A Cancer Story: The 5-Year Mark

It was five years ago today that I had my breast cancer surgeries at Northside Hospital Women’s Center in Atlanta, GA. I have officially reached the five-year mark, which is apparently a big milestone. I’m flooded with memories on the days leading up to my surgery day.

I had a blood transfusion two weeks before to help boost my system for the surgeries. To this day, I am pleased as punch to know my blood type is B+ and not O. I thought it was hilarious and would yell out “I’m B+” in my cheerleader voice. In fact, I still do it. Maybe it was watching too much True Blood on repeat, but I felt special knowing my blood type wasn’t the common O. Of course, I nearly vomited when I got the blood transfusion – two bags of blood. Those suckers were huge! I had one bag of O and another bag of B+. It’s a strange and thick feeling having someone else’s blood infused into you. I had many thoughts whirling in my mind.

What somewhat brought me down from feeling like an actress on Grey’s Anatomy was thinking about whose blood I was getting? I hate to say that my first thought and fear was what if the donor was a racist? Then I paused again and thought what if the donor was a serial killer? After six hours of having two bags of blood slowly infused, I was shocked when I saw my reflection. Had I become Bella from Twilight? My face, neck, and chest were flushed red. What freaked me out for a minute was seeing my eyes red. I kept looking for Edward on my way home. My humor has always remained intact.

Now it was surgery day. It was outpatient with no overnight stay. I was only a little nervous because I had complete faith in my breast cancer surgeon and plastic surgeon. They worked exceptionally well together. I can honestly say I still have a total girl crush on them. My breast cancer surgeon has major personality and humor, plus brilliance! She really helped me push through the last three chemo treatments when I was ready to give up. My plastic surgeon is the gentlest doctor I’ve ever dealt with and has magic hands. I never felt uncomfortable with him. As he came in to draw on the areas on my chest, his voice was so calm and gentle. He talked me through everything he was doing and made sure I did not look in the mirror. Smart move.

As I was being prepped for the surgeries, I had another laugh because the nurse put this silver aluminum foil looking blanket and cap on me. I looked like a bloated baked potato!

The only thing I remember before the anesthesia knocked me out was asking if I could keep my favorite chemo hat on underneath the baked potato cap.

Lumpectomy of left breast

Sentinel lymph node dissection

Reduction of both breasts

Reconstruction of both breasts

I wish I could say I woke up feeling just groggy. Nope! I woke up in excruciating pain and terribly nauseous. Then, one of the tubes I was hooked up with came loose because I felt something wet on my back. When I turned…the sheets were covered in blood. I got hysterical and started screaming. It took three nurses to calm me the fuck down. So, I was moved to a different bed and the pain went to a high that I pray I will never experience again. After two hours, the nurses were still having trouble getting the pain managed. They almost had me admitted into the hospital, but I managed to talk myself down from the ledge. I just wanted my own bed and my cat Nathan Edgar (Baby Natey).

This cancerversary brings mixed feelings that I will get into another time. I will say it felt good to write again since I have been on a hiatus for a few months. I definitely feel a much needed therapeutic release.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

We Go Together…

I’m strolling down memory lane remembering my very first audition for a musical in May 1990. It was Grease. Over two hundred kids auditioned and only 30 or so were chosen. I was one of the youngest ones in the cast and was a cheerleader. Kind of fitting, huh?  I had one line that always got a laugh when I sat on Doody’s lap.

I was bullied a lot in the high school days and never truly fit in. I was “too different.” So why am I bringing this up? Well, it reminded me of a time where I felt a part of something big and special.

I felt accepted.

I felt liked.

I felt magical.

I felt seen.

That’s how I feel in cancerland. I’ve longed to find my place in the world. I never thought I would find this kind of acceptance for just being plain ‘ole ME. I’ve dealt with some in cancerland who are bullies and rude and who tried to bring me down and doubt myself. Fortunately, going through cancer has given me a thicker skin and made me intolerant of bullshit.

There was a time in my life pre-cancer where I didn’t feel like I had any friends.  I had isolated myself which is completely against my nature. I wasn’t confident. I had become this anxiety ridden and insecure woman.

I can honestly say my cancer treatments not only killed the cancer, it also killed that insecurity and anxiety that had kept me stagnant from moving forward in life. It’s strange that it took something life-threating for me to realize that I been a walking zombie just going through the motions with no feeling other than despair.

Fast forward to present day, and I feel like the ME who once stepped on that stage in Grease. I’m fostering friendships both in and out of cancerland. I can honestly say I have friends locally to hang out with now, but I also have friends out of state and internationally who I can facetime or Skype with too. They are just as supportive and caring as the few who are here locally.

I feel confident.

I feel encouraged.

I feel loved.

I feel supported.

So, I leave you with the video of the finale in Grease click here because that’s how I feel about all the incredible people that keep coming into my life. There is a new pep in my step. My heart is doing cartwheels. Dare I say, I’m actually having some FUN.  

