IRL

 

You are exposed. And unconscious. And it must be difficult to trust. I honor you, Dear One.

My job is to help your surgeon take away the cancer. I get a bird’s eye view of the process. The surgery begins and I feel your warm skin through my gloves. I wonder what stories you already have and the ones that are yet to come.

We carefully remove your breast. It never gets easy to see or to do. You must know this. It never feels natural, it never feels cavalier. It feels sacred to me. Every. Single. Time.

Julie posted this amazing article from a nurse in the OR during a mastectomy. It feels appropriate to re-post in celebration of all of us who have undergone this trauma. Breast cancer is not the easy cancer. We are cut up, amputated, re-amputated, disfigured, chemo’d, radiated and on and on and on. Some of us die. Some of us live. Whatever the outcome, the disease is forever seared into us, our bodies and our loved ones.

It’s a really hard road to walk. I’m forever grateful for my community of amazing BAYS folks who hold me up (and who I try my very best to return the favor to). NONE of this is cosmetic. NONE of us elect to do this.

This article is a beautiful tribute to all of us who have had to chop or slice our boobs and/or breast tissue off and deal with the aftermath. I don’t want to speak for all of us, but my chest is forever changed, Not in a good way.

I’ll post more about my surgery and recovery in the coming days. I find it easier to talk about when I have some distance — so bear with me!

For all my new non-cancer friends, NOPE. Saying crap like “oh you’re so lucky, you got a boob job” or “you get a new new rack” is SUPER OFFENSIVE – please just bite your tongue and stick to “I’m holding space for you”  or “sending you love and light” or “I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, how can I support you?” – those are the most non offensive things you can say – BUT pah-lease don’t say shit about “how lucky I am to get boob job” (sic), for the love of christ. It’s super ignorant. So sad that 7 years in I’m still dealing with these IGNORANT comments. UGH. BLECH. BARF.

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7 Things to Know Before Starting Chemotherapy

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When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, 2012 at the age of 37, my world was turned upside down. My particular flavor of cancer was stage 1, grade 3, triple negative infiltrating ductal carcinoma. That’s a mouthful huh? I had my bi-lateral mastectomy performed and one month later I began 6 months of ACT (Adriamycin, Cytoxan, and Taxol) chemotherapy.

While I can’t guarantee that your road will be without bumps, in fact, I can almost assure you that there will be bumps, I can offer you some insights that helped me along the way. So, buckle up and hold on tight, you can do this.

Good luck to you my friend. I’m sending you love and strength.

1. Get a temporary handicap placard

Cancer is a full-time job with a million and one doctor’s appointments. Do yourself a favor and sign up for this with your local DMV. Most states let you do it online. Be warned, it can take a few weeks to process and receive the darn thing, so put this one near the top of your list if you can. Trust me, you will be overjoyed when you easily locate a spot by the front door of your destination.

2. Discuss you fertility preservation options

I’m always amazed at how many women and men aren’t told about the effects that chemo can have on your ability to conceive.  If your team of doctors hasn’t discussed this with you, make them.  Ask questions and demand answers.  Since we haven’t yet figured out how to turn back time, I don’t want you to regret not knowing about this. Don’t let anyone pressure you one way or the other on this front. Do what feels right for you.

3. Start a Blog or CaringBridge site so you don’t have to answer the same questions again and again

When a medical event like cancer happens to you, everybody wants to know what’s going on. It’ll become difficult to talk to every single person who cares about you, so use social media to keep everyone in the loop.

The crazy thing is social media will ultimately keep your spirits up. Your friends and family, far and wide, will rally around you. You can read their notes and comments when you’re feeling down.

You can also use your blog to ask for help. Everything from food delivery, babysitting, carpooling, errand running or just having someone stop by to sit with you, You name it, they’ll do it. I promise you.  People are good, and they desperately want to be of service, so let them, because they love you and want to help you.  P.S. I assure you that they don’t think you’re a burden (I know your mind was drifting there, so let me stop it for you).

4. Join a support group

Nothing makes the shitty cancer journey more bearable then a bunch of crazy, been-there-done-that like-minded individuals. It’s been my experience that my support group friends have become my family. They party the hardest, love the strongest and know exactly where I’m coming from.

We talk about our experiences but are very respectful of the fact that no two individual’s cancers are the same, even though the diagnosis might be very similar. Everyone’s journey is intensely personal. Surgical and treatment decisions are yours to make alone, but your support group will be a wonderful, and helpful sounding board for you.

If you are like me and were diagnosed at a young age, check out the young survivor groups in your town and nationally.

5. Have a plan for your hair

If you have small children you may opt to get a wig for continuity’s sake.  Or you may opt to rock the bald look like I did.  You may even be going to cold cap route.  All of these options require advance planning and lots of mental preparation.

My plan was to cut my hair into a short bob and donate my ponytail to love for locks at the very start of chemo.  Two weeks later when, when it started to fall out, I buzzed it close to my scalp.  A few days later, when those tiny hairs were raining down onto my floor, I lathered up and used a straight razor. Nothing can really prepare you for the hair loss part.  My husband tried to pump me up by playing the Demi Moore video from GI Jane. If I’m being honest, the whole thing was really difficult for me though.

You will also want to have lots of cozy, soft head coverings at the ready. Most oncologists’ office will have a basket with tons of options that are free.  Take advantage — I got some of my cutest hats that way.

6. Get your medical marijuana card
This assumes you live in a state where this is possible. I never, in a million years, thought I’d be vaporizing in the middle of the day. But, heck, when you’re feeling as green as I was, you’ll do just about anything to make it go away.  Medical marijuana really helped me with nausea, pain relief and insomnia.

7. Ativan is your friend

Often times I was scared shitless that I got cancer and had to have a bilateral mastectomy and do chemo. When my mind raced and my thoughts backed me into a corner, Ativan really helped me settle down and face the next hurdle head on (albeit, bald!).

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I hope these tips and suggestions help you to prepare yourself in the days and weeks leading up to chemo.  Stay tuned for my second installment “7 Things to Know While You’re Undergoing Chemotherapy”.