Last week exactly to the hour, I was ripping across a frozen lake on a snow mobile. My head nearly exploding with excitement and joy. If I wasn’t wearing a helmet that fogged easily, I would have screamed at the top of my lungs. No one knew how incredible this moment was for me and I wasn’t about to tell either.
I was ice fishing in Northern Wisconsin. No, it was not my idea and I went with a great deal of trepidation. My team at work needed to meet and we turned it into a bonding experience up at the ancestral home of my boss. Northern Wisconsin is beautiful but cold. Yes, I work primarily with men and so ice fishing, snow mobile riding and meat were the main attractions. They didn’t pound their chests with loud grunts but given a few more days that would have come too.
My trepidation wasn’t being a part of this merry gathering. Up until a few years ago, I was in the fray with the best of them. Since my mastectomy, my arm has turned into a difficult old woman with 23 lymph nodes missing. My breast muscle clenches like a tight fist in the cold. I didn’t know if I would be able to keep up. If not, I might have to reveal my troubles and face the horrified expressions of my teammates. I came prepared though and prepped my arm in advance.
I have a Pilate’s trainer who has worked with me since before any of this began. She knows my arm better than I do. She gave me exercises to do on the sly. Things that would keep the muscles relaxed and the lymph moving. Every morning I lay on the bathroom floor and did as I was told. I am haunted by the possibility of lymphedema and work to keep the fluids moving.
It is one year ago this week since my final reconstruction. I went from being an F to a small D on one side and the expander was removed on my right for something more permanent. It has been exactly six months since my hysterectomy when once again I faced my mortality. On my last visit my surgeon said with a smile, “It’s was only precancerous.” He happily tossed me back into the general public.
My boss and I had to meet for my review. “You’re the only one who made the full bonus,” he says with pride. I smile and say, “What else did you expect?” He doesn’t know I had two operations last year on my vacations. He doesn’t know I faced death or the tears that were spilled as I digested the news. All he knows is that when a snow mobile was free, I jumped on and took off with the pack. Catch and release.