Wednesday, January 28, 2009

discomforting memories

Today I've been wearing a holter monitor, which is basically a portable EKG device that I've got to carry around like a fannypack with wires leading to electrodes that are stuck to my chest. It's not terribly inconvenient, and it's mostly a precautionary measure (I had some heart issues as a child, had a few palpitations in the fall, things are being ruled out), so it's not particularly scary or stressful, but it's been making me pretty uncomfortable all day and I think I've finally figured out why.

It reminds me strongly of having my chest surgery back in 2006, when I had the same feelings of caution, of having medical tape on my chest, and a limited range of motion and mobility, and having to be careful about how I lie down, and how I snuggle up to my partner. It's a funny reminder that having chest surgery was a simultaneously traumatic and euphoric experience for me. In the abstract, it was the pinnacle of happy times. I don't know that there's been anything else in my life that I've focused on so intently as I did in the months leading up to that surgery. It certainly has been the most expensive thing I've ever done, second only to my college tuition. It was something I desperately wanted, hoped for, counted down to...and then something that (I now realize) I basically hated while I was going through it.

I was physically uncomfortable, scared of what my results were going to be, mourning the loss of my nipple sensation, feeling guilty about being such a burden (financial and otherwise) on my family, and feeling vulnerable in just about every sense. It basically sucked! I was happy and delighted on an abstract level, and then miserable and resentful on an immediate level. I resented that I had to have surgery at all, that putting myself through such an ordeal was (as my doctor would later write in a testimonial letter) "necessary for me to lead a normal life."

And of course, a month after the surgery, when my wounds were well on their way to healing and I could move around again and see my newly flat chest, the resentment faded and paled before the significance of my triumph. But wearing these electrodes taped to my chest all day reminds me of what a slog it was during those weeks. And if I recall from my many painful interactions with medical tape while keeping my nipples properly moistened and bandaged post-surgery, sticky tape and my chest do not get along! I'm a little concerned about how many chest hairs I'm going to lose to these bits of tape tomorrow morning...