Dressed up for dinner.
Mike and I went to the Young Survivors Celebration of Life Dinner Saturday night. I did make it about 2 hours at the dinner before I had to go home because I was so exhausted (I got a full night sleep, I fell asleep at 9:00 PM!). Mike was given a nice nametag that said “Proud Supporter of Mandi Hudson” which did bring a few tears to my eyes (the photo came out blurry, so you will just have to imagine that it was cute).
They had done a beautiful job of decorating the room, dinner was excellent, and the company was nice. I have been feeling like a bit more of a shut-in that I would like to, but it is the balance of trying to not be too active and wear myself out vs. doing nothing at all!
I am proud to say that I was able to pretty much put in a full day at work today, I may not have been 100%, but I was certainly present and attentive (as present and attentive as I can be for being me). All of the sudden 2-3 long Doctor’s appointments a week have now transitioned over to 1 appointment every two weeks. Wow! I don’t know what to do with myself with all of the spare time.
The Celebration of Life Dinner decor.
I must say it is a lot less exhausting knowing for the most part what comes next (of course there will be a few surprises along the way, hair loss, how well I handle chemo further in, radiation etc.) but the nagging fears have cut back a bit. Now it is a matter of what medication in that cocktail made me feel like XX and do I want to keep taking it or suffer the consequences of not taking it. Also wanting to know when will I heal up enough to be able to get expanded (the sore is healing well, just ready for it to be healed healed!).
So far the nurses didn’t lie to me, I haven’t thrown up! I have had a couple of bouts of very minor nausea which I was able to remedy with some Zofran or with something in my belly. I have found jello, Special K protein drinks, purple Gatorade and lots of water are my friends. I am now off the handful of pills every morning and evening. I was told that the first 3-4 days are the worst of it, so if I am only going to feel better than I have over the next few days I won’t complain! I had a Nuelasta shot Saturday, which seemed to really get my legs antsy Sunday and Monday, but I think my immune system is doing pretty well from the shot (I hope). I am constantly washing my hands and covering myself with the germ killing alcohol stuff.
The next big day is the 11th, wish me luck! *hugs and kisses*
Pink ribbons are on everything!
Just being somewhat silly today while I rest for a moment. I am feeling pretty good so far on day 2 after my first chemo treatment. I had my first Neulasta shot this morning to boost up my immune system. The anti nausea medications seem to be doing their job fairly well! I am finding that regular small snacks are helping keep my tummy settled a bit (which may mean I am going to be a breast cancer “weight gainer” rather than “weight loser” – but one of my medications increases appetite). Some smells get to me, but I don’t have the metal mouth tastebuds yet (maybe somehow I magically never will!).
This morning I was thinking through little things I have noticed going through breast cancer so far and thought I would share:
- Even if you don’t like the color pink, you discover yourself owning many more pink items than you ever thought you would.
- Your breasts are a topic of everyday conversation.
- You think a hospital gown is always supposed to open in the front.
- You lose all fear of 50 random strangers carefully looking and and poking at your breasts.
- Your husband doesn’t feel the need to injure the 50 random strangers looking at and poking at your breasts.
- You know what Her2Neu is, and hormones bring on a whole new meaning.
- You know what a cranial prosthesis is, and may even own one or two.
- You may know at least 3 techniques for managing to get dressed, showered and deal with surgical drains.
- You may learn that chemo isn’t the bad guy, the cancer is.
- You have learned a whole new meaning to the kindness of family, friends and strangers (this one isn’t silly, but something you learn at a whole new level).
Rocking it in my pink leopard print chemo blanket.
I met with the plastic surgeon this morning and he looked at my sore and started to suggest I wait another week for chemo. Another week!?! I haven’t been oozing out of the incision, it just isn’t completely healed over. I gave him my sad Mandi face (eyes open real big, sad mouth) and he asked “do you really want to start chemo for your breast cancer today?” I looked at him and said “yes please.” He sort of rolled his eyes mildly and said that if my oncologist said I could start, then he guesses I can but that I need to be very careful with the incision to make sure that it heals and he listed off all of the bad possibilities of what could happen if the incision doesn’t heal soon which we will pretend like we never heard them (chemotherapy is known to slow healing).
