In which we discuss feelings, doormats, and ways to be kind.

I’m going to state, note: not apologize, that this post is fueled by a lot of emotions and anxiety. If you have a problem with something, you know where the red x is.

These last few months have been pretty stressful. And when I say ‘stressful’, I mean fucking insane, ridiculous, demanding, brutal, unkind, etc. It’s been a real sidewinder of shit, but in a way, I’m grateful for it. Cancer has forced me to slow down and examine my life in a way I probably wouldn’t have been capable of otherwise. It has shown me incredible kindnesses through my community of friends and family, and given me a chance to connect with people I might not have before. It has forced me to work on my relationship with my partner, as well as my friends, and really value them for what they bring to my life. So for that, I am grateful. And because of that, I’m doing some self-work, y’all!

Please allow me to be the first person to acknowledge that I have a tendency to be a doormat. I am the type of person who goes out of my way to accommodate people who I consider worth it and, often, people who continually prove they don’t deserve it. I do it because I was raised to treat most humans with respect and kindness, and I stick to that as a general rule. Sure, I set some boundaries, but it takes a lot of abuse and pushing to get me there.

Even my work knows my questionable personality traits!

19549716_752308591597584_439656100_o

Sometimes, I think being a caregiver and being a doormat coincide. My ultimate desire is that everyone be happy and cared for and this often comes at price- to myself and my needs, to my partner and his needs, to my family and their needs. Again, I know that this has played a part in the end of some of my relationships, but it’s hard to break the cycle when it’s something you’ve been doing for so long. It’s hard to say ‘no’ to people when you only want to say yes, because helping people out is a fulfilling feeling. But it’s difficult to set appropriate boundaries with people when you’re used to bending over backwards to please them. And it’s quite difficult to understand why people would not afford you the same kindness.

The clear unwillingness to not be kind to someone, even if you don’t “understand them”, is baffling to me. And no, I don’t mean #peaceloveandhappiness #truth #powerofpositivity Instagram bullshit kindness that isn’t followed up with an action. I mean put your biases aside, slide into your human suit, and offer people the same treatment that they have extended to you. It’s not hard! I do it all the time, and I do it because I believe that people deserve respect, until they demonstrate to you that they don’t. And, as I stated before, I have previously CONTINUED to show them kindness, well after they’ve shown me their true colors.

I guess I believe that, even if we don’t necessarily see eye to eye on something, or we don’t get along for whatever reason, that you are still deserving of respect as a person and I am willing to help you. I believe that people can coexist in this world peacefully even if they don’t like each other. For example, you might have voted for someone whose policies I don’t agree with, but I’m not going to treat you poorly because of that choice. Someone might engage in activities that I would not choose to partake in, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to think less of them for it. The world isn’t black and white like that, at least for me.

Recently, I started going to therapy. I think the cancer has pushed me to the point of serious self-evaluation; a place where I need to decide what/who is important to me and put in serious work to realize my life goals and dreams. So, through all this work, I have come to conclusion that it is time to start enforcing boundaries. Saying ‘no’ is going to be big area of growth, as well as learning how to divide my time appropriately. I want to  learn how to accurately express my feelings, even if it feels uncomfortable and weird, and then learn how to stand firm in them when they are inevitably challenged.

So a shout out to all those people who have abused my kindness. The deliberate avoidance of eye contact when I’ve gone out of my way to do something for you or your family member? Bye. The honest well-wishes to you and your family members in their times of need, when you’ve referred to my illness as a “FUN ADVENTURE” (yes, this really happened). Bye. Tolerating snide remarks because I’m too nice (doormat)to call you out in public? Bye. Expressing my feelings in what I assume is a safe space, only to have them used against me in the workplace? Bye. Holding all of this in and letting it fester is just hurting my chances of healing. So blessed be the fruit, fuckers. It’s a new Elspeth.

BUT!

