The “I Have Breast Cancer” Meltdown

Last night I finally had a complete and utter breakdown, with uncontrollable sobs and all. A smorgasbord of grief.

The images of breast skin being propped up by belly skin and fat, of the eerie Barbie doll-like nippleless breast (worse, one and not both — it’s like Toy Story meets Chucky) played over and over in my mind like a looped tape of Carrie being screened inside a fairground haunted house.

I loved my nipple very much.

I wanted to keep my nipple.

I couldn’t imagine life without my nipple.

My nipple that had seen so many bras, nursed two (and a half) babies, served as plaything to Mr Threez … it was going to go.

I tried to think of all kinds of ways around it: maybe I could get a second opinion. Maybe Dr Hoe was wrong and miraculously the cancer was far away enough from the nipple to be spared.

Maybe God will take this extremely bitter and unfair situation from me.

I got down on my knees and prayed. I opened my Bible and cried into its pages. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane was so tortured at the impending pain He was about to face that He wept tears of blood and begged God: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

I can tell you, at that moment, I felt like I was transported into that garden. I smelt the moist denseness of the ground. The prickly shrubs scraped my skin as I walked but my inner pain was far more intense. Darkness pressed down on me, crushing the breath out of my lungs. My heart ached like it was going to drop out of my chest like a large rock. I cried out to God, feeling sorry for myself (let’s be honest). But yet, wanting to accept whatever is His will. I’m no hero — I wanted my nipple, I would fight for it. But at the same time, if it was God’s plan that I should walk through this then…

… I would have a meltdown right now and grasp at straws before I come to the place of peace.

May I have a complete healing miracle like all those people I read about in Benny Hinn’s or Smith Wigglesworth’s books?

May I have the cancer just fall out of my body like a black wet lump, cursed to its roots?

May I go for another scan and have the doctor tell me there’s no cancer at all?

Slowly, surely the answer came.

God always answers prayers, as they say. But His answer may not always be the one I hope to hear.

By bedtime I knew in my spirit that I was going to lose this breast and my nipple.

I told God, “Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. Where is the joy set before me?

“Will there be any? Please say there will. Because I don’t want to go through this in vain. I don’t want to lose my nipple for nothing.”

I went to bed, tortured, the image of a gaping hole in my breast etched in my brain.

Of all nights, Mr Threez agreed that Middle B could sleep on the floor in our room. I didn’t want my daughter to see me lose it. For me, watching my mother weak and grieving over the way the cancer had ravaged her body, was one of the most painful and fearful experiences of my life. My mother had always been a very strong person. She could take a lot of crap and still carry on. I think I am the same to my kids — I am Mom and no matter how bad things get, Mom gets it’s all fixed. So that Middle B could see me not dealing — I didn’t want that at all. I didn’t want her to see me weak.

But as I tried to sleep the tears rolled down my face and trickled down my neck. Pretty soon, I started to suck back the phlegm dripping out of my nose, and that turned into sobs. First small ones that I tried to quell, but suddenly, they came like a wave of hiccups.

Mr Threez got up, alarmed. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t want to lose my nipple!” I wailed.

He paused for a moment. And said absolutely the wrong thing in a cross tone: “Then what do you want? Would you rather live with the cancer?”

Of course not! That wasn’t what I was talking about! But his words did strike me; perhaps I was being a tad vainglorious. I was fearing the cosmetic results of a procedure that had the power to save my life.

By then, Middle B had woken up and seen me sobbing. Her face was a mask of terror. She crept to her daddy and whispered, “Is mommy okay?” Finally, she climbed on the bed and gave me a big hug, bursting into tears. “I want my mommy to be okay! I want my mommy to be okay!”

That had a sobering effect on me. I hugged her back and said, “Mommy’s going to be just fine. I’m just scared about my operation, that’s all.”

Mr Threez looked at his two sobbing girls and wondered how he had gone to bed and woken up in a Nora Ephron movie. He tucked Middle B into bed, then climbed back into bed and kissed me.

Now that I got it out of my system, I fell soundly asleep.

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