I had breakfast with mom and Steve as there was a delay between appointments. They took my bloodwork and the oncologist team was super busy this morning so there was a bit of a wait to see them. They ooo’d and aaah’d at my surgery and looked at the small wound that has been giving me trouble. They felt like I could go ahead and start chemo, so the final decision was made. After that it was a whirlwind of preparation – paperwork, prescriptions, medication instructions (they wrote them down twice for me, sounds like they may already be worrying about my memory going down hill – which is called “chemo brain.”) Which is good because chemo brain or not I already forgot which to take when.
My lucky pearls from my mom.
My mom brought in a beautiful pearl necklace that she owned and gave it to me as my “lucky charm” to wear to every chemo appointment for luck. She wore them during my surgery. They are very beautiful! What a sweet gift that I will treasure always.
After that they escorted me to a completely new part of the hospital that I had never seen (I kept wondering where they hid the infusion rooms). Once I got down there they put in my order for chemo (they have some sophisticated process of determining how much of what based on my height, weight and other factors). You then have to wait for the pharmacy to prepare your personal chemo care package. Before each drug is administered they have you verify your name on the bag (I can only imagine what it would be like if someone got the wrong drug…).
The first two IV drips that they put in were anti nausea medications.I asked the nurse if I could just come in every two weeks and get the anti nausea medications and skip the chemo and get better. They seemed to think that was a hoot. I was being goofy and trying to make the nurses laugh throughout the ordeal (it seems that the nurses in the infusion clinic have a sense of humor at least which is a big WIN, most of the staff at Huntsman Cancer Institute don’t seem to find me as funny as I sometimes think I am).
Receiving the adriamycin with a super nice nurse Karen.
The first real chemo I got what the Adriamycin – which is bright red like they promised. If you notice the nurse is covered from head to toe in protective plastic while she administers the medication (they hand feed it so that they are very careful). Even a drop of it on your skin could be bad news. Once she was done I mentioned that I had an itch in the back of my throat, which worried her because I guess that is a possible sign of an allergic reaction (I do have a cold though). She called my doctor who had her give me a Benadryl and she was keeping a close eye on me. After a resting period to make sure I wasn’t having a reaction she went ahead and administered the Cytoxin, which is just a regular IV drip.
I finally got out around 3:30ish, which is a long day since we got to the U of U hospital shortly after 7:00 AM. I am a bit tired (probably from the Benadryl) and I physically feel like your body feels right before you get sick (kind of fuzzy and heavy). Mike stocked the house with gatorade, so I am drinking that to get my fluids going as I need to drink a lot these first few days.
The adriamycin being administered.
My next chemo appointment is on the 11th at 9:00 AM! 1 down 7 to go!
Thank you everyone for your love and support. *Mwuah!*
It is strange to me that they say that they have removed the breast cancer from my body during surgery – but I look at about 6 years worth of cancer treatment ahead of me (chemo, radiation, reconstruction and Tamoxifen) that I don’t feel like the cancer is gone (at this point it is a total gamble, it could be gone completely, or it could be hiding somewhere). These leaves me a bit bewildered as I have the first step down, but many more steps ahead of me.
It feels like I am standing at the entrance of a very long and windy dark tunnel. I am standing there on my tip-toes holding the side of the entrance looking in. I can see ahead to the next curve, but beyond that I just know that I can expect some dark and some tunnel, but I haven’t a clue what dangers or trials lie at every turn. I do know that at the end of the tunnel is a sunny valley filled with hope and the future and that my only way to get there is to enter the tunnel.
I really want to go into the tunnel, but I am scared. I know that there will be trials, I know that my life won’t be the same once I go in, but I know that I can’t turn around and walk away at this point. I know that the first corner that I can almost see has Adriamycin also known as the “red devil” he earned his name because of dangerous side effects if not administered properly and his deep red color, but he also earns me the right to regular check ups of my heart function.