I would also like to sincerely thank everyone who has stuck with me through this last year and a half. The people who have turned out to show their support and love have floored me. The people who continue to read this word salad and send me thoughtful messages- it means more to me than you know. I know I’ve said it before, but I never thought that I would, or could, make a difference to someone just by writing. Thank you for being there for me, for being part of my community, and for being the amazing people you are. My sock drawer thanks you, as well. I value you, I appreciate you, and I love you! I have no idea how to ever repay the kindness, but I will do my best.


PS: If this seems disjointed, or not like my regular writing, I apologize. I am apparently suffering from “chemo brain”, which is a real thing verified by my oncologist (!!!), and it has really been taking a toll on the way I express myself, as well as my memory. Bear with me, as all I can do is continue to push through it. October can’t come soon enough. 

Cheese, BRCA 1 & 2, and #healthiswealth.

If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “oh, so you’re doing the Angelina Jolie thing?”, I would have ten dollars. Maybe. And sure, in the sense that we both had bilateral mastectomies, they would be right. But there is quite a difference between Tomb Raider and I- she carries a BRCA 1 mutation and I don’t. Because she has a gene mutation, she was told that she had about an 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Mrs. Smith opted to pursue something call a prophylactic mastectomy (sometimes referred to as a preventative mastectomy), which seems to have been a wonderful option. She also opted for reconstruction, but I don’t have time to blather about that.

When I was diagnosed, a myriad of appointments were scheduled for me, and speaking to a genetic counselor was one of the first things I did. After watching my mom survive breast cancer, and then watching my grandmother do it eleven years later, I figured I should probably get some testing done. When I brought it up to my GP, she stated that I could do it but that I “was young and it was expensive”. Both are true, of course. My mother had just done her own testing, only for BRCA 1 & 2, which both came back clean (sans mutation), and my grandmother was old enough that testing wasn’t really seen as a helpful option.

So my genetic counselor and I mapped out my family (to the best of our ability because I don’t know shit about my bio-dad’s family) and opted to test the eight major genes that are considered high risk for cancer development. I figured that shit would come back with mutations across the board because…duh…it’s me. The test results took forever to be analyzed and it took me even longer to get in for the results, so in that time I had already had my surgery, had my drains removed (for the first time), etc. Justin and I both went into the appointment with trepidation, both of us assuming that things were going to be terrible- we wouldn’t be able to have children because I would just pass on a bunch of shitty shit to them…

Lo, and behold!

Not a single mutation. Nothing that explained why my body wanted to murder me slowly. The mix of disbelief and surprise was fleeting when reminded of the actual statistics of breast cancer. So I am not genetically mutated, but I still have cancer. And my mom isn’t genetically mutated, but she still had cancer. Granted, these tests aren’t 100% guaranteed, but come on, science and shit- they’re right. We must just be those fluke humans that develop cancer due to stress. I think that’s why it’s important to tell my story. So many people (read: women) have said to me “but you’re so young and healthy!”. First off- thank you. I am young and I am healthy. And then they follow that up with “I should get checked out”, to which I reply emphatically “YES, YOU SHOULD!”.

Here’s the thing: I AM young and I AM healthy. Sure, I smoked for five years. Yes, I ate meat. Yes, I did drugs. Yes, I engaged in risky behaviors because that’s just the natural course of life for a lot of young women in America. But I am a vegetarian, I engage in regular physical activity, and I live my life as exuberantly and as safely as I can. That “but you’re so healthy” is a real double-edged sword for me. I often feel like women are subconsciously judged for their life choices when they’re diagnosed. I certainly have felt that. But I also get the sense of disbelief that this could happen to a young woman. So really, dial it back, world. For those of us who don’t have a gene mutation, there is no cause and there is no cure.

Sure, sure. I could go vegan. I could go sugar-free. I could do a lot of things that I’m not doing to help/prevent/kill my joy. The beloved and I have talked about going sugar-free, but it sounds like a lot of work and we’re already incredibly stressed and anxious as it is. My mother reminds me about giving up dairy products because of my diagnosis. There is estrogen in cheese, she says. I will lower my risk of recurrence, she says. But you will pry this Brie from my cold, dead hands!

giphy

This brings me to the #healthiswealth portion of my rant. Guess what? No, it fucking isn’t. It doesn’t matter how many kale and avocado shakes you make, your chances of getting cancer are still the same. You can buy one of those horrid Juicero things and squeeze your sustenance out of a plastic garbage bag for $400 a day and still get cancer. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, diseases happen to young people, and evil people live forever. My point is enjoy life responsibly, be aware of your body, and do your research.

