Trio-Hop Thursday–A Look Back
This weekend we are participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in downtown Orlando. It is a non-competitive 5k around Lake Eola and this is our first year participating in this race. Last year we did the Komen Race For The Cure at UCF Arena in Orlando. It was my first time doing such an event and it was an emotional thing for me.
As many of you know, I had a double mastectomy in 2012 after my very first mammogram discovered two separate pre-cancerous conditions. Since then I have had about 9 or so reconstructive surgeries (I honestly lost count) as there were complications. I chronicled my experience here. There will be a content warning as there are photos that I took during the process. They are not for children or the faint of heart.
I consider myself extremely lucky. I’d already put that mammogram off for a year. If I hadn’t listened to my hairdresser talking about her own diagnosis (in her 30s), I may have put it off another year and I may have a very different story to tell.
Good to have a friend working at the hospital that day.
Looking at the above photo now, over 2 years on the other side of the mastectomy, I look awfully cheerful. Pain meds were involved, I’m sure. If you look closely you can see one of my drains and drain line full of blood. Ick. Those things were not fun. I called them my “drain babies” because I had a little white pounch around my waist that they sat in, like baby kangaroos. Only they weren’t as cute. They protruded from my side (slightly below my armpits) and were secured by some stitches. There was actually quite a good bit of line wound up inside. Every so often the area would burn. Since I had more than one procedure, I have a collection of scars from those little areas. They are quite faded now.
In the time since the mastectomy and subsequent operations, I have grown as used to my new breasts as I possibly can. I mean, it’s weird. They have no tissue in them. Just skin and implants. They pretty much just feel like these foreign things stuck to me.
I was able to keep my nipples but they have no feeling. My breasts have no feeling from the nipple down. I also have numb spots on the backs of my arms (as a result of lymph nodes being removed for testing). I told the surgeon that after all of this I want the biggest implant they can get in there without completely destroying my already taxed skin (the expanders failed miserably) so I ended up with 800 cc implants. It brought my breast size from a B to a D. You have to find the positives, people.
My breasts are not round. They are misshapen, but they are not horrible to look at. They also have no projection. Meaning when I look down at them, they look flat. One of them is higher than the other. They have obvious rippling on the bottoms, where the skin is very thin. The entire process did a real number on my self-esteem with regard to my appearance. Even though I know there are others who have suffered through chemo and radiation and are completely miserable, I had to allow myself to feel my own feelings and deal with my new normal. Sometimes I feel like a huge ass for feeling disturbed by any part of the process because I was so lucky.
My hair did not fall out. I did not have crippling nausea. I did not have to go for regular chemo treatments. I know people who did and I cannot even imagine dealing with that. Still, seeing yourself with no breasts…that one was tough. I learned just how strong I really could be.
In between surgeries, when the doctor released me for activity, I did as much as I could possibly do until the next procedure. Being outside with the dogs was like heaven. I was going stir crazy being unable to do anything during recovery. Below is a photo of Sassy and I on the Santos Trail in Ocala, Florida in February of 2013 on one of those outings:
Gosh, Sassy has changed a LOT. I’ve changed a lot.
Having the dogs definitely helped my recovery. I began relying on handlers instead of showing the girls myself as it would be a while before I could even walk them. They sat close to me during my recovery times, aware that I was not quite “up to snuff” so to speak. A few of them tested me, as I expected would happen, but Rama just sat with me quietly. I don’t typically allow dogs in my bedroom, but Rama spent a good amount of time in there, lying next to my bed. She was rather protective of me with the other dogs, and it was during this time that she and Sassy began to spark off intermittently.
When my husband and I separated in 2011, Rama was a big part of my trying to mend myself. During this life-changing time, too, she helped with my healing. Dogs just have a special way of making us focus on what’s really important in life. My whole way of thinking changed. I had to do what made me happy. Instead of finding all the reasons why I couldn’t or shouldn’t do something, I decided–to hell with it–just do it. Life is short.
I can’t exactly recall, but I think the photo below was while I had the expanders. I remember showing Sassy after they failed and had to be removed. I wore a regular bra with those silicone inserts since my chest was completely flat. I was worried about the movement around the ring and bending over to place wayward feet. I still remember what that felt like; wearing a bra with literally nothing to fill it but shriveled skin.
The entire process taught me a lot about myself, about being strong, about learning how to live unapologetically. I’m still working toward that last one. I no longer feel as if I have all the time in the world. I’ve put off many things in my life, thinking I’d do them “someday.” But you never really know if “someday” will ever come.
I realized my own mortality. Part of the reason this blog exists has to do with that time.
Fighting back, healing, moving forward despite obvious barriers in your way–this is what we have to do. This is just life. Did a dog ever help you through a rough time in your life? I’d love to hear about how a dog might have helped you or a loved one heal from a traumatic event.
Click on the above links to be taken to their corresponding blog hops. Lots of awesome reading today!
If you would like to support my team in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk this weekend in downtown Orlando, go here. And thank you to all who have donated!