I saw the surgeon on Monday. This morning, I saw the radiation oncologist and, in the afternoon, the oncologist. For the first time I felt like a patient and not a person. I look in the mirror and I don’t know who that person is. It’s a lot of rapid physical change to take in. My mind is the same, but everyone else sees the outside of me, that I’m still adjusting to. Sadly, today, I glimpsed myself as they see me.
Not quite six months ago, I was busy with our organic farm growing vegetable, taking care of the livestock, eating better than anyone I know, and putting up food. I was working on illustrating a couple of new books and doing many new paintings. I was trying to help Frank with his non-profit Land Trust organization. And I bicycled 15-30 miles about 4X a week. Then, I got the diagnosis of cancer. But I didn’t feel bad.
After the chemo, the doctors (and everyone) said I was so strong! I did great! I was disappointed that I wasn’t brave enough to go around bald, like I thought I could/should. I guess the bald head screamed “cancer patient” to the world, and I didn’t still feel like one. I was just trying to get through a battle with this new health issue. I’ve had others: Fibromyalgia, Graves Disease, a rare viral pneumonia, and Lyme Disease. This was just one more.
Then, I was frightened of the surgery, but I got through that. And the surgeon said “It looks great! Wonderful!” And I saw not just a flat chest, but almost concave…and a huge lateral gash across my whole chest from armpit to armpit. Now I look like an effeminate (bald) man, dressing as a woman.
But the degradation continues. I learned today the list of “normal” side effects of radiation are long. Burnt: skin, lungs, blood vessels, throat, etc. Doctors seeing me for the first time see the “new” me, an obvious patient, not the person I was so recently. I don’t want to be a “cancer patient”. I don’t want to read all about cancer. I’m not that interested in the topic. I’ll never become a doctor. (Likewise, they could never get the skill I have, unless they put in the work of half a century of painting and study in my field and nearly 40 years of gardening.) So how do I claim my life back? They depressed me today.