Women don’t do anything to deserve breast cancer, but it happens.

*
*
*
*

Update time!

My drains were removed on Monday due to them trying to physically escape from my chest cavity. Who knew that my body wouldn’t love foreign objects sewn into it?! This means that I am now cleared for all of the prerequisites for chemotherapy, and my port placement surgery is scheduled for this coming week. Chemo commences on June 1st and I will have more updates on that treatment soon. It’s a bit to digest at the moment, but isn’t all of life?

Bags of Blood

Before I start getting all serious n’ shit, I want to tell you a funny story.

This past Wednesday, I went in for my post-op check-in with my surgeon. I was all excited, thinking I might get to have one of my drains taken out. The right one (mind you, this was the breast that was totally healthy) had been coming in under 30 ml’s of fluid for about 24 hours, and I was dying for a bit of relief. My surgeon, a self-identified hobbit and all around amazing guy, let his PA take my right drain out. The removal process felt a bit like a hard, thin snake being slowly yanked from my chest. It was awesome. I was pleased with this progress and went about my day.

That evening, as I was moving around in my nest of blankets and pillows, I noticed a sloshing noise coming from my right side. That’s right. Sloshing. As in a bunch of fluid was rolling around in a big, empty cavity in my chest. “It must be left-over lymphatic fluid”, I thought to myself. That area of my chest grew bigger and bigger, as if my body was trying regenerate a tit like a lizard does when it loses its tail. I consulted the Interwebs to see what I should do before I lost my shit and called the doctor. I tried heat. I tried compression. I slept in a sports bra, and woke up with a huge bruise on my shoulder (MY SHOULDER).

So, I called the nurse. She told me to wait. I waited. It got bigger. I called her again. She told me to try heat and to roll the fluid out the hole that the drain had been in. Gods bless Justin- he tried. So I waited another night, but the fluid pocket/boob grew even more. I was fed the fuck up at this point, so I called her again. She told me to come in at 12:45 pm and they would squeeze me in.

Look, I know you’re all thinking ‘omg lady, just deal with it that shit will be absorbed back into your body through your lymph nodes lol that’s how bodies work you should be a seasoned pro at dealing with weird body shit by now’ but no. This was my line. Cut off my tits? SURE. Poke me with a ton of needles in all of my semi-working veins? GO FOR IT. Fill my gross skin flap with fluid? HELL NO I’VE HAD ENOUGH GET IT OUT.  And get it out they did, but not without some pomp and circumstance. What would this blog be without a little bit of that?

……………..

Five of us are piled into this tiny office, the surgeon, the PA, the nurse, me, and Justin. I’ll skip a few details and get to the exciting part of the story when they try to aspirated my fake water boob with a giant needle and are unsuccessful. Why? Because my chest is filled with blood, which must have happened when they pulled my drain (a ruptured blood vessel or something), and my surgeon then decides to just squeeze me like a fucking lemon into a mound of gauze. Blood is everywhere, I get squeezed until I’m dry but am then promised that it will fill again and the juicing pleasure will be all theirs, as early as next week.

As I write this, with my chest and arm muscles moving viciously to bang the keyboard on my iPAD, I can hear the blood squelching above my ace wrap. Now that I know that my chest cavity is home to internal bleeding, I feel so much more at home. Calm, cool, and collected.

tumblr_lp1m7dydfw1qd7fgzo1_500

AND NOW…THE SERIOUS.

It’s with that calm, cool, collected zen yoga peaceloveacceptance shit that I now take issue. I cannot even right now. I know that I seem strong and put-together for what is happening to me. People remind me of that constantly, and are so kind to do so. But I don’t feel strong all of the time. I still succumb to that split brain thing that has plagued me for so long.

