Where 2am lives…

IMG_7895

2am lives in your corner of your mind. It nudges you during those hazy sleep moments. It’s the place where you remember every embarrassing thing you ever did. It’s a host to every insecurity and anything unfinished. It’s not quite like a parasite. More like cat hair on your face. You know it’s there, but you just can’t brush it away.

Tonight, 2am lives in a pathology report. The cancer – my cancer – was only in my right breast. According to my pathology report, my left breast was taken prophylactically. I have 0 memory of agreeing to that. Worse, I don’t remember being asked. It was up to me. It’s my damn body. It was a major part of who I was. I’m not made of disposable parts to be discarded. Amputated. My choice and opinions matter when it comes to my body, and being carved up like a Christmas ham is completely unacceptable.

Because of that disposable left breast, I developed cellulitis. I was awarded an 8 day vacation in hospital room, stocked with hazy drugs where its always 2am. That 2am was sadly a relief. The surgeon was able to get clean margins and remove 2 benign tumors. Must have been closer to 3am instead.

My grandfather, S. and his brothers mastered in the art of machismo and believing men were superior to women. When his SIL developed breast cancer at 36 and had a mastectomy, his reaction was indifference. “Cut ’em off. No big deal.” Absolutely no consideration for her as a woman. A very young woman, at that. But then his brother developed prostate cancer. The doctors told him his best course of action was to remove one testicle. Every man in my family lost their minds.

“Women go thru losing their breasts. Like you said ‘cut em off’.

“But he’s a man. This is who he is. A woman would never understand.”

Is that what happened? The same situation as telling your surgeon to remove all excess skin and, no, you don’t want reconstruction. Then you wake up and he’s left quite a bit of skin because…why? Because he knows best? Because you’re in a fragile state and he knows you’ll change your mind and want reconstruction? Because the surgeon arrogantly thinks it’ll be best to just be done with both breasts?

“Don’t worry your pretty little head. Think of it this way…you get new boobs out of it. You’ll feel like your old self.”

Right now, 2am lives in a place of pain. It houses fear and is built on a strong foundation of confusion and belittling. The walls are painted in shades of relief mixed with anger, emptiness and loss.

3:04am. I just need to get some sleep. It’s 2am somewhere…

It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood!

Summer in SoCal is pretty hot in July. After weeks in the house being a neutropenic hermit, a warm summer day was just the stay-cation I needed! I traded in my Star Wars pj bottoms (that probably could have stood up by themselves!) for a tank top and shorts, grabbed my sunglasses, and hit the sun chair 😎

Well, after about 32 seconds of sweltering (I have a very low tolerance for heat and less tolerance for sweating) the tank top had to go! It was a bit intimidating, to tell the truth. This was the first time being topless outside of my house, but I was not going to let my silly insecurities get the better of me.

As I lay there letting my cares drift away, Bodhi started doing the “I see my friends” bark. I opened my eyes to see my next door neighbors 2 kids petting her. They looked over at me to say hi, then went right back to playing with my pup. A minute later, their mom comes over to say hi. I was feeling super…exposed. Bare. Guilty. Then…nothing. We had small talk for a couple minutes then she told me to enjoy the day. After trying in vain to pry the kids away from a licking puppy, they gave me a quick wave and were on their way.

In that moment, I wasn’t a cancer patient. I wasn’t defined by my scars and I didn’t feel the need to hide bare chest as to not to make anyone uncomfortable. It was such a normal interaction, it was foreign. I was comfortable in my own skin, scars and all. This is my new, fantastic normal 💕🤘🏻💕

Let Your Mind Go…

In 1996, I was diagnosed with stage 1 endometrial carcinoma. The doctor said it would be easy (don’t you hate hearing that sh*t?!?). Then he proceeded to tell me I had the vagina and reproductive organs of a 50 year old. Thanks, dick. Great thing to tell a newly diagnosed, scared 21 year old with an 8 month old in a baby carrier on the floor next to her. I was lucky! I was able to have a baby.

Fast forward to 2016. I found a funny spot on my right breast. After a million tests, I was diagnosed with ER+/PR- HER2- stage 1A breast cancer. The floor fell right out from under me. I went to my appointment alone. I sat in my car alone trying to process everything I was told. I made my first appointment with an oncologist alone and started looking for a surgeon alone. I drove home alone. You get the idea…

I had gotten a divorce in May of the previous year, I was in a new house, but mostly, I was alone. After 21 years with the same man, I was still getting my footing as a “strong, independent woman”. Now “alone” seemed like a thick word. Just saying it was like fighting thru a throat full of cotton.

I didn’t tell anyone at first. For some strange reason, I felt like I had failed myself. I felt like I had failed my daughter. All she knew was a family unit, then that failed. I had lived since I was a teen with my partner and that relationship failed. Now, what? …

A few weeks after, I had some odd “female” issues. Issues that had no place in a woman that had had a radical hysterectomy 20 years before. After a gynecologist appointment, I was referred to gynecology oncology. Whatever slight finger hold on reality I had was gone. After a million more tests I had the answer I was dreading since 1996. Stage 4 recurrent endometrial carcinoma. It was August 29th. My 41st birthday. I didn’t hear much after that. Things got fuzzy, black, and tunnel-like. I was led to surgery scheduling. After a very complicated debulking surgery, they discovered the cancer had spread to my colon and bladder. The healing process was fairly uneventful, thank goodness. That little and unattended issue of breast cancer was now looming unchallenged.

The…my, bilateral mastectomy was 7 months ago. After that was a port surgery and a month later, a re-excision on my left chest, which removed all remaining tissue as well as all the remaining muscle in my chest wall.

I hadn’t really put that much thought into breast reconstruction. Considering I was very well-endowed before surgery and my biggest fear (and source of terror!) was waking up flat. After dealing with 5 surgeries and countless procedures and tests, not to mention being poked and prodded (on both ends 😳) for the better part of a year, reconstruction was just not that important. I have prosthetics. 2 sets to be exact. A pair of C cups and a pair of G cups. Go big or go home!! I have worn them maybe 5 times. They’re hot, uncomfortable, heavy and most importantly, they’re not me.

To be honest, I like my body. I’ve come to like my scars. They’re pretty badass. Strangely enough, I’m more comfortable in this “new” body than the one I had known for 41 years. It has been such a short time and I can say I’m happy with myself. I also have a helluva lot more confidence now, breasts or not.

Maybe it’s because I fought so hard for this body. For this life.