel with no way back. Or was I the trusting Little Red ready to be gullible, tricked and misled. But it wasn’t a crow that ate the bread it was me. Did I mark out the path? Did I even have bread or anything to use as a sign to bring me back to safety? At what point did the shadow of the trees enclose in? Part of me is still there in that forest waiting to find my way out. Back running, stumbling toward the sunny day I’d left behind. Back to normal. Before the knot. Before the knock.
Being called in promptly, the first part involved seeing a young nurse, much like my GP. My GP oftentimes sits with her legs underneath her on the swivel chair, casual and youthful. This nurse had me manoeuvre my arms above my head, to feel for symmetry. She happily stated that all appeared fine. The depth of precaution still as part of the routine check, led me to part two, the mammogram which showed nothing. This machine was already known to me. When I lived abroad it was normal to scan at around 35 years, thirteen years ago. The machine was maybe a bit more high tech and the human side was impressive with sincere apologies for any pain incurred by the pressure of the clamps. Being told that I had dense and firm tissue for my age gave more optimism. Apparently it is normal to get an unclear image, the experts understand that mammograms fail to pick up any shadows with larger or firmer breasted patients.
So is it surprising that I ate the bread? How was I to know that I would be trapped and would never get out the same way that I came in. I was unconcerned. In a sunny place, relaxed and calm. Behind me I could still make out the start of the path in the sunlight. I would soon be home and fine. It was all friendly, no sign of evil until the hissing began from the audience. Oh nurse, what a grand machine you have! All the better to examine you with my dear!
The third part is where things cloud quickly over. Skipping footloose and fancy free into the final room I prepared for the ultrasound. By coincidence I had to lie on my left side facing the wall and by facing the wall I couldn’t see the ultrasound screen to my right. I was pretty much out of the picture, blotted out, as a sideways silhouette stretched prone on the medical couch with my arms askew. There were two nurses and a lot of murmuring. I was listening but only aware that tones were not so chirpy. None of this was pleasant and time seemed to be speeding up. My mouth became dry.
The sunny glade was still bright but by now I think my confidence was getting a knocking. There was no longer a way forward, nor apparently a way out.
The fourth part made me blink. The question asked was not a question it was a statement. Here I realised I had certainly become part of a medical algorithm. If you can’t turn anywhere on the compass-rose then start downward digging. They were preparing to take a biopsy and wanted me to twist further to the wall. Whoa! Hold those horses, I came here for a regular check. I didn’t sign up for this. I wasn’t even warned that instruments and pain may be part of the outcome. Ha! I whisked out my phone and asked to make a call before the needle.
At least I’d used my chance to send a search party into the forest, however twisted out of shape with shock I may get. I could see myself sitting in the glade. No longer warm but chilly and shocked at my own original optimism. Ready to face the fact that I had no control. Yet somehow a narrator was reassuring me that this whole chapter was being re-written for my own good. This was how my story began taking a turn into greyscale.
Before the needle, calling home was reassuring but nothing was going to change. Surely it was for the best to acquiesce to the professional care. Coming back on a different date was not a suggestion. The core needle dove in under the skin allowing the clipper that clipped, to snip and sample an area that defied a simple visual or manual appraisal. The procedure wasn’t that uncomfortable, just totally unexpected. Anaesthetic squirted in ahead of the gouge. They took three samples. They gauzed me up with instructions to leave the padding on for 24 hours and so I gathered myself together and was led back out to the waiting room. Once in the corridor somehow the day was not as bright as I first remembered. Though I now had a comforting hand to hold, my someone special to hug and their caring company, to walk with me outside and into the street. Shock is a funny thing. Shivering in the cold light of the truth, it was slowly dawning that a part of me had been taken to a laboratory for analysis. This could be the start of something quite unexpected. My place was now limbo. Lost on a spectrum between healthy and any degree of eyebrow raising antonym. With cold sweaty palms, my heart fluttered hard in my chest. I felt sick.