I’m amazing no matter what my body looks like.

Sure, except your body looks like a fucking train hit it and is reversing just for good measure.

IMG_0309

I’m a strong, independent woman who is being honest and sharing what life with this disease is like.

You sound like you’re whining.

You could be a voice for young women going through this in the future, etc etc. You are telling people what a female body can look like and still be sexy.

Yeah, but my body doesn’t fucking feel like my own right now and everything feels terrible, so thank you, but no.

And isn’t that the shit of it? I want to be a strong role model for women who are faced with a decision such as mine, but right now, I don’t feel strong. I don’t feel like I have control over my body. I don’t feel like this even IS my body right now.

On Tuesday, my oncologist told me that I would be starting chemotherapy as early as mid-May. Due to the unexpected appearance of cancer in my lymph node, it was no longer just a precaution. As soon as my second drain is out, I will go in to have a port installed and then I can power all of Steve Jobs’ shitty electro…I mean absorb a bunch of poison much more easily than I could intravenously, for about five months. I almost linked the regimen I will be following, but that can come at a later date.

My point is that I am not in control of my body right now. Nothing about what is happening to me is within my control, and that is undoubtedly terrifying. I am a person who tries to maintain her body, who enjoys using her body, and is apparently quite bereft without it. I am grappling with learning this new breast-less body, a body without eight lymph nodes, and a body in which I can now see the tendon that connects my chest muscles to my arm. It’s sick. It does not feel normal. And as much as I love it and was ready for this change, it is still unsettling.

I will lose my hair. This hair, that I have worked so stupidly hard for, that has helped me define myself in a lot of ways; I will lose it, and I will lose a bit of that identity. I will lose eyelashes, eyebrows, and leg hair–and in that, I will lose my control. This will not be my body. It is not the one I have chosen. It is not the one that I want. All of this hurts, and it stings true when my chest fills with blood and I am uncomfortable and hate everything. I can’t even do aerial or acro right now; all I can do is use my hobbit lower body. That’s no fun.

But I am not alone, thank the gods. My mother did this before me, and my friends’ mothers have done it. I am connected with a multitude of women who experience that same pain as I am feeling on a daily basis. So I can feel it, yes. I can slip into my second brain for a bit. And it can be overpowering and intoxicating, but my Tami Taylor brain overrides it and reminds me that though I am but little, I am fierce.

 

Anesthesia is a helluva drug.

Before I describe in great detail the best parts of my surgery (who begs for a catheter?) and subsequent recovery, I want to give everyone a massive thank you. I am absolutely floored by the outpouring of love, kindness, and support from people, some of whom I’ve never even met. If you know me, you know these last two years have not been super kind to me, but the amount of people that have turned out to back me makes it apparent that I am beyond #blessed, and that I am surrounded by an incredible community. You all have come together and have wasted little time in letting me know that I am loved. I am truly overwhelmed and beyond grateful- no one is better set to kick cancer’s ass than I am.

giphy1

After having made the decision to be flat and fabulous, I used my last Saturday with boobs to celebrate them. Even though they’ve only ever caused me trouble, they were still the center of attention at the Boob-Voyage. Yet again, I was humbled by the crazy support and love that my community is capable of. You guys have no idea how AWESOME you are! We drank, we ate, we gave kudos to the tatas in our lives, and it was a wonderful way to send these bags of rude fat off into the surgical beyond.

IMG_0307

Justin and I spent Sunday preparing for the hospital and the weeks to come. He was even sweet enough to include a cemetery detour in our last bike ride (#relationshipgoals). Neither of us could sleep, so we calmed our nerves with RuPaul’s Drag Race and three wedges of cheese. They told me I couldn’t eat for 24 hours, sooooooo….

At 5am on Monday, Justin, Lauren and I rolled out to the hospital to check in for my bilateral mastectomy. I don’t know how they were feeling, but I was glad that they were there with me and were both in good spirits! It made my walk back to the surgical wing seem less daunting somehow. I didn’t feel like I was walking to the gallows or anything, but it certainly wasn’t easy to go it alone. Undressing for the last time was surreal. I even said goodbye to my bra (as if we might never cross paths again) and slipped into my purple paper surgical gown. Très chic!

