I wrote the final chapter of my book today. In my head, at least. I went to the hospital in Hayle to have my reconstruction finished with a tattoo, and it brought a satisfying feeling of closure. It was also poignant, because the last time I went to Hayle it was to say goodbye to my friend Malina, a fellow breast cancer patient. She had been in St. Julia's Hospice, which is directly opposite the hospital entrance. Malina died in March; she was only 32. As I walked past St. Julia's and into the hospital, Malina was by my side. It was hard to be there with my luck, knowing how cruel hers had been.
I waited for Sarah, one of the Mermaid's breast care nurses, to collect me from the waiting room. I watched as familiar faces came and went along the corridor: there was the jolly porter who'd wheeled me down to the operating theatre for surgery, still chipper and smiling at everyone. And there was the other porter I knew, the one who DJs and loves Shakin' Stevens. I saw an advert for one of his discos in a pub window yesterday. Through the double doors behind me were the sterile blue operating theatres, where I've been both patient and observer. So many stories have been played out behind those doors. The stairwell echoed as I followed Sarah to the clinic rooms.
Sarah laughed when I told her how glad I was to be there. I took her a copy of the blog post I wrote about the Blush and the Bounty and gave her a bottle of rosé (I had looked for blush, but no luck). We lined up the bottles of tattoo ink and I took photos of her holding the wine. I undid my gown and Sarah began tattooing, noting with wonder the areas of sensitivity in my new breast.
When I was inked and dressed, she gave me my discharge form. I walked out of the clinic and into the rain and said goodbye once more to Malina. I remembered a line from a book about Buddhism by Sylvia Boorstein. "We don't get a choice about what hand we are dealt in this life. The only choice we have is our attitude about the cards we hold and the finesse with which we play our hand." Malina managed to play hers so well with so little time, I thought; I am going to try and do the same. And then I walked to the car.