Another Milestone

041717_trainingsurgery_THUMB_LARGE

One year ago today, I was on the operating table, undergoing the most intense, invasive procedure of my life–my bilateral mastectomy and lymph node removal.

I knew going into this surgery that it would be tough. I knew the recovery would be long and arduous. But man, I just really had no idea how rough it would actually be.

I remember waking up in the recovery room in horrific pain. I was on all kinds of pain meds, but they only seemed to dull the ache. This was definitely worse than my c-section.

I ended up spending two nights in the hospital because I passed out the first night attempting to walk to the bathroom (I did have help, and I’m pretty sure I scared that poor CNA half to death when I collapsed in her arms).

Once I got home, I spent the next several weeks camped out on our couch, which mercifully has an electric recliner option. As the days wore on, my pain decreased and I got stronger and brave enough to empty my drains myself (blech) and actually look under all the bandages to see the wreckage. Turned out, it wasn’t all that bad.

The best thing of all, though, was getting that call from my surgeon that my pathology report came back clear. No cancer. It’s probably the best phone call I’ve ever received.

Looking back now, it’s kind of hard to believe a year has passed since I finished active treatment (I consider surgery the last step in my treatment). I feel good, I look pretty normal and I’m enjoying life.

Is everything perfect? Of course not. I still have my struggles. But I’ve come a long way, and I’m proud of surviving all this and coming out on the other side. And I’m grateful that I was lucky enough to have such a good outcome.

I never know who exactly is reading these posts, but if you’re someone facing a mastectomy, know that it gets better. Yes, it’s scary and painful and not something you ever thought you’d have to endure. But you can do it. You can get through it, and there is life on the other side.

 

Advertisements

Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving. I love this day for so many reasons. It’s a time to be with loved ones without all the pressure of gifts and such. It’s a time to eat lots of delicious food. And it’s a time to look at your life and count your blessings.

I’m feeling especially grateful this year. A serious health crisis really puts things into perspective, and this last year I’ve learned to appreciate what really matters–good health, the love of family and friends, a place to call home, a job that allows you to pursue your passion.

This time last year, I was in a very different place. I was facing terrifying surgery, and I was trying to find my footing after chemotherapy. I didn’t know what the future held, but I was very afraid it wouldn’t be good.

This is me today. I’m healthy. My hair is growing like crazy. My chemo port is gone–only that scar below my collar bone remains. I’ve lost body parts and gained a bunch of scars. But I’m here. And I’m well.

And most importantly, I’m grateful. To God, who most assuredly saw me through this. To my family, who stayed at my side, picked up the pieces and held me up when I started to fall. To my friends, who love and support me like family. To my doctors, nurses and modern medicine, for saving my life. To complete strangers who’ve touched my life in ways I never expected.

Instead of feeling fear and dread, I’m filled with hope and joy this holiday season. I still don’t know what the future holds, but for now it seems bright, and I am thankful.

The Green-Eyed Monster

hqdefault

Jealousy is a peculiar emotion. It strikes at the most inopportune times, and often, it makes you feel like a total jerk, or at the very least, kind of pathetic.

As a kid, I was jealous of children with better toys, nicer houses and less embarrassing parents. Through my teen years, my envy centered on girls I deemed thinner or prettier than me, and those who somehow managed to land boyfriends. Often, those girls were my own friends, and it left me with a weird hollowness in my gut to constantly compare myself to them.

We all feel jealousy–it’s one of those utterly human experiences. And with social media allowing everyone to project their best possible selves/lives to the masses, it’s even easier to fall into the trap of envy.

Since my cancer diagnosis, I’ve found myself envious of people for weird things. Once in a restaurant, a very elderly man sitting near me exclaimed, “it’s terrible getting old!” as his family literally placed him into his seat. Instead of seeing his struggle, all I could think was, “but how lucky you are to have lived this long!”

The other week, my boss non-chalantly told me about some back pain she’d been having. She was going to do some yoga stretches to work it out. There was no cloud of fear on her face, no panic in her eyes. Oh, I thought, what I wouldn’t give to brush off an ache in such a carefree way.

I’ve been having recurring back pain for several months now. I put off getting it checked out because it’s pretty mild, and honestly, I had to mentally prepare myself in case it led to bad news. I finally made an appointment to see someone last week.

I ended up seeing the same PA I visited several times last fall with my Taxol fever/headache. Though kind, she also seemed ever-so-slightly exasperated (I imagine her days are filled with paranoid people afraid their cancer has returned/spread) because my pain is so mild. But thankfully, she decided to send me for x-rays just to be sure everything was OK (at least, cancer-wise).

So, I scurried over to radiology, donned a hospital gown and climbed onto the table. X-rays are so different nowadays. I remember huge, clanking machines and heavy lead aprons, but there’s little pomp to the procedure now–just hold still for a few seconds, and poof! You’re done.

Of course, the hell is in the waiting, so I spent the rest of the day nervously checking my phone every five seconds to make sure I hadn’t missed the results call. Finally near the end of the day, I got the call–everything looked good. No sign of tumors or fractures. Giant sigh of relief. Sure, it could be arthritis or whatever, but that I can deal with.

It’s at this point that I feel like an even bigger jerk. Sure, I’ve been dealt a shitty hand. But I’ve somehow managed to make the cards work for me. There are so many people who aren’t that lucky, whose scans aren’t so positive, whose bodies continue to turn against them.

I know that I should be thankful (and I am). I know I should just chill the fuck out (I’m trying). I also know that I should stop being jealous.

Everyone has their own struggles, their own crosses to bear. Just as I look perfectly normal and fine now to the casual observer, I’m covered with scars–both physical and emotional–that few see. The same goes for everyone else. Very few people live truly charmed lives free of worry and pain, so the next time I’m envying that seemingly carefree person, I need to remember things might not be so rosy below the surface. Just as jealousy is an all-too-common human affliction, so is pain.