What it's like to have had cancer.

You expect things to be different after you get the diagnosis. You expect things to be easier somehow, or more clear-cut, or somehow more differentiated. It doesn't happen that way.

Instead, what you find is that you have the same decisions to make as you did before diagnosis, but now they're complicated by how much energy you think you'll have at a given time and how much nausea you think you can get through at a certain point in your treatment.

I'm thinking about next week: I'll have my second post-op, first-post-healing checkup with my surgeon, and a mammogram (baseline) and a molding for the intermediate fucking prosthetic all in the same week. It's not a question of what I can manage physically any more; that excuse went away about six weeks after surgery. Now it's a question of what I can handle mentally, and there's really no excuse there.

Low-grade. Low-grade. Very little chance of recurrance, excellent prognosis. Yet the reaction is never low-grade; it's always the same, whether it's a high-grade lesion or not. Either way, you behave as though the hyenas are circling. The only difference is how long you have to behave that way.

Next week, next week, next week. On Tuesday I see the surgeon and get my breasts x-rayed for the first time, as a baseline for the future. Given that I had a PET scan less than four months ago, I'm not worried that they'll find anything nasty in my mammogram. (I looked like a bug on a string in the PET scan's outline: arms and legs splayed out as they instructed me to hold them, and a big round-bellied body outlined with radioactive glucose solution.) It's just a reminder that cancer might still get me, and in a different part of my body than it tried before.

If they do an MRI, they won't see any regrowth of tumor at this checkup; it's that low-grade. Same with a CT scan. PETs only catch things that are larger than a half-centimeter in diameter. The last PET barely caught my tumor. So, realistically speaking, we can't do much until any tumor that might regrow has gotten large enough to merit notice outside of any special screenings.

Which, given the habits of this type of cancer, might take ten or twenty years. Low-grade, low-grade, low-grade. Excellent prognosis, especially with wide excision.

I had a dream the other night in which I was speaking clearly. I was just dozing, so I woke up with a start as the dream barely began to take hold.

Wide excision.

There is a plastic surgeon at work who's done pioneering work with muscle flap transplants in people who've lost their soft palates to surgery or accident. I wonder if it would be worth it to talk to him. As it is, I have to decide what's worth saying before I take the prosthetic out to go to bed. Sometimes this could be a good thing.

Years and years ago, I had a lover who was deaf. This was before the days of cochlear implants or small hearing aids. It bothered him immensely that he couldn't hear anything after he'd unhooked his aids and put them on the bedside table, whereas I thought it was unusual and romantic to have to trace letters on his hands. Now I understand how he felt, a little.

Low-grade, low-grade. Small chance of recurrance with wide excision; good prognosis.

What if the wide excision I had wasn't enough? What if I have to sacrifice more than I already have?