Chasing the Margins

by | Apr 23, 2021 | Blog

It’s been a quiet week. Post-surgery, there’s been anesthesia brain where my mind didn’t feel like focusing or thinking. My eyes either. It was news to me that they tape your eyes shut during surgery. In a way it makes sense, to not startle the surgeon or nurses with your eyes suddenly opening while they’re in the middle of doing what they do. Feels a little like a creepy movie though, except this is real.

A quiet week of not knowing. Of spending days hanging out with Mom, doing a jigsaw puzzle and watching TV. In a way the after-effects of anesthesia can be a gift so we don’t run around and muck up the healing process. It took a few days for my left eye to feel normal, to clear the fuzziness. Yesterday my brain started to do the same.

This morning I received the call. Of the 5 lymph nodes removed, 2 held cancer. The tumor, the mass of toxicity that was inside me, was 4 cm and had 6 sides. A funky shaped golf ball if you will. 4 of the sides weren’t clean so they need to go back in.

It felt like it would be too easy for surgery to remove the mass, then radiation, then done. It didn’t feel complete.

I think of this like the healing process we undertake. There are layers we experience and rarely do we process something and then we’re done with it. There’s often nuances. Deeper layers reveal themselves. Through it all, we have choice points. How and in what way we move forward. Sometimes the answer is not now because a different answer wants to reveal itself.

This is what I did with my first husband, an alcoholic. I knew I needed to figure out how I wanted to deal with living with his drinking and made the active decision to put it on the back-burner. I didn’t have the immediate bandwidth. Then 9–11 happened and a different choice was made. One for me to move on in a direction I hadn’t anticipated, one that ultimately was much better for me.

This and many other times I sat in the space of the open question. Where I was present with life as it happened, rather than pushing for an answer. Through the struggles and saying “I don’t know,” there’s been great freedom even when things sucked.

I knew the week before surgery I had about 10 days of grace. That a new decision point would present itself once I had the results. Today’s that day.

We can go back in to clear out more tissue, what they call chasing the margins, or perform a mastectomy. On May 24, a mastectomy of my right breast will be performed. There will be no reconstruction.

After the call the tears fell. More layers of release. I cried for my right breast, the loss of a piece of me, yet it’s a physical manifestation. The real me is in my heart.

In a conversation with a dear friend last week, she made a profound statement. “God gives us these opportunities to remove what we can’t dissolve.” There’s a lot we both can do with our gifts as healers. Some things are out of our hands.

I’m tentatively scheduled to travel to MX in December, to a special place with hot springs. There’s something truly beautiful about taking in the magic of earth while bathing in her waters. I’ve had the vision of myself stepping into the pool with the right side of my chest flat. I’ve already seen what was to come.

In the meantime, I have a trip planned beginning next week. Time to be. To process. To be present even when it’s hard. For many years I turned it all off by numbing through distractions. To feel and be with it all now is a gift. Peace is right here for me when I choose it.

Life will move on with or without me. I sit with the emotions as they come up and then let them go. They’re not here for me to wallow in them. There’s much to do and I choose moving forward, in whatever form it and I take.

And for the next month, I’m in a new space of “I don’t know.”

Stephanie B. McAuliffe
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