A Sneak Peek

The Browns by Brian Brooks

Finally settled into our new home, doctor’s bills paid, and 18 months cancer free, I now have more time for me.  This is a bit of a ridiculous statement actually.  Maybe I should re-phrase that, I sort of have more time for me.  I still have three kids, four cats, a snake, ten Koi and one husband to look after, but I will take the cats and the snake and the kids over cancer any day.

So, what do I plan to do with my time?  I am writing an anthology, a collection of essays about my adventures in breast cancer that I plan to get published. 

Writing about cancer is genuinely healing for me as I sift through the sands of time, making sense of these last couple of years.  It also gives me a chance to give back and help others that may be going through the same thing. 

But, like everything in my life, I don’t want to do this alone.  I need all of you.  Along with my essays, the anthology will include a compilation of prose, poems and art by any of you creative inspiring writers and artists out there that would like to be a part of this project.  So, calling all artists, writers, poets, and photographers, if you are interested in submitting a piece, please let me know. 

My intent is for each essay, poem, etc. to stand on its own, but together as a collection, tell my story and the story of the other 200,000 women that are battling breast cancer each year, in the United States alone.  I hope to fill the pages with truth, humor, compassion and sometimes shock, giving my readers a better understanding of what breast cancer is really like.  What it actually feels like to have your breast cut off, to intentionally put poison into your veins, to shave your head and tell your kiddos, husband and parents that you have cancer.  No holding back people! 

As I get close to a finish date, I will send out more details.  In the meanwhile, I am excited to give you a sample peak of one of my pieces to get your creative wheels rolling. 

Happy reading!

Lights, Camera, Action!

 “When other women have this same operation, it doesn’t make any headlines”…Betty Ford.

In the wake of stealing second base, nursing babies, and push up bras, I still feel a deep bond with my breast, even though it tried to kill me.  About to have it cut from my body, the nurse wheeled me through the cold blank halls and gray walls of the hospital into the operating room.  I placed my left hand across my chest as if pledging allegiance, and said my goodbyes.

The room was intimidating.  The only splash of color was blue scrubs.  Ominous machines, computer monitors, and aseptic surgical instruments were strategically placed around the operating table.  Huge fluorescent lights hung from above like angels watching over me. 

The tranquilizing effect of the sedative began to set in as two male nurses picked me up and transferred me to the operating table.  I could not help but wonder if I just displayed my bear ass to everyone in the room.  It is not a time to be modest, I thought to myself, when I have much bigger issues. 

As I lay waiting, watching the doctors and nurses prepare for a modified radical mastectomy, I glanced at the tools, reminding me of silverware placed meticulously besides dinner plates at a five star restaurant.  I observed the bright white lines going in rhythm to my heart, and the pressure gages moving up and down to my blood flow. Listening to the beeps, clatter, and talk between the staff, I felt strangely calm amid such a production. 

And then my imagination went amuck.  I pictured my doctor removing the wrong breast, saw him slip, and cut my jugular while making the incision.  I imagined an ordinary household vacuum, extension attached, sucking up all the cancerous fatty tissue while my nipple sat in a jar of formaldehyde.  I envisioned both my breast and lymph nodes being poked and tested, making sure they got all the cancer, and then casually thrown out with other body parts in the hospital incinerator.  I shivered. 

A nurse, thinking I was cold, placed a warm blanket on top of me.  It felt as if it had come straight from the dryer.  She carefully folded in the sides making special care to cover my feet, reminding me of my mom tucking me into bed when I was a little.  I appreciated the distraction from my spiraling thoughts. 

A few minutes later, the anesthesiologist sat down next to me, put his hand on mine, and said, “It’s time.  Are you ready?” 

“Are you ever ready for something like this?”  I asked. 

He was quite chatty as he prepared a potent cocktail for me, sharing a little bit about the process and his self.  Making sure that I had nothing in my stomach, not even water, to avoid drowning in my own fluids during surgery, he asked, “When is the last time you ate?  “Dinner time, last night,” I told him.  “Good girl.”  He then inquired, “So, what do you do Deanne?” 

Slurring my words a bit, and still freaked out by the drowning thing, I answered, “I am the lead singer in a rock band.”  I explained how four years ago, six of us forty something suburban housewives decided to start our own band, even though not one of us could play an instrument.  I told him how we bought guitars and a bass and replaced the couch and coffee table in the living room with drums, amps and a PA system.  “I leave the dishes in the sink and the laundry behind,” I continued, “to steal a few precious moments away from my kids, husband, “should’s and ought to’s.”  “Honestly, nothing compares to singing with my girlfriends on stage.  It is where I should be.” I finished. 

Why did I choose to tell the anesthesiologist, a complete stranger, all about my band instead of the other thousand things I do each day as a mother of three like cooking, cleaning, driving and parenting?  Probably because lying on an operating table, completely naked under a flimsy gown and blankets, with a hair net and no makeup, about to have my breast cut from my body, makes you feel a bit vulnerable; invisible. 

Maybe it was for good measure, or maybe it was the drugs but apparently, during our conversation, I also led him to believe I was famous. 

In actuality, my breasts are more famous than me.  Ever since I found the lump, they have been in the public spotlight, the leading ladies; my very own pair of Lady’s Gaga’s.  Mammograms, ultrasounds, MRI’s, and PET scans invade my days like celebrity stalking paparazzi while cold stethoscopes, hands and doctors probe like inquiring fans.  Needles poke, nurses jab, and I bleed.  It is a high price to pay for fame. 

Famous or not, it does not matter, I simply wanted him to know, I am more than my breast cancer. 

With a reassuring voice the doctor said, “I am going to give you a bit of oxygen, it might make you sleepy.”  I did not have time to respond, as he placed a clear mask over my mouth and nose.  About to perform in my biggest show yet, I took a deep breath.  It’s time to sing, girl.

Lights, camera, action!

One Response to “A Sneak Peek”

  1. Kelly Burkhardt Says:

    What an awesome idea you have – why should I be surprised at you? You continue to amaze me. Even though I have been lucky enough to have avoided cancer so far (knocking hard on wood!), I appreciate your honesty, humility and sense of humor. Keep it coming!

    Hugs to you!

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