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The Sofa on Wheels

Updated on May 30, 2009

Back to the doctor we go

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Another hot flash while waiting for the plastic surgeon. I've had this fan since I was a kid.
Another hot flash while waiting for the plastic surgeon. I've had this fan since I was a kid.
Another hot flash while waiting for the plastic surgeon. I've had this fan since I was a kid.

My goofy hubby in our sofa on wheels

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Holding my pillows in the car. Mark keeps me laughing.
Holding my pillows in the car. Mark keeps me laughing.
Holding my pillows in the car. Mark keeps me laughing.

My wonderful breast surgeon

Dr. Esserman
Dr. Esserman

One of Mark's bad jokes...What is in the picture below?

...A stool sample.
...A stool sample.

What happened to you?

With Mark home these two weeks to help take care of me and the kids after my surgery, he thought he'd get the cars serviced. But you know how it goes; there's always a part that's missing and won't be in on time. My car, the massive "Yes, I'm embarrassed to be driving this gas guzler, but we need a big ass car to pull our trailer" SUV, is the vehicle we were going to use to drive into San Francisco. My car has a much softer ride than Mark's smaller hybrid that rattles your body when traveling over the bumps in the road. And right now, I need a smooth ride.

Unfortunately, time grew short before we were to leave on our long drive into the city and panic set in. Panic, because I really didn't want to feel every bump in the road in Mark's car; panic because his calls to the car dealership imploring them to complete our car because we needed it for a post-op appointment in San Francisco fell on unsympathetic ears.

My sofa on wheels

"Ask if they'll give us a loaner. A big, comfortable car," I begged. He did call them again and they sent us to the neighboring car rental place. The dealership paid for a small car and Mark upgraded to a sofa on wheels. When he showed up with the cozy Chrysler with cushiony leather seats and shocks good enough for any ornery senior citizen to appreciate, I was quite relieved and prepared to face our journey.

On the way in, Mark was his usual goofy self to keep me in good spirits and my mind off any pain by making funny faces every time I attempted to take a photo of us in our softened support. Of course, I suppose I keep him chuckling every time I barricade my body with a pillow on the seat, two pillows padding my chest protecting me from the seat belt and a few more small pillows to pack me in like I'm a fragile crystal vase being sent off to another country. I may look funny enough, but I can always count on him to make me laugh.

A contradiction of terms

"You look great!" That's what was said by everyone at the offices of my surgeons. Nurses, interns and surgeons all came in to see my progress. "You're so ahead of the curve," they said.

"You're kidding?" How can they say that when I can't stand up straight and my belly button is causing all sorts of problems; leaking stuff and looking rather odd. Pain, etc.

"Really. You're recovery is going so well." They were all so excited. Watching their unusual display over matters ordinarily repulsive to the general populace -- the bruised and scabby scars, the bloody, foul-looking belly button, the black, wiry stitches holding my breasts in place -- was like witnessing a slew of entomologists at a bug convention thrilled to see the newest spider species that chews on flesh and shits platinum.

I tried believing their cheery outlooks (it's not in my nature to accept compliments or good news easily) and couldn't imagine what their other patients go through during their recoveries if mine is vastly better than most. Still, it's comforting never having to explain to anyone at the hospital why I chose this surgery. It was another thing all together at Sophie's school this week.

It was the evening of open house and Sophie couldn't wait to tell us all about her classroom projects. We would also check out potential teachers for next year. I've been using a cane during short walks when we go out to doctor's appointments, etc. When I know I won't be able to sit for a while, Mark pulls the wheel chair out of the back of the car. He got it out for her open house so I wouldn't have to suffer through standing for too long, walking too far, or trying to sit my butt down in one of the mini chairs in her classroom.

Suddenly, those friends and acquaintances who didn't know or had forgotten about my surgery were asking me what happened. Others just stared as Mark pushed me about in my wheelchair.

"Oh, I had a big surgery," I'd answer several people.

"I didn't know you were sick," another mom and others said upon seeing me in a wheelchair and finding out I had a mastectomy. Hmm. How do I answer that one.