Standing next to the red devil is Cytoxan. Cytoxan laughs and points at my hair (what is left of it) and makes a swiping motion to show me that with his friend Ariamycin, they will be taking that away from me. Cytoxan then points at my womb and pulls out a coin, while it is flipping in the air he begs for me to call it heads or tails. I refuse and watch the coin drop to the ground and roll away not knowing which side came up.
I look down at the ground, and look back ahead in the eyes of my foe. I pull out my cape and superpowers I earned in my previous battle and start walking into the tunnel. This may seem dark, but I am now facing the demons of what stands in front of my way to the healthy happy Mandi that I promised myself. I am scared, I should be scared, most human beings mentally preparing to intentionally place large amounts of poison in their body might be a little scared. Am I giving up? No. I am going to do this and I am going to hold my head up as high as I can keep it, and find the entertaining and funny in what decides to be entertaining and funny.
They have a lot of good medications these days to help counteract the side effects that come with chemo, and receiving chemo is nothing like it was many years ago. Unlike many people receiving chemo for breast cancer I opted to try not to get a port. This is a gamble that I may lose and be forced to insert a chemo port if my veins decide to no longer participate in the chemo receiving process. I am trying to avoid too many scars and daily reminders when this is all over. I will have enough, I would rather not have more scars than are absolutely necessary. We will see how this goes. The first four infusions are the most dangerous to my veins (thanks to that red guy).
I find out Friday morning if I will have the go ahead to start chemo, I am ready. Hopefully they serve lemonade along the way.
My "Cancer Sucks" shirt from Brady.
I met with the plastic surgeon this morning and he looked at everything. He didn’t want to aspirate or put in a drain in my left breast to get the extra liquid out. There just wasn’t enough of an issue to take the chance of using a needle and possibly poking my expander in error or introducing an infection are just not worth it (uncomfortable Mandi or creating the possibility of having to have another surgery, the surgeon voted for me to be uncomfortable, go figure ). They gave me some additional pain medicine and IB Profin to try to keep me comfortable while I continue to try to get my body to absorb everything (which means no more driving again and more naps and rest time). Expansion may help to push the fluid out if we do that next week.
The right side’s issue with the incision opening up a bit was a greater cause for concern to the doctor. He prescribed me some Silvadene cream to put on the sore and I have to try to help it heal up. The small issue is that the Silvadene has an antibiotic in it that I am allergic too, but it is so effective they want me to still try to use it and hope that I don’t have an allergic reaction. It is a cream they use on burns to help heal them and keep them from getting infected. The sore meant that that I was not able to have my first expansion today.
I have a feeling this will stack get larger after I start chemo.
I have to go in to see the plastic surgeon next Friday (the 25th) for him to determine whether or not I can go ahead and start chemo that day. So I just won’t know until the last minute whether or not I will have the ok to start chemo for my breast cancer (I will probably have an idea based on how the sore has healed up by then). So there is still a chance it could get delayed for a week. Meeting with the surgeon was good because he did make me feel like I wasn’t completely falling apart, that I was just needing to rest up a bit better than I wanted to (this is probably a lesson I will get to learn a few times in the coming year as I always want to “go go go” even when I shouldn’t).
Feeling crummier this week cause me to go ahead and take some of Thursday and today off to just sit still and heal up (now I know for my reconstruction surgery at the end of this year, that even if I feel like I can do a lot of things, I probably shouldn’t). With a long weekend and forcing myself to be less mobile I hope to get everything back in order for next Friday. Overall I am not really in pain or suffering immensely, I am just uncomfortable, and get much more uncomfortable if I push myself too hard (which I was really starting to do this last week with work in the office, cooking and trying to take care of the house to give Mike a bit of a break (even though he didn’t ask for it)).
A pair of lemons for lemonade.
