The work of a november. . . writing deep fibrous histiocytoma by yvonne watterson

Eight years ago, on a too-bright November morning, I was diagnosed with Stage II invasive breast cancer. I am loathe to declare the November date a “cancerversary,” one of those cheery-sounding sniglets used to mark milestones in cancer country. The scars on this body that carries me from one deep fibrous histiocytoma moment to the next are daily and unavoidable reminders of deep fibrous histiocytoma that Halloween morning when I discovered the lump and the deep fibrous histiocytoma afternoon thereafter when an earnest young doctor, a stranger, delivered my diagnosis. For cancer patients, there are plenty of these milestones – the date of a surgery undertaken to remove tumors or deep fibrous histiocytoma breasts or pieces of a lung; the completion of radiation or chemotherapy; the momentous day, five years after diagnosis, when a kindly oncologist will make the pronouncement of NED deep fibrous histiocytoma – No Evidence of Disease; and the day we dread most – discovery of metastasis.

Filed away is an imperative from novelist, Sherman Alexie who once told an audience of writers that deep fibrous histiocytoma they “must share the scariest things about their lives.” Intrigued, I bought a ticket to hear him speak at the deep fibrous histiocytoma Heard Museum in Phoenix, bearing in mind advice he had given elsewhere: “ Don’t lose the sense of awe you feel whenever you deep fibrous histiocytoma meet one of your favorite writers. However, don’t confuse any writer’s talent with his or her worth as a human deep fibrous histiocytoma being. Those two qualities are not necessarily related.” Accompanying me was my daughter, at the time a junior high student immersed in the deep fibrous histiocytoma words and drawings of Alexi’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. ALong with everyone else, we laughed conspiratorially as he shared what were surely the deep fibrous histiocytoma scariest things about his early years on the Spokane Indian deep fibrous histiocytoma Reserve. Describing his father’s booze of choice,”Squodka” – a mix of Squirt soda and vodka – Alexie’s cheery nonchalance belied, I imagine, the anguish of a young boy confronting the reality of deep fibrous histiocytoma an alcoholic father who would disappear for days at a deep fibrous histiocytoma time. He knows, I know, that alcoholism on the rez is no laughing matter.

Nor is cancer. It is a serious disease deserving of serious words, but we do a lousy job of talking about it deep fibrous histiocytoma in a way that conveys its reality or leads us deep fibrous histiocytoma to knowing what causes it or how to prevent it. So we rely on codes invented to keep this scariest deep fibrous histiocytoma of things at a safe distance. Code is acceptable in the cancer conversation and not just deep fibrous histiocytoma in the pink stuff of Breast Cancer Awareness Month – “save the boobies” fare. “Mastectomy,” code for “amputation,” causes me to wonder if I were an amputee in deep fibrous histiocytoma the “traditional” sense, if I would ever refer to the day I lost deep fibrous histiocytoma a limb as my “ampuversary.” I think not.

The truth is that in the mythology of cancer, medical euphemisms abound. Myself, I have bandied about “lumpectomy” as though it is the thing we do to remove deep fibrous histiocytoma an inconsequential wart. In reality, it is a partial amputation. When I was first diagnosed, I presumed a lumpectomy was in the cards for me. As a word, it didn’t pack much of a punch, so it didn’t frighten me. Then I met the surgeon who pointed out that my deep fibrous histiocytoma cancer was not amenable to lumpectomy given its proximity to deep fibrous histiocytoma the nipple and the fact that I was not endowed deep fibrous histiocytoma with large breasts. Essentially, she didn’t have enough to work with; therefore, the surgery to remove my breast and reconstruct it would deep fibrous histiocytoma be trickier than the “simple” lumpectomy I had anticipated. As her meticulous notes would later confirm, “dissection was very difficult given the very small circumareolar incision deep fibrous histiocytoma used for the skin-sparing mastectomy.” It would require additional time and effort, not to mention skill and patience. So she recommended – and I nodded sagely as though I knew what she deep fibrous histiocytoma was talking about – a skin-sparing mastectomy which entailed removing only the skin of the deep fibrous histiocytoma nipple, areola, and the original biopsy scar to create an opening – a small opening – through which she would remove the breast tissue. Duly spared – spared, no less – the skin would then accommodate a reconstruction using my own deep fibrous histiocytoma tissue. Simple.