"No, I wasn't sick. I don't have cancer," I responded.

"Oh," they sound surprised and confused.

Shit! Now I have to explain my situation, because who in their right mind would cut off their tits if they are not sick? "Actually, I have a genetic mutation and..." blah, blah, blah. Explain it again to another person whose expression transforms from one of care and worry to one that tells me they feel cheated out of stolen sympathy after assuming I had the "C" word.

I can't wait until my body is reasonably back to normal so I don't have to explain my decision. I know dad...who cares what anyone else thinks? It's not that easy. And it doesn't help that I should have to defend my decision at all. I know it's unnecessary to explain, but people want to know; they just don't want to know too much.

How much information would you tell people if you were in my situation?

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    • profile image

      Debby Rosenfeld 

      9 years ago

      OOPS! I re-posted the prior comment by accident. Thanks Joelle,Yes, Mom is coming tomorrow. I hope you're feeling better. I think Mark is adorable to entice you with cupcakes! Sounds like you two have a ton of fun together.

      Please say hi to your family for me, and I'm sending hugs,

      Debby

    • profile image

      Debby Rosenfeld 

      9 years ago

      Hi Joelle,

      It's a tough one. I know how you feel, because I'm having surgery on Friday, and it's one that's hard to explain. In fact, the intake nurse at my pre-op apt. was chuckling when the rectal "issue" was read off of my chart. Which really annoyed me...but in an effort to not make a big deal about it, I let it go. (but I guess I didn't REALLY let it go, or I wouldn't still be mentioning it.)

      Most people have been very supportive, but I think they've forgotten about it as soon as I've left their field of vision. So, what I think, in answer to your question, is tell them what you feel is important for you to tell them, so that YOU are comfortable.

      I tell people the truth, because that's what makes me comfortable. If they want to ask, then they can listen to it, right? That way, I'm not trying to remember who I told what to.

      But, if you're frustrated by people's reactions, and you are trying to find a way to tell them without getting that "look" Maybe say something like this?

      " I had a pre-emptive major surgery, which was warrented due to my genetics."

      "Oh," they'd say, "what was that?????"

      "Let's just say that I'm doing well now, but the recovery isn't a whole lot of fun. How are YOU doing?"

      Let me know what you think of that Joelle, It might help me when people ask me about mine.

      I think you're an awesome and brave woman.

      Love,

      Debby

    • Joelle Burnette profile imageAUTHOR

      Joelle Burnette 

      9 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks, Debby.

      Your answer is perfect. I'll have to try that one out.

      I wish you all the best on your surgery and hope everything goes well. I heard your mom is flying out to help. That's wonderful you'll have extra help with the kids.

      Good luck!!!

      Joelle

    • profile image

      Debby Rosenfeld 

      9 years ago

      Hi Joelle,

      It's a tough one. I know how you feel, because I'm having surgery on Friday, and it's one that's hard to explain. In fact, the intake nurse at my pre-op apt. was chuckling when the rectal "issue" was read off of my chart. Which really annoyed me...but in an effort to not make a big deal about it, I let it go. (but I guess I didn't REALLY let it go, or I wouldn't still be mentioning it.)

      Most people have been very supportive, but I think they've forgotten about it as soon as I've left their field of vision. So, what I think, in answer to your question, is tell them what you feel is important for you to tell them, so that YOU are comfortable.

      I tell people the truth, because that's what makes me comfortable. If they want to ask, then they can listen to it, right? That way, I'm not trying to remember who I told what to.

      But, if you're frustrated by people's reactions, and you are trying to find a way to tell them without getting that "look" Maybe say something like this?

      " I had a pre-emptive major surgery, which was warrented due to my genetics."

      "Oh," they'd say, "what was that?????"

      "Let's just say that I'm doing well now, but the recovery isn't a whole lot of fun. How are YOU doing?"

      Let me know what you think of that Joelle, It might help me when people ask me about mine.

      I think you're an awesome and brave woman.

      Love,

      Debby

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