Some of the awesome ladies at work are going to put together a Race for the Cure team with a lemon/lemonade theme going on (rumor has it, one of them may even go for running in a lemon suit). I thought maybe it would be fun if I (or if a super awesome graphic designer I know) spent time trying to make a cute Darn Good Lemonade logo. The race is in May, I may not be able to run it or walk it with them, but I will definitely come with some pom poms and lemonade to cheer them on! I bought the stock photo that I have wanted for a bit in case they wanted it for the team attire.
Not this kind of juicy…
Literally… My body is one of the special ones that just doesn’t know when to quit. My drain output was just low enough for a few days to get them out (there is a fine balance in leaving them in too long and risking infection and taking them out too soon and being juicy). I have a “seroma” which is a ball of fluid in my left breast. This is common, but mine went from a little build up to ridiculously uncomfortable and has pretty much cut down my activity levels this week (and made me pretty bummed, which makes my husband bummed, so this makes a lot of bums at my house). Each time I get up or move I can feel this big ball of fluid swing around inside of me when I have it bandaged (which is a really disturbing feeling). If I don’t have it bandaged it gets really uncomfortable and swollen around the surgery sites.
My right side has continued to leak out of the main surgical incision, today it has been going on long after my shower (usually it was just a little bit when wet). Mike has me on lockdown for the next few days. I have to sit on my butt and heal, which means I will probably get a few books done on the Kindle. Being active makes you juicier, and could be causing the problems with my incision.
The previous two weeks of miracle healing decided undo themselves, I am not sure if it is because I have been back in the office at my desk or if I am just a lucky soul that has a body that battles the healing process. My desk was causing me some issues due to the angle I needed to hold my arm at to type, so we did put in a new keyboard set up. We will see what things look like next week to determine whether or not I live the next bit as a virtual or physical employee (I am much more exciting in person I swear).
Tomorrow I go in to see the plastic surgeon (after 3 phone calls to the nurses to make sure I wasn’t going to completely explode), I am ready for the doctor to resolve this issue one way or another. The nurse told me is that one possibility is that drains go back in (because I have been so uncomfortable), which makes me very unexcited… he may just aspirate it with a needle. I am hoping he just glues back up the other side and calls it good.Whether or not I start chemo depends on how healed I am. If I have drains in or excess fluids chemo will be delayed (chemo tends to not help your body heal… just one of those things). I really want to get chemo going, because the sooner it starts, the sooner it stops.
My guess is that I will probably not have my first expansion tomorrow, but I guess it is all up to the doctor, I just like to speculate A LOT. I should have more details tomorrow, but at the moment there is just a lot of speculation going on. Would be way cooler if I at least tasted like oranges (lemon juice is a little too bitter).
Look at that spread! Dinner and a handsome man, Valentine's Day couldn't be better.
I got my final drain out Monday the 14th of February (a.k.a. Valentines Day). I was a bad breast cancer patient, I went in without an appointment or approval to come in. I really wanted to get the drain out. I had meetings pretty much every second of the day, so I figured I could possibly pull off getting the drain out if I went in early. No appointment meant a long wait (which was my own fault), and made me late for meetings, but getting that final drain out really seemed worth it (hopefully the nurses forgive me for making their busy day busier).
I wanted to be able to sit next to Mike without jumping every time he moved. Since the drains have been in we really haven’t sat super close to each other because accidentally snagging one of those suckers is not one of my favorite things in the world, and it is easier to have an 8 pound dog snag one on accident than your much heavier, but super skinny, husband.
I have had an interesting weekend with my left side where I felt like I was getting swollen every afternoon all weekend (and was a bit miserable). This was an incredibly uncomfortable sensation, but kept trying to convince myself that it was normal. I forgot to mention it when I was getting my drain out as everything was a bit rushed, but called in Monday afternoon because I couldn’t put my left arm down all of the way without bumping into swollen tissue, and it was pretty uncomfortable. I felt weird walking around with my arm sticking out funny.
