Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Wednesday 15th October

Deadlines. Whoever invented them?

On the other hand, who is so thick / dedicated / active that they don’t use the ‘sick’ excuse and actually take enough time off work?

On the other other hand, for those of us who freelance, work means money – no work means no money, so…

Then, of course, there’s the whole complication of drains blocking and having to go all the way to the hospital, wait for the doc…

The drain is blocked again today. Yay. That means schlepping across town again, waiting again… This time, I hope I find out why it’s doing it and how to prevent it. Seems a bit silly to have a drainage system that ends up by damming the ‘gruck’ in the affected area.

In this, I have no choice, though – the drain cannot say blocked.

I am the worst person at making decisions. Not those about what to have for supper (although that is a continual annoyance in my life), or what to wear (depends on what I can find), or those run-of-the-mill choices we make every day. I’m even quite good at making big decisions, especially when I write,  or about what to cover in a lesson.

It’s the really big decisions, where the choice will have consequences and ‘what ifs’ may be involved that I am really bad at.

Which is why I’ve kind of surprised myself with this whole cancer thing. Despite the ‘roller coaster’ that I am on, there have been some choices involved: like which surgeon to go with (including waiting for the one I wanted to get back from leave); and lumpectomy / mastectomy (although even that mostly sorted itself out). None of the steps in this journey has been a real decision for me to agonise over, though.

Most choices have been simply linked to which step came before. That’s how the journey has mostly been so far – a road with some alternatives, with possible outcomes that may lead on to others. The choices that have been made have been to solve / address a result of another step. To test the sentinel lymph node was a step that had to be taken. The result of that determined that the other 11 lymph nodes had to be taken out to check. They are negative, but because of the size of the tumour and the fact that lymph was involved at all, I will have to have some form of chemo.

So it goes.

None of the steps thus far have really held horrible surprises for me. I think it’s because I grew up in a gynae’s household and have always understood the possible outcomes associated with breast cancer. Even when the lump was first found, I knew a mastectomy was a possible outcome. I didn’t want it, I didn’t wish for it – I didn’t even anticipate that it would definitely happen. I knew that it could, though.

I have anticipated some outcomes, though. We got the results of the histology from the op back yesterday and the other 11 lymph nodes that they took out are all clear. I am very pleased, but was not completely shocked, because it was what I had actually expected, given what the docs had explained to me after the sentinel lymph node biopsy.

The next step is to see the oncologist – which I will do tomorrow.

The other step, which has effectively begun, is the reconstruction.

And (to quote Shakespeare) “therein lies the rub”.

This is a real decision.

As Noel has explained from the beginning, the question of reconstruction has nothing whatsoever to do with curing the cancer. It is about aesthetics, self-image and psychology.

If only I understood how I actually felt about all that.

I feel as though I am on two roller coasters: the cancer one and the reconstruction one. The cancer one is okay and manageable, because I know there is only one path that can be followed and that it is managed by experts who will make sure that everything is done as it should be to get me what I want: to be rid of the cancer and to have the greatest possible guarantee that this will not happen again.

The reconstruction roller coaster is a different matter, though. It feels as though I am on a path over which I actually have no control, but which I should be controlling – and I don’t know how to. I don’t know exactly what decision to take. And I don’t know how I will feel about any decision.

The worst decision-maker in the world.

Typical Libra, they tell me.

And the deadlines…

Sometimes things get in the way that just have to be sorted out.

Sometimes too, though, the deadlines just have to be met.



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