During this last couple of years, through the ups and downs of all the mammograms, biopsies and Doc visits; I really haven't had much to say.
When I had surgery and the relief of no cancer cells present in the tumors along with recovery - I haven't had much to say either.
The thought that someone is interested in what your mind is going through just doesn't comprehend in your already racing brain, while you are trying to wrap your own thoughts around what is going on and make sense of what your emotions and body are going through.
I don't have a 'cancer warrior' story to tell. In fact my story is pretty boring, a lot of long hours spent in waiting rooms and Doc offices along with under this machine or that being squeezed poked and prodded. I got rid of mine BEFORE they could give me cancer. With growing tumors I could have taken the 'wait and see' route and waited until he cancer cells were present to take action but to me with the growth and my own pain I decided that wasn't an option so I got rid of them (with my female doctors blessing but the male thought I could wait and see a bit longer; although the oncologist -male- advised to getting rid of them too).
They prepare you for the actual surgery, a little.
They warn you that every woman reacts differently and you don't know exactly how you will feel until afterwards, and sometimes even months or years afterward. Recovery will be slow and the process will at times be frustrating, you may or may not have nipples depending on the incision placement and where the tumors are attached, you could lose all feeling and sensation, you may lose your nipples even if they save them to begin with because the blood flow didn't return normally and this could happen up to 5 years afterward, you may of may not have phantom pains, you may or may not have discoloration, you will have 'some' bruising.... and on and on- blah blah.
They do not tell you that the pain is intense! They do not tell you that to move, even just a little, can and will send muscle spasms shooting across your chest, stretching pulling and sometimes feeling like your ripping apart at the carefully constructed seams that now are present. Yes, this goes away- at least the severity of it- but I have not seen the actual end of it and I am 9 weeks post op as of yesterday. They tell you bruising will happen and you will have discoloration but they do not tell you until your follow up check that for the next 5 months bruising will happen ALL the time and as the internal bruising comes to the surface it can be very violent hues of color. They also do not tell you until your 6 week check up that you will have swelling on and off for the next 5 to 9 months.
I got a comment the other day, ' you have cleavage, I saw it on your photo'.
Yes, I have cleavage- some days I have a lot of cleavage and others not so much. You see when they warn you about the swelling they don't tell you that it comes out of no where for no reason. You have no idea why you woke up a size C+ today but there they are! Sore, swollen and red angry looking. You struggle to find something comfortable to wear as not to put to much pressure on your chest, you can't wear an actual bra because all your incisions happen to be exactly where the band lies and to put anything rigid or tight, like elastic, there can send you into a crying fit because of the pain. So you find a little camisole and hope no one notices your not wearing anything close to what a grown woman should wear in public to be modest. You get through the day and go to bed trying to find a comfortable position to lie in because your sides hurt at the incision ends and the top pulls down and feels like your tearing the tennis balls off your chest. Laying on your stomach is out of the question for obvious reasons, so you settle for laying on your back propped with pillows to see if you can get some relief. It works for awhile, but I haven't had a full nights sleep in months... probably if I was honest years.
And do not get cold! Everything puckers and pulls until you feel like your shriveling up into a painful little wrinkled ball, but your chest is the same because those swollen tennis balls do not have much actual reaction it is mostly internal and just feels like your going through an internal battle with no outward signs (which you are).
You wake the next morning realizing your going to need to find something to wear again today.... you go for loose and put it on and it hangs. OH- yep today you are about a A+. All that swelling is magically gone. Have no idea where it went... maybe all those trips to the bathroom last night flushed it all down the toilet. Who actually knows ,not me and not the Doc. Believe me I asked!
I got the answer, 'every woman is unique and reacts differently'.
So the hunt once again begins to find something to fit, but this one is easy enough because sport bras/ half cami junior tops that young teen girls wear are perfect and help you feel like your kinda wearing a bra.
Although shopping for those things in the teen department for a forty something woman is a bit odd... there are some funky colors out there ya all, and to find just black or white without pattern- yeah not easy to do!
As your body does this roller-coaster thing over and over again your mind also has a litany...
The emotional change is just as all consuming.
I am fortunate to have a husband the loves me and will ride the coaster with me and he is and has always been primarily a leg man lol. Or like he says, he is a heart man and he loves mine no matter what it is cased in. But it can get scary, your insecurities and unsure because the gal in the mirror is no longer the reflection you have seen there for years. sometimes I think though its more my inside changes and emotional changes then the actual outside.
The struggle to heal and to go through the pain and ups and downs while staying positive isn't always easy. You wonder if it will ever end and you can just say I feel 100%. You wonder if you will ever truly feel whole again. But my biggest wonder when I swell or change is - Is that a tumor coming back? - for me the next year will be a constant wonder, maybe the rest of my life. I think I will never lose the hyper vigilance and being very aware of my body and how it feels. I am not scared - I know my faith has kept that fear from me- God has already seen the end and he knows if somewhere down the line cancer or another surgery is in my future and I am ok with that whatever comes. It is more the .... hmmm I guess maybe the best word for it is AWARENESS. I think this whole journey has changed me because I am more aware of me.
To sit down and communicate that to family and friends is almost impossible. I am not sure anyone, unless you have been on a similar journey and experienced the ups and downs and the crazy wacky changes inside, could ever understand. And even then every journey when your talking feelings and emotions is different because WE are all different. No two alike.
There are days, like today, that I am not sure how to be normal anymore. My life is forever changed, I am forever changed. I am still changing everyday even through this process of healing.... Yeah the physical is tough and frustrating but the emotional is complicated. There are days when I wish I could just call someone to come over for coffee and we could sit and talk boobs, scars, and emotions along with symptoms for as long as we needed to to get through this.
But alas, there are very few that care to talk for very long on the subject. Usually just until their curiosity is quenched. And for those of us that work through things and process and deal with them through talking them out or writing, unfortunately there isn't a lot of support out there.
Don't get me wrong friends and family have been great in their support but it only goes so far and they can only understand or empathize to a point.
I am not ashamed of my scars or my journey, but I am not going to wear it as a badge of courage either. I don't feel its that remarkable to anyone but me.
Its the life I have been given and the life I am living. What is really comes down to is taking away from it all what I need to learn and how to process it to make me a better person.... now that - thats the trick.