I’ve been thinking about all that has happened since the cancer call on 9/14/15. So many pivotal things happened that have shaped my current path. In October 2015 thru February 2016, I really thought the chemo would kill me. The physical transformation was so jarring that I couldn’t bear looking in the mirror. I remember being so worried I would have to get more chemo or that it wasn’t working. I was a wreck by the time I saw my breast cancer surgeon to see how much it had shrunk and determine a surgery date. I was just so spent mentally, emotionally and physically.
I am extremely visual, so I can still see her walking in after the results of the ultrasound on 2/11/16. She actually didn’t walk in; she practically danced in with her hands in the air and huge smile on her face. Before she could even speak, I started crying. She told me that all that monster chemo worked and my tumor had shrunk significantly. She gave me such a warm hug and then asked if I wanted to see the ultrasounds. I started crying again when I saw how super huge it was in September of 2015 (bottom image) and the dramatic difference in size on that February day (top image). I would look at this constantly. It gave me the strength to make it through the final two treatments. It was finally time to schedule surgery.
The weight that lifted off my shoulders was so huge that I felt light headed for a bit. I wasn’t nervous about surgery at all. I was more freaking out about the blood transfusion my oncologist felt I needed because my red blood count was exceptionally low. They needed to get my body a little more prepped for major surgery. I can watch The Walking Dead but couldn’t handle seeing a blood bag. When I found out I had to get two bags of blood and saw how big they were…I first nearly vomited, and then I almost fainted. Oh my…
I never understood why people had to get to the hospital so early when their surgery wasn’t until hours later. Now I get it. I remember being so cold! I had my favorite chemo hat on while they wheeled me here and there to prep me for the surgery. Then my plastic surgeon came in to draw on my boobs. He has a very gentle personality. It didn’t register what he was doing at the time. I see now why he made sure I was not near a mirror. I think I would’ve died on the spot if I had seen all the markings he made. I still don’t know, but remember the pen was blue. I had mentioned I was cold again when the nurse was wheeling me into surgery. My breast cancer surgeon asked if I wanted to keep it on during surgery. Of course they covered it with a surgery cap, but I thought it was really nice they let me keep it on. All I remember is getting on the table and…that’s it.
I’m still horrified by the memory of waking up and seeing all that blood on the sheets. One of the tubes came loose and blood was everywhere. I can still hear myself screaming and the three nurses who came over to calm be down. They checked my back and there was no blood on the bra I was put in which I could not believe. Then I got super nauseous and they walked me to the bathroom. That’s when all the pain hit. It was intense. They gave me more pain meds in my IV. I was still in some serious pain an hour later and they wanted to admit me. I told them no and I could get it under control. I just made up mind to not let it overwhelm me. Plus, I wanted to be in my own bed and with my baby boy (cat) Natey.
I still think the pic of me the day after surgery is one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever taken. That’s the moment I started calling myself a warrior instead of survivor.
I still had not fully processed all that I had been through up to that point. I had 16.5 OZ of fluid they drained over the course of a month. None of my doctors could explain why I had so much fluid because a lumpectomy usually does not cause any built up fluid. It figures I would be that exception. I have only now just processed the scars that will never go away. Sure they will fade a bit, but I will always see them. I don’t feel attractive in that area. I never thought about how much my body would change.
Radiation was horrific as well. The burns I suffered…just horrible and painful. That one on my back really freaked me out because it was HUGE!!! The burned area of my neck still gives me issues. My underarm…dear God, it really took a beating. When the burns got so bad that I could see flesh, I had a breakdown right there in my radiation oncologist’s office. I still can’t believe I made it through all 33 treatments.
To this day, I don’t know how I worked the entire time except for the six weeks I took for surgery and afterward. I’ve always been told I am strong and resilient. I just did what I had to do. When both my therapist and psychiatrist told me how inspiring and courageous I have been…I could see they really meant it.
I have received continuous blessings throughout my active and post treatment. I’ve met so many truly beautiful, inspiring and hilarious women on this path. I’ve rekindled old friendships and sparked new ones. Then I found a church home at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, GA. I’ve struggled with my faith for a long time. I now see how God has been there throughout ALL the hard times in my life. He did not cause all the things I have been through, but put people on my path to help me through it. I never noticed those blessings until I got cancer. I have recognized every blessing throughout this nightmare.
I’m becoming the ME that I always knew I could be. I was off my path and under such a dark cloud of unhappiness, negativity and stress that I couldn’t see beyond my misery pre-cancer. Now, I feel some joy again.
I still have some ups and downs, but my essence remains joyful, goofy and zany. I have balance in my life now. It’s not just about work and coming home anymore. I have a life to lead, a voice to be heard and walking with purpose.
Until next time,