Dr. Singer slowly pressed silicone into my stitched up section of chest with a large syringe the size of a bicycle pump. He mentioned he liked my shoes. He does that. Every time I see him and he’s examining my chest or pumping artificial sweeteners into me, he mentions my shoes. I guess it eases the awkward situation. It applies conversation about the body parts that are as far away as possible from the body parts that he’s actually attending to. I’ve begun wearing different shoes every visit and thinking too much about which ones I will wear. Yesterday I wore really cute ones. Wedges with wide leather toe straps. I might invest in something metallic for next week. So fun.
After he and the nurse left, I deftly untied my gown (I’ve become quite good at hobbling those things on and off quickly) and draped it over a chair. As I replaced my bandages and pulled on my sport bra, I heard a woman in the room next door. She was likely by herself and kept repeating what, for the purpose of appearing virtuous, I will call the word ‘quit’. The word she used rhymes with ‘quit’. She kept saying it; quit, quit, quit. I assume she hadn’t quite mastered the hospital gown yet. I wanted to encourage her; quietly knock on her examining room door and assure her that it gets easier, putting on that gown, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that might not encourage her at all. As in; is your point that I’ll be spending every day in this godforsaken place!? Quit! Quit! Quit!
I’ve written about being a part of a tribe of cancer patients now, which has been nice and actually sort of empowering if you’ll allow me to use that term. But strangely, I’ve also noticed some of my middle school timidity returning; wait, maybe I don’t belong. Maybe the pink ladies don’t want me to be a part of their group. Maybe if I’m not wearing a knit hat they’ll think I’m only in here to get a nose job, or worse, a breast augmentation for no reason!
Yesterday, as I was leaving church, I yelled across the lobby to a kind breast cancer survivor who has been encouraging me, “We’re bosom buddies now!” At this point a little middle school timidity would have proved beneficial. I have lost all sense of social niceties. I’m a dervish of systematic nonsense and if you are a true friend you will pop by tomorrow and duct tape my mouth shut.
But I’ll refrain from more breast jokes. They’re getting old. Let’s get to the important stuff: uteruses and ovaries. Both of which I very well might be kicking out of my (former?) female self as well.
Shortly, I might be the first female to involuntarily undergo a sex change operation. No breasts, no ovaries, no uterus. My name is Kate so it only makes sense that post-op you refer to me as Bruce. This isn’t funny. No, wait, it is. Nope, not funny. I mean, kind of. It’s kind of funny.
Turns out the type of cancer I have responds well to hormone blocking therapy (yay!), which can be achieved by scooping out all the important baby-making stuff (boo!), which means I just might make it under the wire without chemo (yay!), which means I won’t lose my hair (yay!), which means my family will assume I’m perfectly healthy and stop cleaning the kitchen for me (boo!).
Either way I’m grateful. Absolutely grateful. I’ve prayed that I wouldn’t need chemo. I’m praying for many things right now, but mostly that God will keep depression at bay. No hormones can bring on depression, and the type of therapy I need might require me to chuck a few pills from my nightly cocktail of antidepressants. Depression is my most vicious enemy and some days I can feel it nibbling at my heels like a not quite hungry yet lion. I get despondent when I’m depressed. I’m of the Sylvia Plath breed and could stick my head in an oven if it were still possible to snuff out a pilot light.
This morning I read an essay by Randy Alcorn that said, “Satan is a lion, yes, but a lion on God’s leash.” After that, Alcorn quotes Charles Spurgeon, who suffered terrible bouts of depression:
“It would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him, nor sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity.”
When I was 19 a woman shared a little booklet with me – a tract – that said, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” This was the key that unlocked the door. It’s all I ever wanted and I somehow knew at the time, even with my limited 19 year old faculties, that it could be quite a ride. But I signed up anyway and I know where it ends and I’m trying really hard to keep my eyes focused on that place where I’ll ease into the station all blooming and healed, filled with joy over all that God did.
Oh, Spurgeon, we might not be bosom buddies, but you are my brother and you made it through okay by my lights. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.