I hate this damn plastic in my chest.
Why did I ever bother with reconstructive surgery? It’s left me with a wound that refuses to heal and an attitude so bleak, I don’t even like myself.
"Turn that frown upside down!" my husband the comedian tries to cajole me. But I’m not cracking any smiles for him or anybody else.
I would die, just die, to crawl in my big soft bed and snarl into my favorite position on my side. I’m sick of that ancient recliner I’ve been sleeping in for the last month. But nobody tells you that you can’t lie on your side with expanders in your chest. There’s no give to that plastic. You might as well have a couple of frisbees sewn inside yourself that poke you in the ribs and dig into your sides.
Oh for a nap. On my side. In my bed.
"It gets better," Deb and Terri promise. I’m sure it does. It gets better if the surgeon fills the plastic with fluid so that the edges become round and soft. But that doesn’t happen with a slow healing wound.
"It’ll be a while before we can fill you up," Dr. Montag warned.
If I could go back in time one month from today, I’d tell my surgeons, "Don’t bother with reconstruction! I’ll be happy with my boy chest."
And I would. Oh, I would.
"No, you wouldn’t," Deb says. "Once you get on track and have your fills, you’ll be glad you went for reconstruction."
It hardly matters now. The die has been cast, and I have no choice but to see the whole miserable thing through. But it galls me that Deb and Terri have been so patient and uncomplaining while I’m such a baby.
Sometimes I need to be shamed out of my petulant attitude. Sara Ockander, a friend of mine half my age and half my size, for that matter, reminded me how grateful I should be. "I’m sure you realize," she said, "how lucky you are that, in the middle of all of this, you’re not facing radiation and chemo like so many other women."
That brought me up short. I suddenly thought of an old Irish saying - "Nothing’s so bad that it can’t get worse."
The worst became a reality for a lot of good people in the last couple of weeks. A young man in Millard, Nebraska, marched into his high school and shot his principal and vice-principal. The principal, an energetic young man, will survive. The vice-principal died. She was a kind woman with a lovely family who’d had the unpleasant duty of disciplining a student, never imagining he’d return to take her life and his own.
Before she was even buried, tragedy struck in Tucson. It was the same sort of senseless violence, unfathomable and shocking. Six people are dead, including a beautiful little nine-year-old girl, the apple of her father’s eye. A young congresswoman lies fighting for all the rest of her life.
And right here at home, our family deals with its own tragedy. My sister Terri called this afternoon. "Did you hear? Brian’s brother died a couple of hours ago."
We sat grieving on the phone together for our adored brother-in-law. Brian’s brother had been rushed to the hospital last night with a perforated colon. It would have been treatable except that he had waited too long, and infection set in and shut his organs down. He was Brian’s only surviving relative from his immediate family.
Suddenly, a little irritating plastic doesn’t seem quite so bad. In fact, what seems most imperative is that my brother-in-law feels the comfort and love of family, even if it’s the family that came tagging along with Deb.
So many families have been torn apart this week. I’m grateful for mine. I’m grateful for my brother-in-law whose dead pan humor and devotion to my sister has endeared him to all of us.
And, even though I know it’s only plastic, there’s no denying I’ll be grateful when it’s gone from my chest.
And I can take a nap.
On my side.
In my bed.