Because it’s me and because this journey wouldn’t be complete without one more person assuming that I would someday pursue fake tits, my surgeon described the procedure in terms that left me open to the option.

“When you get reconstruction…”

If you decide to reconstruct…”

BRUH, I AM NOT INTERESTED IN GIVING ANYONE THE ILLUSION THAT I MISS THINGS THAT ARE ACTIVELY TRYING TO KILL ME.

At this point, I think the nurse realized I needed whatever drug she kept talking up as “relaxation medication” and injected that into my IV. From here, I remember very little until I woke up in the dark (but in the light?) needing to pee badly. I couldn’t pee, so the nurses put a catheter in me. I have never felt so relieved. I believe I was then moved to my room where Justin was waiting.

I needed to pee again about ten minutes later. Again, I couldn’t figure out how those muscles worked, so I begged the nurse to put a catheter in me. She declined and stuffed a bed pan underneath me. Justin and I then had this conversation:

Elspeth: Did you talk to the surgeon?

Justin: Yes. The surgery went well. However, you were under for about 4 hours because they found cancer in your lymph nodes on your left side. 

E: **Single tear, unintelligible sad noises** Did you call my mom?

J: Yes, we talked. She knows.

E: Where am I?

And then, because anesthesia gives you the short term memory of a goldfish…

E: Did you talk to the surgeon?

J: Yes…

I made him break the terrible news to me over and over and over again until a nurse came in.

E: Did you call…

Nurse walks in.

E: I’m sitting in cold urine.

When I finally came to enough to understand where I was, I found out that I had been in surgery for over four hours. The surgeon had done a sentinel node biopsy and found cancer cells in my lymph nodes, causing him to have to remove about eight nodes on my left side. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t know the specifics until pathology came back. All I knew at the time was that I was in incredible pain, but that some lovable idiot had hooked me up to a morphine drip (score).

My surgery had gone well, thankfully, and I only had two Jackson-Pratt drains sewn into my chest. They absorb your bodily fluids to reduce swelling and pain, but they’re a right pain in the arse themselves. Justin and I enjoy seeing all the gross shit my body can produce, so there’s a bright side. I had many wonderful visitors come to bring me salty snacks and their love. I was up and moving long before I thought I would be.

IMG_0306

Thankfully, I was only in the hospital until Tuesday evening. My surgeon brought us the pathology report which stated that there was only cancer found in one lymph node (YAS) and then sent me home. I have to wait until I meet with my oncologist tomorrow to hear about actual treatment routes. Who knows what will happen? Chemo and radiation still remain on the table. Tamoxifen for 5-10 years will most likely be a definite.

My body is not used to being horizontal and sedentary. I am not used to letting people take care of me. All of this has been a learning experience, and I can only imagine it will become more difficult (I’m not allowed to lift a fucking coffee mug right now). When I left the hospital, my chest, back, and arms were pretty numb. I am currently regrowing nerve pathways to those places and, let me tell you, it does not feel nice.

But the one thing I can say about this surgery is that I feel GOOD. I looked at my body three days after the operation and I felt positive. I didn’t see what I expected to see- I saw a strong woman who looked even better than she had before. A woman who wasn’t mangled, ruined, or socially-unacceptable. I was simply me. Feeling that was more empowering than anything I’ve ever felt. I love me, my partner loves me, my family loves me, and this incredible community loves me. It’s more than I could ever ask for. And thanks to all of you, I look fly as hell:

IMG_0303

.
.
.
.

More updates to come, I promise. And please disregard my writing. Hydrocodone was made for taking naps and not feeling feelings. It isn’t the greatest catalyst for wordsmithing.

To boob or not to boob?

I did it.

I finally made a decision.

