keeping vigil at the bedside.

“keeping vigil at the bedside” is a phrase that’s been rolling around in my head for awhile now. at what point is something major behind you, even when it feels ever-presently beside you? when do you move on, devoting your attention to other crises? when do others move on, seeing that you will in fact live, that you’re ok and they’ve helped get you through the worst of it, or that the rubbernecking of the wreckage isn’t as gruesome as it could have been so let’s keep driving away?

i kind of feel like i’m floating in that space. i had a mastectomy, an amputation. but it was my sixth surgery in this crappy hand. i’m hardly a novice now. i know the order of name, birthdate, blood pressure, temperature, pulse-ox vitals. the telltale steps backwards then forwards in recovery. the emotional highs and lows.

but, i’ve had to go back on intense antibiotics for over a week now, because this red ring around my breast, “a bullseye” my surgeon aptly called it, won’t recede. there is throbbing and heat. but, i don’t have a temp and no marked swelling. so, it could be, simply, healing, my body knowing what it needs to do to re-establish blood flow in the area, rebuild the capillary networks that were severed by the surgeon’s knife. and, the only way to know for sure is to open me back up. my surgical team (and i) will do everything possible to keep that from happening. maybe staying on this septra antibiotic ’til kingdom come. maybe getting into the hospital for IV antibiotics. those are the 2 options right now. i head into the doctor later today so we should know more. i imagine (or hope?) i’ll stay on the septra. even though my tum hurts on it and i’m sleeping pathetically. better than a one-way ticket to a crappy hospital room without a view though.

it dawned on me during this recovery that i was technically diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer in my left breast. sure, it wasn’t invasive and it definitely wasn’t stage IIB and into my lymph nodes like my first diagnosis, but it’s still a diagnosis. not as traumatic and jarring. but something.

i know that some pioneers in the medical community (my UCSF surgeon included) are trying to get away from calling this “cancer,” or even staging it. because some women can live with it forever, never having it turn into invasive disease. but then for others, the watching and waiting approach just proves useless as the cancer grows. and no one understands the rhyme or reason either way.

last week, my oncologist expressed her happiness with my surgical decision and that she thought it was best. that’s a strong statement when really, the decision was left up to me. but, i’m hearing that sameĀ response often from all corners of my care team. so i have to take comfort in that.

but still, that’s where i am today. the long slog is still the long slog. so i wait, keeping vigil at the bedside.


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