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Lessons from surgery |


Lessons from surgery

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star
Lessons from surgery

I have learned many things about my body. I learned that stress causes cancer. My husband and I were married for six years — three years of bliss, then he took ill. Taking care of him after his surgery and stroke put me under tremendous stress though I was not aware of it. You might think that I am a person highly aware of things. That is not true. Usually I just let events drag me along, react as needed, don’t study or think until the event passes. Then I look at what remains. That’s when I think, analyze, begin to understand, to see the humor and to share the lessons taught me.

About a year ago my left breast grew what I diagnosed as a bleeding tumor. It was external. My right breast also had a smaller inactive one, no bleeding, located lower. I didn’t do anything until the left one began to bleed and looked infected so I covered it with gauze and tape. I definitely did not want chemotherapy, which I was sure would kill me instantly, nor radiation, but I did consider having a mastectomy just to get rid of the unsightly things.

My children turned me on to German New Medicine. I was happy for a while but my husband was getting worse. By then I knew that my tumor was caused by stress that became worse until he passed away. A week after, my left breast spurted blood all over our bathroom, like a garden hose watering plants. The nozzle wasn’t as big as the garden hose’s but the act was the same. I panicked. My son brought me to the hospital. It was decided that I would have surgery.

My surgeon said I should wear pajamas because they opened all the way down the front. I bought two pairs but found that if I ordered by mail I could have four pajamas for almost the same price. Lesson 1: This was cheaper and more convenient than buying anything from stores.

I came home the day after the operation with two small plastic bottles hanging from my sides. One morning weeks after, I found something that looked like a long thin tube hanging down my left side. I stared at it puzzled. It took me a whole minute to figure out that my left bottle had disconnected by itself. It coincided with the third day that the contents of those bottles, which I will call “healing fluids,” had come in under 30 ML. So we went back to the hospital and the bottles were removed.

Now I look at myself to put ointment on my wounds that are turning into scars. A small hole on each side. Two lines that start around seven inches below my mid-shoulder. It’s a crooked, almost V-cut that ends approximately two inches above my waist. The surgeon stopped about five inches from making a complete V. Lesson 2: I am as flat as an ironing board.

“The lab says Level 3 cancer but it’s gone now together with your lymph nodes. You’re perfectly all right. Don’t worry, the cancer will most likely not return,” Dr. Basa said. I believed her because this was not my first cancer operation. I had one when I was 38 that led to a complete hysterectomy. That’s almost the exact same thing that my doctor then said. The cancer will not return. And it did not. Not in the same place. It took 41 years to recur. Now my reproductive organs are all gone. Am I still a woman?

The other day a group of friends were teasing me about getting married again. I said, “No, I don’t want to ever get married again. The thought of marriage fills me with fear. Look,” I called their attention to my chest. I had stuffed cups into my bra to look like a woman but the bra, since I am flat as an ironing board, rose up as the afternoon wore on. So my false breasts were like an inch below the collarbone because there are no more real breasts to bar the bra from rising. “What man would be attracted to a woman whose breasts slowly move upwards to become shoulder pads over dinner?”

We — a group of mostly irreverent women over 60 — broke out in loud peals of laughter. But seriously, I am a woman who has surgically lost most of the organs that make me a woman — a total hysterectomy and a double mastectomy. I’ve been surgically redefined. What is my gender now? Transvestite or tranny or intersex — which is someone who has a mix of both genders and doesn’t know what s/he really is? Or maybe I should just dress as a man, but then what would I marry? A woman? No, I am strictly heterosexual.

So now I am faced with gender issues. Whoever thought I’d learn that from surgery?

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