Truthfully, making the decision to not pursue breast reconstruction after my upcoming mastectomy has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’ve barely had time to digest the idea that there’s something in my tits trying to kill me, much less have I had the time to think about parting ways with a giant chunk of my body. That must be the beauty of treatment teams- they act so quickly that you barely have time to wrap your brain around such shitty news and then you’re on the operating table.

I guess that’s why I didn’t think twice when I was scheduled to meet with a plastic surgeon to discuss my options for reconstruction. I’ve just been going to all of my appointments like a little feeling-less robot, nodding, and asking all the questions I copied from the internet (Okay Google, what’s a DIEP Flap???). I think part of me had entertained the idea that I would have reconstruction- I’m only 29, after all. But another part of me, small at the time, wondered what would happen if I didn’t? What would I look like if I didn’t have breasts? Would I be okay with having implants? Would I ever feel like me again if I went through with the reconstruction? I couldn’t pin down how I felt, other than incredibly overwhelmed. It’s not easy to grasp the concept of losing a body part that you’ve kind of grown attached to. Literally.

Before I start shitting all over everything, let me just say that the surgeon and nurse that we met with were both professional and kind, and I know they were only doing their jobs. I am sure that many women have benefited from having them on their surgical teams. But both Justin (loving and supportive partner extraordinaire) and I were unsettled by the way that reconstruction was discussed, and how it was made to sound like my only logical next step. It’s an incredibly personal decision for any woman, and they should receive support and acceptance for whatever option they choose to pursue, but should also be given proper information about ALL of those options- not just the plastic ones.

A.N.Y.W.A.Y.

Because I was still debating on what I wanted to do with my body, I asked the surgeon to give me his ‘sales pitch’, if you will, about my options, the pros and cons of each, the surgical methods, recovery time, etc. The surgeon broke out some tester implants and told me about how I would be able to “resume my normal daily activities” more easily if I had implants as opposed to prostheses. About how Justin’s daughter would feel more comfortable hugging me if I felt like the pre-surgery me. About how I would be able to wear swimsuits and low cut tops. About how it would beg less questions from people.

This isn’t what I meant. This isn’t what I want.

Oh, but good news! My nipples could be spared! Joy! I can have Barbie breasts with my own nipples- breasts that have no feeling, that serve no purpose other than to give me (read: everyone but me) the peace of mind that nothing ever happened I look like a normal woman. I can go bigger, I can go smaller, I can do whatever I want! Yet, there’s the possibility that my nipples might NOT be able to be saved and then I’d just have round orbs stuffed under my skin. But, hey, no needs for bras, right?! Hah! Knee-slapper. Giggles all around.

When pressed about the option of not reconstructing, I was given a lot of flustered bullshit about why I wouldn’t want that and how it would look if I was *gasp* flat. The surgeon actually said that I “would be one of the only women under 30 that’s made that choice”. WRONG. I asked to see photos and this poor nurse, bless her heart, could not understand why I would want to see that. Instead, she showed me photos of nipple-sparing reconstruction. When I stated that they “looked like chewed up dog toys”, she got all huffy and said “Well, that’s a very blunt assessment.”

Oh, I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable. Let me just un-develop this cancer real quick and then neither of us will have to have this disgusting interaction.

giphy

Guess what? Having breasts does not make me any more or any less of a woman. My confidence and self-worth is not defined by what lives underneath my shirt. My gender identity is not at all affected by this surgery. When I get ripped out of that deep anesthesia sleep next Monday, I will still be me- smart, snarky, and sexy.

Over the weekend, I did a lot of research and reading about what life is like for women who choose to go breast-free. Forums were joined, questions were asked, testimonials were read. And I found that most of the women who were brave and open enough to be public about their decision were incredibly happy with it and have adapted back to their regular lives with ease. My brain and my heart finally came together and figured out that I wouldn’t be staying true to myself if I had reconstruction done. I think it was around 11:30 pm on Saturday night when I finally said ‘fuck it- time to embrace that boob-free life.’

Is it going to be hard? Yes. Am I going to have days where I regret everything? Probably, but not forever. Am I going to experience grief and loss associated with the surgery? Absolutely, and it’s totally normal. But this means that I no longer have to go through the stress of staying on top of my terrible, fiberadenoma-growing, lumpy, painful, cancer boobs.

