Dealing With Some of the Sad Things on a Good Day
A few people have worried that I am not going through the natural mourning process related to cancer and the surgery and treatments related to it. I just wanted to let you know that I have certainly spent my fair share of time mourning the loss of my health, my ability to keep my life and career at the same level in the coming months and of course the loss of my breasts.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer is not a joyous event, it comes with a lot of stress, a lot of fear and a good amount of emotional pain. The first month was so filled with waiting and wondering and deep fears of the unknown. Every doctor’s appointment was a huge drain based on the new information that we had to digest. We then had to try to communicate what was going on to other people while trying to internalize it at the same time is a challenge that you face when diagnosed with something like cancer. The blog has really helped as there are things we want to talk about, but repeating the details gets tiresome and we have lives to live! So I appreciate everyone using this as a resource for those details, even if I seem to blog too much (which it seems like it to me, but when I skip a day I hear about it 😉 ).
I am not sure what I would be doing without Mike. It is amazing to have the unconditional love from someone who you know still thinks you are pretty darn ok, even if you are crying your eyes out because you accidentally bumped into the wall when looking for a calendar and are a huge emotional wreck over little stupid things that shouldn’t make you so sad. He has been by my side through every tear and every fear. Something like this can certainly strain a relationship, and I feel that ours has strengthened, and I am lucky to have him.
My family, especially my mom, and friends have been integral in my emotional well being through this process. I would never have known where to start without my Aunt Lalove’s breast cancer experience, it is terrible that she has been through this, but I am very grateful that she was able to point me in the right direction for surgery and making progress. I have also built a deep appreciation for women like Candace and Michelle. Friends that I have made along the way who understand the specifics related to being a younger woman with breast cancer and can answer my silly emotional questions. Setting realistic expectations has certainly saved me some heartbreak that would have come further down the road.
My response to everything is that I just want to make progress – there is a light at the end of this tunnel, I can see it, and I want to get there. I have approached each unknown item expecting a bit of the worst of it, because I am then super happy when I find out that it may not have to be everything that I was expecting. It is unique to think you “just found” what you thought was new cancer and it turns out to have been there a very long time – we are still lucky that we did catch it when we did, because it was getting ready to move to more places.
I may joke and make light of some of the things I am going through, but I am actively working on being optimistic and enjoying the silly little things that this experience brings into my life. I understand the gravity of what I am going through, but sitting around dwelling on the worst of it won’t get me where I want to be 4 years from now (healthy and kicking butt in my career).
Some of the specifics that I know people in my situation go through and my personal reactions to them are:
Health – Sadly I don’t really care about being sick, I care about missing out on work and life. My response to this is that I will work as much as I can without hurting my health and will try to continue a normal life as much as I can. My life didn’t stop the day I found out I had cancer, I don’t intend to become a hermit. We have a boat, I fully expect to get some bald camping in and lazing in the sunshine and water this summer. I will have good days, and I will have bad days, but my world won’t go on pause for me to get better. This made me the saddest at first, but really having my treatment plan and expectations laid out – really helps me think through how I want to get through the coming months and make the most of them. I just needed a “plan.”
Hair – I don’t love my new haircut, I don’t want to lose my hair, but I understand that it comes with the territory. It makes me sad, but hair grows back, and I get to stock up on some cute hats in the process. I have found that my really short hair has made be feel a bit less feminine, but this just means I will probably find ways to counteract this with clothing and accessories to feel a bit more feminine again. I went wig shopping with my mom, which I will post about later on, and we found that what I wanted was a wig that made me feel like “me” rather than something radically different. There is enough “different” going on that a little normal is ok. It is the little unexpected things that creep up on you that end up hitting you the hardest out of the blue emotionally – I may find that hair is one of those. I just don’t know yet, but I do know that it does make me sad, and I think wigs are scratchy.
Breasts – I had a bilateral mastectomy for my breast cancer, which means I did remove pretty much all of the tissue inside of both of my breasts. What I did keep was the skin and my nipples, because the surgeons I chose do skin sparing mastectomies, and my cancer was far enough away from my skin that I could keep it. I walked out of surgery with breasts just a little bit smaller than I had when I went in (with expanders that will help grow them back out before my final reconstruction). Is it the same as what I had? Certainly not. I am giving up all sensation and my chest will forever be numb – to the point that I will never be able to use an ice pack on them or stand over a pot of boiling water (not that I stand with my breasts directly over boiling water regularly anyway).
Does this make me sad? Of course, wow, losing a major part of what women are raised to attribute to their sexual nature is scary, it is sad, and this is why I had so much stress over my breast reconstruction options. Is it the end of the world? No, I am so grateful that I walked out of surgery with physical breasts that actually look pretty ok (a recent phenomenon in the world of breast cancer that I am extremely grateful for), and I know my husband loves me either way. I have taken the time to mourn their loss, and I am sure I will again when the reconstruction occurs. If the choice is life or my boobs, the boobs can certainly take a hike.
Children – This is a touchy one, I know several people have wanted to ask, but were polite enough not to. The treatment I am receiving may or may not make me infertile. We could take the extra precautions necessary to save some eggs and go for it later, but this costs a lot of money for something that we weren’t really planning on in the first place (not to mention, I am not allowed to take any hormones…. ever). So I decided that this is something that we will leave to the cards, if we decide to try later on and it works than so be it. If we never decide to, that is ok also (our dogs keep us busy enough as it is). This is honestly not in my top 10 things to worry about, mainly because, it isn’t “for sure” on how my body will handle that part.
I didn’t write this post to try to make anyone sad, but I did want to give the information that yes: cancer is scary, I cry, it is emotionally draining and something you think about EVERY DAY, no matter how hard you try not to. It is an all consuming experience, but I choose not to make it become the defining concept of who I am, it is just a hurdle that I will have to jump over in the process of being who I want to be (and will hopefully only make me stronger).
Thank you so much everyone for your love, support, gifts, flowers, food, goodies and everything that you have done to cheer us up in this emotional and challenging time. Your efforts have not been overlooked for 5 minutes and every kind word and kind effort really does make an impact on us and our well being. Thank you, we love you..