When I spoke to the nurse I was told that it was normal, but not preferable. They could drain it with a needle but preferred to have it go away naturally. I still had plenty of antibiotics and had read to put pressure on it to see if my body would go ahead an absorb the excess fluid (so maybe I had the other drain out early or I had fluid hiding that it didn’t catch, I am not sure). I think I will maybe take my time on getting the annoying things out next time just in case (which seems slightly funny when you consider how much I was pushing to get that other drain out).
The drains were almost better than this swollen feeling (which is why I have decided women are given a compression bra rather than drains after a “by choice” breast augmentation). I am wrapped up in an ace bandage to put pressure on the area to try to get my body to absorb it (which is also much more comfortable strangely enough, it moved the excess fluid away from my incision). Looking at the hospital bills, I am going to have the Rolls Royce boob job when this is all over, considering the price different between what I am doing and a high priced boob job (I am guesstimating that it will run about $200k+ for just the operations, hospital stays etc. for the breast surgery and reconstruction).
One of my surgical incisions started to ooze after my shower today. It seems that the surgical glue must be gone in that area and that the wound hasn’t healed all of the way through (which could make expansion this week interesting). I called the nurses again (good thing they are such patient caring souls) and they let me know that this is something that can be normal. I think I am getting slightly paranoid about this part of the healing process. Last week I felt like a million bucks, this week I keep having little things creeping up on me and stressing me out! I have a week and a half to get as healed up as possible for chemo, so I think I keep hoping my body is completely healed so that I don’t have to worry about more problems when I am in chemo.
Steak and lobster before they met the lean mean Mike grilling machine.
Mike and I did the whole “eat out” thing for Valentine’s Day years ago and were really over the concept of going all out for Valentine’s before we got married. We have found that we can really have a pretty decent and pretty darn delicious meal by spending the evening cooking at home (which makes a fun date of its own). Harmon’s had a deal on “surf n’ turf” so I got two lobster tails and two good steaks for a deal and a squeal. I made some spinach and artichoke dip and steamed asparagus to go with it. We spent the evening cooking together and it was nice and relaxing. The holiday was a nice excuse to take some time and spend it together.
I have resolved to eat every single one of my favorite dishes this week before I go into chemo (it typically causes everything to start tasting like metal). Mike and I started that tradition with lobster for Valentine’s and will be moving on to cook all of the good stuff over the next week. We are also going to go to Franck’s (my favorite restaurant) and enjoy a nice dinner out the Wednesday before chemo.
Before the glass trim was grouted, but you get the idea.
Brady, Mike and my stepdad Steve have made amazing progress on the bathroom (mom is still not feeling well ). It is almost done! Almost…! There are some final touch ups (grout and seal in the shower, trim, touching up paint etc.), but we have had a working toilet and sink for several days now! I should have a bathtub for taking baths and relaxing before I am allowed to take baths! Yay! Not to mention my super cool remote controlled electric candles above the toilet.
Two weeks after surgery and I am "rockin it" and feeling awesome.
I am not the best patient at being patient I think. The entire “sit still and get better” worked for a few days. Mike has certainly cut back on my physical requirements around the house and has been so incredibly helpful (so cute that he gets me a mug down for my coffee and has the machine filled up for me and ready to go every morning when I wake up). I get cabin fever way too easily and have already been out shopping several times, visiting with friends, lunch out with family and just about anything I can come up with to get me out of the house (I even drove to work once, but I think it was just a teensy bit too early as it wore me out completely).
The nurse at the hospital has been calling me the energizer bunny because I can’t sit still (she called to give me the surgery results and I was out wig shopping with my mom, and it wasn’t even a week after surgery). Strangely enough I am not in any pain at all anymore, I may be slightly uncomfortable from the drains and the angles at which I am able to sleep (which is pretty much one position that I am comfortable in, which doesn’t stop me from trying to magically find a better position!). They did such a good job or I am a miracle healer, I am not sure which (I vote awesome surgery).
