“How are you today?” My plastic surgeon says, beaming his huge smile.
“Yeah, OK I think,” I say. “Oh, I’m sorry – I forgot my device. Mum’s just signing in – there was a queue and…”
“Don’t worry, Tanya, I’ve got a spare one,” the nurse says, reaching into the depths of her trolley and pulling out a little machine. It’s a magnet which finds the hole in the expander.
“Phew,” I say, going behind the curtain, lying back on the bed. “We left in a bit of a rush – it’s snowing, and…”
“Well you’re here now,” the nurse says. “Just slip your top things off.”
The enormous syringe comes towards me and I feel the needle press down and connect with the hole in my expander. Slowly, the plunger descends and the fluid enters my chest and it’s a strange sensation as my skin stretches to accommodate the extra fluid. It’s not unpleasant but it’s a bit uncomfortable. The plunger arrives at zero. My plastic surgeon pulls the syringe out. Pulling my clothes back on, I sit up.
“I’m just going to find Mum,” I say, wandering out into the corridor and across to the waiting room. Mum is there, absorbed in the crossword, pen poised above the paper.
“Come on,” I say, taking her arm. “You’ve missed them doing a horrible thing to me.”
“I’m sorry darling,” Mum says, as we make our way back into the room. “Didn’t want to disturb you.”
“Well now I’ve just been through it alone,” I say.
“So, um, I was wondering when I can have my operation,” I say, once we’ve settled ourselves down.
My plastic surgeon looks at my notes in front of him. “Soon,” he says. “So you need, I would say, another couple of expansions, that’s two more weeks, then a month or so for it to settle. That takes us to mid-March.”
“We’re meant to be going away at the beginning of April,” Mum says.
“What’s the recovery time for the operation?” I say, looking across at my surgeon but I can see Mum shaking her head next to me.
“No, darling, it will have to wait till we come back,” she says, taking my hand. “You won’t be well enough to travel after two weeks. And something could go wrong, or you might need a drain in or…”
“Your mother’s right, Tanya,” my plastic surgeon says, looking a bit sorry for me. “We’ll do it when you get back in April.”
“It won’t look different really from the expander, will it?” Mum asks him.
“No, it will be the same shape, same volume and…”
“There you go,” Mum says, stroking my arm. “You won’t just have nothing there.”
“And then after that we’ll need to start work on the other side,” he says. “Make you look a bit more even.”
“Don’t look so sad, sweetie,” Mum says, looking at my chest. “You look fine now, really. No-one would notice anything.”
It’s not what my chest looks like that’s the sad thing, really, I think, as we walk back to the car in the freezing darkness. It’s how long-winded this whole process is. Another couple of months to go before my next operation. By then it will be two years since my cancer diagnosis and I haven’t had a rest from doctors or procedures in that whole time.
“I can’t wait to see that orange fluffy person,” I say to Mum.
“You can have lots of cuddles with him when we get home, and I’ve made you a lovely supper,” Mum says…