I’m #blessed to have Justin, who has done nothing but love me and support me through this decision-making process, and who legitimately already loves my post-surgery body. No idea how that works, but it’s amazing and I am eternally grateful. I feel like he’s known the entire time that this is what I would eventually decide to do… So I might be losing my tits to cancer, but I’m not losing my life, and that’s really something.

Also, wtf surgeon. I’m the lady whose ex-husband called her a “lesbian” when she cut off her hair. So what did she do? She cut it shorter. Breast-free? Challenge fucking accepted.

 

 

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Lucas and the Breasts from Hell

Let’s get the updates part out of the way early:

  • I met with a genetic counselor last Friday. I’ll be handing over my bodily fluids for testing tomorrow.
  • The new spots that showed up on my breast MRI were checked on Monday and appear to be more fiberadenomas. Good news!
  • I have decided to go ahead with a bilateral mastectomy. I have not, however, decided whether I would like to pursue breast reconstruction or just allow the surgery to morph me into my long dreamed of androgynous alter ego.
  • I will be meeting with a plastic surgeon tomorrow, followed by an oncologist on Monday. Here’s hoping that there will be some clarity re: treatment soon.

Fabulous. Moving on.

I don’t feel like I have ever sugar-coated my feelings here. In fact, I’ve been pretty up-front with the fact that this is one of the only places where I feel even remotely comfortable expressing my emotions. But, I do realize that some people are more sensitive than others, so here’s my little disclaimer/trigger warning/spoiler alert- I’m about to talk about some very real, and very personal shit, including suicidal feelings and ideation. So if that’s not your bag, I totally understand. At the behest of this rotten beam, I’m embracing myself.

17817534_250462078749757_1871966761591504896_n

.
.
.

How are you?

That’s is *the* question, isn’t it? How do you answer someone honestly? Of course, I don’t begrudge people asking, and I appreciate knowing that people care. But I don’t feel like I can truly say how I am doing. I know, I know- this post exists on every cancer blog ever written, but it’s true. Do you actually want to burden someone with dropping the ‘I’m actually fucking terrible, Judy, but thank you for asking’ bomb on someone? No.

This past weekend, my partner and I got into a small fight that really just stemmed from a small miscommunication. I’m glad it happened though, as we were able to talk about it and dissect the feelings and emotions behind the communication fail. He was feeling scared and helpless regarding the diagnosis, and rightfully so. I was feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and overly sensitive about things. And, quite frankly, I didn’t feel comfortable with expressing how I was truly feeling because it’s not what people want to hear.

I’ve written before about the two sides of my brain, and they come into play with processing this cancer thing. A large part of me is a caretaker. I put everyone’s needs over my own, and I focus on fixing things for others long before I ever take a look at myself. So naturally, I feel guilty about having such “burdensome” feelings. I say that in quotes, because I feel like telling someone that I’d rather just quietly die than hang around through surgery, recovery, treatment, financial loss, debt, and depression is a lot for the normal person to take in. Why say all that when I could just say ‘I’m fine’ and move on? Nobody wants to know that shit (unless they’re my therapist and they’re getting paid a lot of money to ask me how I feel about that).

Look, I know I have an amazing support system backing me through this, but at my core, I still wonder if it’s even worth it for me to try. When I was meeting with the genetic counselor, she went into fine detail about all of the mutations that my genes could have that would put me at a higher risk for brain cancer (here’s where I stopped listening), pancreatic cancer, further breast cancers, etc. How I might pass them on to any children I might have. The ultrasound tech told me to be wary of reconstruction using my own tissue because it could “become necrotic (here’s where I stopped listening), thus causing more lumps”. Incredible support system or not, this is a lot to absorb in such a short amount of time.