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

My Own Valentine

I’ve always been a big romantic. I remember how disappointed I felt when I realized that love isn’t like the movies. I wanted so much to believe in fairytales and happy endings. I never thought I’d have to write my own…alone.

I didn’t date in high school in Macon, GA. I dated a little bit in college in Albany, NY. I went nuts dating in Los Angeles, CA because I felt like a hottie. Then when I moved back to Atlanta, GA, my dating life somewhat fizzled.

For me, it IS harder dating in the south than it was up north or on the west coast. Aside from the whole race issue, I feel dating is harder in this post-cancer body.

I was interviewed for an article about cancer and dating for Datingroo in the UK. Click here for article   In the article, I talk about the difficulties of not knowing what to say on dates anymore. I don’t know what to put on my dating profile anymore.

Now that my lower back issue should hopefully be resolved or at least feel less pain in the coming weeks after my spinal epidural injection and additional PT, walking and standing won’t be as much of an issue anymore.

I remember going on a date a year post-cancer and the guy commented that I seem to be walking stiffly. How could I tell him my body feels like a 500-year-old, and that it was taking everything I had to not show pain while we walked into the restaurant or getting up from the chair?

I’m a well-known talker, so the fact I’m often at a loss for words on top of not being able to find words (thanks chemo brain), conversation is hard and awkward when talking with a man on the phone or in person. I don’t know how to talk about trivial things anymore. My thought process (when functioning) is heavy. I’m not as light or carefree as I used to be.

I have a hard time taking a compliment from a man because I immediately want to correct him and let him know I didn’t always look like this. I looked better. I looked thinner. I still feel like an imposter in this body.

Weight gain

Infertility

Zero sex drive

Scars like a railroad track

Radiation scars on left side of neck

Chronic pain

Chronic fatigue

Cognitive Issues (chemo brain)

Hair (though can wear straight now) is so much thinner

In this body, I don’t attract the type of men I’m attracted to. Instead, I get thugs or creepy old white guys contacting me. That’s why I deleted my dating profile two years ago. I’ve never thought of myself ugly or strikingly beautiful.  I know I have a pretty face with a sparkling personality. The fact these types of guys are what I attract in this body, well, it was hurting my self-esteem.

The saying, “The right guy won’t care what you look like” is false. Men are visual. Heck, I’m visual too!

That’s why I’ll spend another year as my own valentine. Until I can learn to at least like this body a little more, I can’t put myself out there, even if just for fun. The rejection that comes with dating is hard. My current mindset is too fragile to handle it.

I’ll never love this post-cancer body, but I can learn to at least like it. Plus, I refuse to settle.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the single people both in cancerland and out.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

Nut-Meg Rises Again

Just when I’m teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown, something hilarious happens that snaps me back. I had originally written a woeful post but deleted it after yesterday’s hilarity. Let me set the scene of what happened and why I’m in better spirits.

I’ve been under more stress than usual since the last few days of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 due to my health and an unexpected death in my family. My body tends to do something crazy to rebel against stress. As usual, it’s always something spectacularly visual. This time a blood vessel popped in my left eye. Oh, my eye! My eye!

Seriously though, the fact it doesn’t hurt is the only reason I’m not going totally bonkers or even crying. I was and still am rather pissed, but my body no longer handles stress well.

It is highly noticeable and looks quite hideous. I’ve already had people at work asking what happened and a cashier at a store ask too. For once, I’m avoiding looking at my face. I couldn’t wear big sunglasses today because it was extremely overcast and raining.

So, my hair appointment had to be rescheduled because this particular natural hair dye I must use, due to being allergic to certain ingredients, did not arrive in time. Well, since I’m looking crazy, I was perfectly calm and said to call me once it has arrived and I’ll reschedule. My feathers weren’t ruffled. I love Tiramisu Salon and have been going to them for almost 13 years.

Since I was out, I decided to get my mail. I usually check my mail once a week because I hate having to get out of the car often due to pain. I had a lovely surprise when I checked my mailbox.

It was this gorgeous French beret. I thought a friend had sent it since I have so many amazing, thoughtful and generous friends who love to send surprises.  I had posted on my personal FB page about it, asking who sent it so I could thank them.

I was checking my wish list on Amazon to see if I could find a clue as to who sent me this stunning hat. Well, I totally forgot I ordered the hat off Amazon with Christmas money weeks ago!!! So, I surprised MYSELF!!! I literally have zero memory ever ordering it. So, it’s times like this where residual chemo brain comes in handy.

Should I send myself a thank you note?

All this to say, that even in a serious depressive state, my nuttiness always tends to poke through. I’m relieved I can still crack myself up even when the darkness tries to suffocate me. I was given the nickname Nut-Meg when I was 14 years old. Proud to say the nickname still fits.

Even through major stress, chronic pain, a popped blood vessel and grieving over my uncle, I can still find humor and channel my inner Bette Davis. I’m relieved the essence of me is something that breast cancer and this post-cancer insanity can never diminish.