Powerful in words and in pictures, Fran Padget shares a fresh perspective on the experience of confronting breast cancer. Exceptional gift for a special friend. Great for therapists.
Breast Cancer Recovery
No One Wrote a Manual
Across the polished wood table my surgeon's face was calm and concerned. His hands were on the open file of pathology reports. His eyes looked directly into mine. I found the sight of his skilled and gentle hands reassuring as I uttered the words that would change my body forever.
He had patiently heard my questions and quietly answered them, as I knew he had answered many, many breast cancer patients. But for those few minutes, it was as though I were the only patient in the world to have ever said, "I have decided on the mastectomy option."
"I feel the need to put some things in order," I said, my voice low. "Does it need to be scheduled quickly?"
He assured me that thirty days would have no significant impact on the ultimate outcome.
I stood up, shook his hand, smiled, bit my lip, and told him I would see him in exactly 31 days. My destination: the beaches of Galveston.
These chronicles of my breast cancer began in the hours and hours of sleepless solitude facing east across the Gulf of Mexico. Pinks and silver colors of sunrises and flesh flowed from my heart through my hand, filling pages of blank paper.
Next stop: the Gallery. It had been nearly two years since I first heard "invasive carcinoma, 12 o'clock, right breast; 6 o'clock, left breast." My breast cancer chronicles, 32 paintings and 26 essays were arranged and spotlighted on the gallery walls, to be viewed by family, friends and strangers.
In the subdued light, background music mingled with their lowered voices as they stopped in front of each page and each painting. When they turned to me I saw their tears. Yes, my friends, my images and words reveal my heart and bare my soul. Thank you for coming. I love you.
Part II: Past Recovery,"Beyond Reconstruction,"and on to "What Makes a Woman a Woman?'"
Saturday morning, twenty years ago.
I walk slowly into the kitchen, stopping at the counter beside the sink. "Why do I feel so awful?" I wonder.
I cross my arms on the countertop and lay my head on them. It's a good thing I don't have to go the office today, I think to myself. My whole body feels leaden, my mind as lethargic as my body, even though I have had extra sleep, proper food and vitamins, not to mention my usual large cups of morning coffee. Where is my energy? Why can't I think?
I call my mom. Whatever would we do without Dr. Moms?
I describe to her the physical and mental inertia I have been experiencing. "You probably need estrogen," she says. "I know that for me it is my energy."
Dr. Mom, right again!! Like magic, "hormone replacement therapy" lifted me back to vitality.
2002: Breast cancer recovery, early stages.
Houseguests are visiting us for a weekend. I leave them talking at the dinner table, walk into my closet and curl up on the floor in the fetal position. My mind is virtually blank. "I don't want to see anyone," I confide to my husband, who has found me huddling in the dark. Shortly he returns with that little yellow tablet.
"Take it," he say. He knew.
Four months: no estrogen.
Four days: Tamoxifen.
Gott en himmel!! I can't live like this. I have to be ME.
I sit across the polished wood table from Dr. Marlowe. As always, he is calm, and as always, patiently listens.
"Hot flashes, yes, but I can deal with those. Night sweats, yes, but I can stand that." I pause to gain control.
"But I can't face life not feeling like ME. It is estrogen that makes me feel good. It is estrogen that gives me energy. And more than that," I tap my forefinger on my forehead for emphasis, "I need it to be able to THINK. I have to work, I have to support myself, and I HAVE TO THINK."
He nods slowly, acknowledging that he understands.
"If taking estrogen shortens my life, THEN I TAKE THAT RISK!"
He assures me that we will do "whatever it takes to make you feel better." He signs the small square paper with the magic word scrawled on it that means that means Woman, that means Life, that means Vitality.
With tears of relief, I thank him, and leave clutching the prescription in my hand. And so began the gradual climb back to my creativity, my sanity, myself.Taken from No One Wrote a Manual by Fran Padgett
Breast Cancer Recovery: No One Wrote a Manual
Product Code: XB-502
Publisher: Bayou Publishing
Book Format: Perfect Bound
Book Size: 8 x 8