While three surgeons operated on me, my then-alive husband and our girl waited in a waiting room deep fibrous histiocytoma where a set of paintings of the desert at dusk deep fibrous histiocytoma hung on the walls. It would have been about ten o’clock in the morning when my surgeon came out to deep fibrous histiocytoma find my weary, tiny family leaning on each other , waiting for the announcement she would later document, that “the frozen section was negative for metastatic disease.” There were no abnormal nodes and no further dissection was deep fibrous histiocytoma necessary. Celebrating, she and my husband performed a silent high-five in the hospital hallway. Three hours later, having removed all the cancer she could see, she went about her day, leaving me in the capable hands of two highly sought deep fibrous histiocytoma after plastic surgeons, one being one of the best in Phoenix, the other a master of DIEP flap reconstruction, who had flown in the previous evening from Texas. When I eventually emerged from the ICU, high on Dilaudid, they say I told the young nurse on duty to deep fibrous histiocytoma pretend I was Madonna. Before I went home, she shampooed my hair.

In surgery, they worked on me for the next six hours, and two days later released me back to my life. Eight years later, I am told I look just like myself. You would never know, unless you asked to see, or I summoned the courage to show you, that I really don’t look like myself. Not my original self. Hidden under my clothes, is a trivial but nonetheless relocated belly button, its circumference now dotted with tiny white scars. Below it, a thin crooked scar, faded to white, stretches from hip to hip, with ‘dog-eared’ reminders on either end where JP drains pulled excess bloody deep fibrous histiocytoma fluid for several days after the surgery. I have a right breast too. Sort of. It is in the shape of a breast, impressively so, now that all the post-surgical swelling and discoloration has gone. Its skin is the same, spared by the mastectomy that removed its cancerous tissue through deep fibrous histiocytoma a very small incision around the areola also removed with deep fibrous histiocytoma its nipple.

One evening, shortly after the death of my husband, I bumped into a former colleague. He hadn’t seen me for a few years but had still deep fibrous histiocytoma kept up with my professional exploits. Standing in the produce department at Safeway, he tendered his condolences and then wondered aloud if I deep fibrous histiocytoma had ever read Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking. Of course I have. Several times. I know great chunks of it by heart. It is an exquisite study of loss that blows open deep fibrous histiocytoma my heart. And then he said to me, “Well, at least your daughter didn’t die.”

No. She is right here. Just 21 years old and beautiful, tough without being hard, unmoored without the man who was her first word and deep fibrous histiocytoma who took her for ice cream to a Dairy Queen, since demolished, on Fridays after school. She learned to drive his Jeep without him and she deep fibrous histiocytoma strode across the stage to receive her high school diploma deep fibrous histiocytoma without his cheers ringing in her ears. He would have liked that they used the Talking Heads deep fibrous histiocytoma for the graduation processional – “This Must Be the Place.” He would have tapped his feet and winked at me deep fibrous histiocytoma and brushed away a tear, because by then, he would have grown sentimental – all the more if he’d had any inkling of the milestones on her horizon. She would earn her first paycheck without the ready winks deep fibrous histiocytoma and smiles that had always encouraged her to keep being deep fibrous histiocytoma great at being herself regardless of the bullshit that comes deep fibrous histiocytoma with a part-time job in retail. In spite of her trouble with math, she is navigating her way through the degree program that deep fibrous histiocytoma will allow her to one day work with teenagers who deep fibrous histiocytoma are lost without their parents. She is lovely, reminding me sometimes of the kind of bird that only deep fibrous histiocytoma flies in a faraway place. Exotic. Rare. Endangered.

I still don’t have the words to hand to the man who deep fibrous histiocytoma asked me about Joan Didion’s book. I wanted to tell him I couldn’t remember if I’d said Goodbye to my husband, if he’d heard me say it before my cellphone died the deep fibrous histiocytoma way it always does because I never remember to charge deep fibrous histiocytoma it. I wanted to tell him the last conversation our little deep fibrous histiocytoma family had was a transatlantic phone call – my daughter and I on top of the Titanic museum deep fibrous histiocytoma in a foggy Belfast, my husband in our Phoenix living room, all of us unaware it would be the last time deep fibrous histiocytoma we talked and laughed together. I didn’t. Instead, I reminded myself of Lou Reed reminding me of magic deep fibrous histiocytoma and loss and of Sherman Alexie lighting up the Heard deep fibrous histiocytoma Museum with a coping strategy for those times when we deep fibrous histiocytoma despair at the lack of compassion in the world. Remember, he had said, “the world gave us Hitler – but it also gave us Springsteen.”

I will climb again to the summit of Piestewa Peak deep fibrous histiocytoma in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. It has been almost a year since I stood there, arms akimbo, high up and far away. I have missed it up there, looking down and romanticizing the sprawl glittering below me. I think I’ll go back and wonder the way I do up deep fibrous histiocytoma there about Wordsworth when he first stopped to consider the deep fibrous histiocytoma view. It’s ’emotion recollected in tranquility. ‘ It’s just an illusion.

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