I get tired if I overdo it, but for the most part I feel pretty darn good after having had both of my breasts removed only two weeks ago. There are some new discoveries in the healing process (as I heal my pecs are tightening, so I feel like I am wearing a tight corset all of the time). The surgery looks really good, it is healing nicely, and I am still slightly amazed that they can do surgery like this. I really actually look like I have breasts with some incisions that need to heal still, but I have real life cleavage. I am going in for my first expansion on Friday the 18th, where they will add more saline and regularly grow out the breast expanders before the final breast reconstruction after radiation treatment. The nurse at the hospital mentioned that this surgical technique has been used in Japan for the past 30 years or so, and just took awhile (and is still taking awhile) to catch on completely in the US.
They took out 4 of the 5 drains. I have one rogue one needs to slow the flow. I was told that it has to be out before I start chemo (which makes sense of course, but I want to get chemo going so that can get chemo over with). So this drain better get its act in gear (plus I would like to enjoy some pre-chemo drain free time). I want to get cute and have one nice fancy dinner with my husband before dinner stops tasting quite as good.
I am working from home (which is a lot less glamorous when it isn’t as much of a choice). Everyone has been passing around different bugs at work, and a chest cold does not sound like a good time within a couple of weeks of surgery. Amber and Laura say they sanitized my office for me, so I am actually going to go in tomorrow and see if I can pull off a full day in the office. I will hopefully be back in the office for the next two weeks. I miss my awesome staff, bosses and work friends.
The toilet to be.
Our super awesome (I must like the word “awesome” today) friend Brady has been over caulking the floor and got the base of the toilet installed this week. The floor tile is sealed (still need to grout and seal the shower). The vanity and rest of the toilet should be ready to be installed today! The sanded caulk seems to take FOREVER to dry, otherwise it would be further along. We decided to get everything in the bathroom and finish the shower a little later with mom’s health being a bit worse lately (overdoing it working on my house, the stress from my situation, trying to work a normal job a little bit and taking me to the Huntsman regularly couldn’t have helped much ).
I had a Lymphedema rehabilitation appointment today where I learned how to help my body manage lymph fluid. I asked if only having 6 lymph nodes removed cut back on my lifetime risk of this, and I was told “no” – radiation seriously hurts the lymphatic system and I need to go ahead and do a basic daily lymph massage either way. The doctor ordered a sleeve for me to wear if I am flying and when doing rougher exercise to keep the lymphatic fluid from collecting in my left arm where they removed a few lymph nodes (still excited about my surgery results by the way!).
Just taking it one day at a time, and then the chemo adventure begins! At least I am armed with a nice bag of goodies in preparation of what is to come (and who can’t love a pink leopard print fuzzy blanket?). This is serious, I love my chemo care bag from The Christi Anderson Rack Pack Foundation.
My mom and I went ahead and did the “cranial prosthesis” shopping, aka wig shopping. The store we went to actually had a lot of very nice looking wigs – we discovered that the wigs tend to show off a full head of hair. I have always had pretty thin hair, so they looked a bit funny. We stopped shopping brunette pretty quickly (dark hair and skin that doesn’t tan = ghostly white, just doesn’t look great on me).
The "Sharon" wig (Ozzy Osborn's wife)
The cute little blonde curls were a little too much for me, so I had to bring out my wild side.
I need to dye my wiggy roots.
Hmmm, sweet, but maybe too innocent.
I could be on the Brady Bunch I promise.
Look at those banging bangs.
This wig practically makes me look like another person, wait it is another person, my mom decided to go blonde.
If only I really could grow hair this long and luxurious.
The one that I purchased was the one that made me feel like I looked the most like “me.” This sort of threw off the ladies that ran the store because my hair is so short and much darker right now.
The wig I bought, makes me look just a little more like "me"
We also learned why you need a prescription – a cheaper wig is about $100, a good wig is over $300.
Delicious strawberries sent to us today.
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.”
My hair done up for a friend's wedding.
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.