A simple polite question, right. These days nobody has enough time to really sit and listen to how I am doing so I keep it short and smirk, “I’m doing, I’m alive or I’m grateful. The look I get from others for replying with “grateful” is always interesting.
No, but really. It is all I can really muster the strength right now to say if you ask me this most meaningfulness question. Nobody prepares you for cancer and nobody sure as hell prepares you for life after cancer.
Rewind to January 3, 2019 where I underwent another emergency surgery as my implant from reconstruction surgery was not cooperating and did not want to stay in. Immediately following that surgery, my instructions were very specific. DO NOT MOVE until this incision heals and closes fully.
With the pain and trauma of all that I have been through, I took these instructions very seriously. I laid in bed for over 24 days without a shower, drains to avoid complications, no water to the wound or movement until I heard the words from my doctor “your incision is closed.” I prayed a lot during this time. It took a lot of strength and prayers to G_d to please heal me and not put me on the OR again. If the implant exchange surgery did not heal, I would have needed to look at surgeries that are more complicated or think of an alternative aesthetic plan. I never prayed and talked to G_d as much as I did in those days that my incision would heal properly this time.
So, how am I doing you ask?
It has been almost four months now since my incision is “closed.” My daughter recently looked at me a few weeks ago while I was getting dressed and asked me, “Why does one of your boobies always look dirty?
From the mouth of my four year old! Yes, my love. I want to describe this skin in a more descriptive way than dirty, but for now let us just call it the very very dirty foobie for now.
With lots of physical therapy, I have gained more motion of my left arm. I have also been able to shop at a local mastectomy store for some supportive “bras” for my foobies. I do not necessarily need to wear them, but they help me feel a bit more normal in this new life. They help even out my foob situation and makes me feel a little less self-conscious while out in the world. Every time I catch someone giving my chest, area a quick stare if brings on a hot flash and I remind myself to quickly take a deep breath. Really, what are you looking for? To see a cleavage mark? A scar? What size I am? Did I go flat? Is cancer popping through my shirt?
Oh, right … how am I doing?
I wake up being so grateful that I am alive to still tell my story, but after the year I’ve been through I am slowly understanding the trauma and collateral damage of breast cancer.
- My left side is constantly in pain because of my lymph node removal.
- I have an alarm that is set for 8pm every night to take my chemotherapy pill.
- I have been put in menopause at 35 years old.
- I am not as fast as I used to be.
- Tired has been taken to an entire new level.
- Hot flashes can be intense.
- Hair is growing back.
- Joint pain is real.
Battle wound scars are present, but starting to heal. I stare quickly in the mirror, my eyelids and head shift down most times, but I embrace my body and thank my body daily for what it has done for me. I am learning to honor each and every scar.
Nevertheless, back to how I am doing.
I count my blessings every single morning that I am able to take care of my beautiful girls. I count my blessings of having the most amazing husband in the entire world. Re read this sentence again. The most amazing husband in the world. I count my blessings for my beautiful cozy home that I love so much. I count my blessings for all the love in it, more than any material in it. I count my blessings for my community, family and friends that have supported me while I went through some pretty dark days.
I count my blessings that go along with some darkness that I continue to deal with. I am thriving and understand that some of my family and friends are fighting cancer at the current moment. Being an advocate is a piece of whom I have grown into, but it comes with a heavy heart with my empathetic soul. I pray so deeply for these beautiful people all of the time. I speak to newly diagnosed women a few times a week. Some are strangers, friends or friends and some found me online. I wish I could make it go away. I cry. I pray. I wish whole heartily that one day I can tell my daughters there is a cure for cancer.
I am doing the best I can to accept and navigate through a new life I was given, however, I know so many that have just began this journey or this journey will continue with them the remainder of their life. It is a much harder pill to swallow than the chemotherapy pill I swallow nightly.
Yes, I still talk about my journey with breast cancer, because this is my life right now and writing has become my therapy. It has connected me with more people I have ever imaged it too. It has opened my soul up to so many and I am thankful for getting to know so many on a deeper level in life because of it.
Like you all, I am living in the present moment. I am moving forward, but this is not learned in a day. Like the old saying goes…. Time heals all.
The reason I decided to share my story is to connect with you. As a survivor, I am learning to embrace my new life beyond this diagnosis. I share with you to educate yourself, get yourself checked. This week alone I have learned from doctors that if someone in your family has had cancer you should be screened 10-15 years prior to their age of diagnosis. Have you been checked? Cancer does now discriminate and I hope that no one I love will never have to answer the question of How are you doing…. as a survivor.
So, this is my way of saying goodbye to the shallow, “how are you doing.” and would ask that you join me is transforming this question to a more meaningful conversation.
So let me ask you….