From every wound there is a scar, and every scar tells a story that says "I SURVIVED"!
Recovery from this whole crazy journey took much longer than anyone ever anticipated. 2013 include about 10 surgeries, 3 five day all-inclusive hospital stays from infections, a bunch of funny stories, and a lot of tears...all before the middle of October. I learned to give myself daily IV and had home health care on Mondays for a two months, tried an expander for a few months with really slow fills, had an open wound for about 4 months, and then finally got a little bit of a break from it all. My body had gone through too much and Dr. V and I decided that it needed a rest. To be honest, it was nice to not be at the hospital weekly, but it also meant that I had to deal with my body being "on hold", which in so many ways meant that putting cancer behind me was on hold. Plus, all the doctors, fellows, residents, nurses, receptionists...missed me so much! Fingers crossed that I won't lose my "frequent flier" miles at Loyola. I'm hoping to get my own parking spot!
The crazy part is that my cancer treatment from 2000 has caused all the issues since my original big surgery. That's right, I may be cancer free, but I can't get free of the impact that it has on me. I'm in a good place emotionally, but physically things were a little tough. I missed working out. I missed looking "normal" in clothes. Granted, most people would never know. I miss having thick hair and I am stuck with short thin hair...would it be too much to ask for a ponytail? I miss eyebrows. Yes, eyebrows...how have those not grown back and it has been two years since I ended chemo. My list of things that I miss could go on, but the wonderful things that I have gained will not be overshadowed. More than anything, I know that there are very few things in life that I would not be able to handle. Nothing shocks me. I am well educated on the disease, how to help others, what to speak with a doctor about, what meds to take, etc. MOST importantly not a day has gone by that I was alone in my journey. Family, best friends that are like sisters, friends near and far, and even strangers have cheered me on and kept me in their daily thoughts and prayers. I appreciate every day...EVERY DAY. They aren't all great days, but they are all days to treasure in some way. I stop to smell the roses, take too pictures, go to kids games, spend time with friends, etc. There are also times that I feel guilty for still being here...survivor's guilt. So hard to explain, but a deep emotion that can easily take over and bring tears. Also an emotion that shows me that I can't take life for granted because so many did get to this point. I lost three dear friends in 2013. Three women that taught me so much and were taken from family and friends too soon(60, 39, 43). Mary, Stacey, and Barb - I try to live each day to the fullest in your honor...you are so close to my thoughts. I also have several friends that are dealing with mets from cancer and they are all under 45 years old, have young children, husbands, families. It scares me so much and is a reminder that the disease can come back and take over, so I must stay on top of my appointments, medicine, and overall health. It isn't a guarantee, but it is the best that I can do. Trust me, there are days that I'm convinced that "it" is back. I look forward to those days being few and far between.
My last big surgery was in June 2014 (really, who needs a back muscle if they have two breast?), I changed jobs in August, and I finally feel like things are getting back to my new normal. I'd love to drop the weight that the meds have caused me to gain. My friends remind me that I need to stop being so hard on myself and be happy to be alive (fluffy and all). The gym and 6 days a week of working out seem like 100 years ago. I finally have the "all clear" to work out, but I don't have the capacity that I once did or the range of motion. Without a latissimus muscle on my right side I deal with some pain most days, but have learned how to manage it. I simply can't wait to start boxing regularly, but I am certain that I will NEVER be able to do burpees again. Darn! ;)
I even started dating again. I swear dating is more painful than chemo some days, but I can't keep all this awesomeness to myself. Don't worry, I typically go on one or two dates and then blow him off because I have no idea how to explain what I've been through. It's pretty hard to bring up over a bottle of red. "Pour me another glass and oh, by the way, I've had breast cancer, twice. But don't worry, I'll be perky forever." Probably most days I worry that I am damaged goods that most men will reject once they know what I've gone through. So, I do my best to avoid the rejection. Sad for them to never get the chance to see the person that I have become, to experience the friend that I am, the cheerleader that lives inside me, the humor that I bring to strange situations, the strength and endurance I possess, and so much more. Someone will see past the scars and find the huge smile on my face...he will be a lucky man. At least that's what friends tell me. To be honest, I cannot allow anything less to join my WE. Thankfully I will always have my Divas to be my true loves. Their kids just better be ready to sneak vodka into our nursing home rooms.
2015 will bring a couple of little surgeries to" nip and tuck" goofy spots and maybe a tattoo artist to add a couple of personal touches. Dr. V claims it is all the fault of my body, but I remind him that it didn't look this way before he got a hold of me. Thankfully he and I have been through hell and back together and we are able to laugh on the other side. My doctors have become partners and friends during our time together. I trusted them with my life, I made educated decisions with them, they trusted my needs, and we are all here to talk about it today. ALWAYS be your own advocate with your health.
Within the next couple of years I will have another big decision to make...okay, not really a decision because I know what needs to be done, but I just need to be prepared to do it...I carry the BRCA gene and because of that I will have to be proactive in health options. I will put that off until this part of the journey is behind me.
WOW...Writing this feels so good. Of course, I don't go back and proof what I write, so you are stuck with my poor spelling, bad grammar, etc...I think faster that I type, so these are usually a mess to read. (Let's face it, I went to an all girls high school and never had the opportunity to take typing. Grrr.) Putting my feelings and thoughts to paper or social media have been a huge part of the process for me and definitely kept me sane over the years, I so wish I would have stuck with the blog when things simply got too tough, but I will never regret sharing my journey via here or Facebook. The sharing changed live, helped so many, and gave an of too honest view of cancer from my perspective.
If you're reading this please know that I am in a GREAT place in my life. WE got this! I didn't get to 43 on my own and I know that I have so many by my side moving forward. More importantly, know that YOU are stronger than you can ever imagine! The storms in life make us who we are...the good, the bad, and the oh so WONDERFUL!! Much love!