This time last week I was lying under a heated blanket the day after surgery, barely able to do anything for myself except sip water through a straw. Today I went back to Charing Cross to have my final drain taken out which feels very liberating. I may still be hobbling like an old lady but I’m no longer an old bag lady carrying a bloody bottle everywhere I go. In between were various goals, each of which seemed insurmountable at the time – sitting in a chair, walking to the toilet, having a shower – but which have come and gone without any drama and which are now just part of my normal routine again.
I came home on Tuesday and was hit almost immediately with more deep grief at the loss of my strong body. I think in hospital I was just in survival mode, doing what I needed to get through the day and with little peace to reflect. But coming home highlights the difference between what I was like last time I was here and how I am now, and gave me the space to sit and think ‘ WTF just happened to my body?’ As I’ve said before, breast cancer didn’t make me feel ill even though it had been growing in my body for months. The knowledge that I had it was mental rather than physical, and I didn’t feel like anything needed to be fixed. All the treatment, however, has affected me physically and surgery in particular feels brutal and out of proportion. It’s not, of course; it needed to happen but there’s been a disconnect between what I know in my head and what I feel in my body. The reconstruction looks peculiar and the wound on my abdomen means that I can’t stand up straight yet, so I’m constantly reminded that it’s there. But today in the shower, it all started to look more normal, more me. Grieving for the strong body I had will enable me to accept the rearranged body that is my new normal. I’ve been saying to myself for a while now, ‘this is not how this will end’, and it isn’t. I feel very weak and I’ve been hiding myself away, but I will get stronger. As my body heals, my heart and soul will have time to catch up. I just need to be patient for a season and watch what will emerge; this is not how this will end.