When I was a kid living in Augusta, Georgia, we had a wilderness just beyond our back yard. There was a stream going through some woods, populated with roving dogs and deadly snakes.
Our intrepid tom cat, imaginatively named Tommy, was attacked by a dog, or several, once in that wilderness. He dragged himself all the way home, his shattered leg dangling behind him. We didn’t know if he was going to make it. The vet had to remove his femur completely. Being a cat in the early 80’s, there weren’t any fancy 3D printed replacement femurs, so he just had to do without.
When we picked him up from the vet, he was shaved and stitched and groggy. They had given us a box to transport him. The whole ride home, he pulled himself up on his front legs so he could see us all and meowed longer and louder than I had ever heard him. “I don’t know if you all know, but I have just been to hell. I’m so glad to be here with you, I can’t even say.”
There was something about how urgently he pulled his torn body up in that box to be with us that has always stuck with me.
I’ve been feeling like that a lot lately. I can hear the meowing in the back of my head.
Here are my shoulders. I’ve always been vain about them as one of my best features. Not necessarily in how they look, but how strong they are. Were.
Wave goodbye to the left one.
Even after I get the reconstruction, this will be a Frankenstein mess of scars that will never quite work like it used to.
So many people I know have had breast cancer (four in the last year), that I’ve put a lot of thought into whether or not I would go for reconstruction, if it happened to me. And I’ve thought, no. Good riddance. I’m done with boobs. I realize very different calculations happen for everyone, but for me it would be like losing my hair. Every once in a while I catch myself in the mirror and am surprised again at my shiny baldness, and the most response I can muster is, “Oh. That happened.”
But the idea of my arm hanging helplessly off my body makes me nauseous. This must be how other people think about their hair. Or their breasts. A desecration of the sacred body with all its pieces on, the way it should be.
“Your hand will still work fine,” says the surgeon. “You just won’t be able to put it where you want it.”
Well. That makes it okay then.
He tells me that some people don’t even bother with the reconstruction. But then, he acknowledges that their back and neck get sore from maintaining the asymmetry. I’m not sure what he was trying to convince me of. That it’s not so bad?
Obviously, there are worse things. There are always worse things. I don’t care about those things (with the exception of possibly actually dying). This is what I lose sleep over right now.
But what happened to Tommy the Femurless Cat? He never even had a limp. He even once chased and took down a jack rabbit bigger than himself. It was impossible.
Maybe I’ll turn out like Tommy.