A Letter to My Surgeon

Dear Mr. Surgeon,

You probably don’t remember me.

Actually, strike that. I know you don’t remember me because I’ve seen you multiple times since I first laid unconscious under your scalpel, and each and every time you’ve looked right through me as if I’m a new window installation. But, I remember you.

You’re the surgeon who took out half of an ovary to try to save my future babies from the evil of chemotherapy, but you’re also the guy who stuck a tube in the center of my chest.

Literally the center. No exaggerations here.

I will never forget you, because how can I when doctors and nurses alike took one look at my Hickman IV and said, “oh, you had a male surgeon, didn’t you?”

You see, you’re a man, so you don’t really understand the lifelong struggle that comes with having big boobs. But I’m here to tell you that it is not fun at all.

“Over the shoulder boulder holder,” as outdated and unoriginal as it sounds, is pretty much the perfect way to describe my everyday life. I suffer with constant back pain because the weight on my chest  forces me to go through life slouched and hunched over. They’re large and in the way normally, so having a tube nestled in between them made things only about a million times worse.

First of all, I would like to acknowledge the fact that, yes, you did try to place my Hickman somewhere other than the world’s most inconvenient spot. I know this because when I woke up from surgery, I had puncture wounds all over my neck and upper chest to the point where it looked like someone had attacked me with a fork. It took a couple of weeks before the scars faded and I could properly turn my neck again without feeling the tug of the tube that lay just underneath my skin.

I’ve seen other Hickmans during my time in the hospital, and almost all of them have protruded just below the collarbone. Why then, did my own IV have to go directly through my cleavage? Were my veins really so uncooperative that you had no other option? Because of your decision, I suffered through eight months of difficulties with showering and changing, and embarrassment each and every time I had to completely undress my upper half just to get a bandage change. A bandage change that wouldn’t even last a week because of the awkward, “nonflat” area of the body it was on.

Having a Hickman in the center of my chest has become a new icebreaker for me. Every single female nurse who has had to care for me has immediately made a comment about the placement of my IV. To them, it is clear that a man performed the surgery because no woman in their right mind would ever put another woman through that inconvenient torture. You will never know the unrelenting anxiety that comes with having a literal hole in the middle of your chest – a hole that could become completely exposed to the world with just a firm tug. To make matters worse, all of the bras that I owned had underwire that fell directly on top of the hole, creating a risk of the tube being pushed in too far towards my heart.

I won’t sit here and extol the virtues of underwire, but just know I was extremely pissed when I had to give it up.

Personally, you are one of my least favorite people I ever met during my time in the hospital (but dummy still wins), and I hope never to see you and your stab-happy scalpel ever again. But I’m not angry. Instead, I’ve learned to love my awkward scar. The indentation in the middle of my chest, which can be seen at all times unless I’m wearing a turtleneck, has become a symbol for how far I’ve come. Like your Hickman placement, I’ve been dealt a shitty hand in life, and the only thing I can do is keep moving forward one day and one dressing change at a time until all that’s left is a tiny, circular reminder.

First time home, post 4x procedures

I’m only writing this letter today because, a) my blog posts are chronological and I spent a total of 48 hours at home, half of which I spent on the couch doubled over in pain after your procedures, and b) what happened next is all because of our encounter.


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