I’ve had a pretty hard life by anyone’s standards, and it seems to be unrelenting. SOMEHOW I’m still married to a total douchecanoe, I have cancer, I’m losing my tits, and my employer is likely going to cut me off my insurance if I try to take a leave of absence to recover from said tit loss. It’s grim. I’m only twenty-nine years old- what else could happen to me in the future? Part of me really doesn’t want to find out.

BUT!

I do realize that these emotions are completely normal and a part of my grieving process. They will swell, fluctuate, and decline as things progress. Right now, I’m allowing myself to feel them, as opposed to trying to suppress them deep inside me like I normally do. This doesn’t mean I’m going to throw myself off the I-94 bridge, but it does mean I might start accepting a radically different world view. Apparently, that’s a popular reaction for people who have been diagnosed with a murdery illness- you start to figure out what, and who, really matters in your life.

And let me tell you, it’s not the 115 separate 1 page documents you want me to print out for you by 10:30 am.

PS: This is NOT to say that I don’t appreciate all the love and support people have shown me. I am so grateful that people continue to ask me how I am! Rather, this was an opportunity for me to vent about how my stupid brain functions. Or doesn’t function. Your call.

 

 

 

 

“You have busy breasts…”

This was the way my surgeon described my breasts today while he was explaining the details of my pathology report, as if my chest were the feature of a new Richard Scarry children’s book.

Richard Scarry’s Busy BreastTown

That’s certainly one way to explain my breast cancer diagnosis.

I went in last Thursday to have an ultrasound on a new lump that had formed in my left breast. I wasn’t really concerned, considering the long history I have with biopsies, fiberadenomas, calcifications, my family history, etc, etc. My assumption was that it would be another benign cyst, and I’d have gone through this whole process again for nothing. The tech noticed some sort of abnormality (again, not out of the ordinary) and scheduled me for a biopsy the following morning.

I’ll spare you the details of said biopsy (it involves a large, hollow needle) and skip to Monday when I received a phone call from a very chipper woman named Jeanne. She started by asking me questions like:

“Are you at work?” Yes.

“Are you sitting down?” Yes…

“Are you comfortable there?” Not anymore.

And then Jeanne broke the news to me- there was an abnormality in the tissue sample from the biopsy. And congratulations, you have invasive ducal carcinoma! I couldn’t think of anything to do but laugh. Is this really happening? Am I in an alternate reality? Is this a cruel trick because guess what it’s not April 1st? RUDE.

But it IS real and there is no question about it- I have cancer. I’m 29 years old, active, healthy, and generally happy…and I have cancer. This shit is bananas.

AAD1DDF2-B518-4F01-B609-633B4DF1139E-1727-00000482DBE18144
I could make art better than this…

And so begins a string of appointments; meetings with my cancer “team”, oncologists, surgeons, genetic counselors, plastic surgeons, therapists…the list goes on. On Wednesday, I had an MRI that showed further spots, so on Monday I get to have further ultrasounds and possible biopsies. Today I met with my surgeon to discuss options for surgical removal of the tumor. Tomorrow I’ll meet with a genetic counselor. Later on next week, I’ll meet with an oncologist to discuss my treatments, whether or not I’ll need chemotherapy, radiation, medication, or some combination of those.

In the meantime, I have to think long and hard about what I want to do with my breasts. I’m 29 and seriously considering having a double mastectomy. I could also just have a single mastectomy, removing my left breast and leaving my right untouched. Or I could opt to have a lumpectomy. After all, my tumor is only 1.8cm and is stage 1. It’s hormone receptive and HER-2 negative. As far as cancer diagnoses go, this is definitely not the worst one to receive. But if I keep my breasts, I will have to be vigilant in monitoring them for changes every single year for the rest of my life. If I remove them, I greatly decrease my chance of recurrence, but I lose the option to ever breastfeed a child. And if I do remove them, do I care enough to get them reconstructed?

What do I do?

The short answer? I have no fucking clue. There is so much that is unclear at the moment. What I do know is that I have an incredible partner who is so supportive of me and my choices, a wonderful family who is behind me 100%, and the best friends who check in on me and love me more than I could ever expect. So while this entire situation may suck a big bag of dicks, I know that I am loved and supported.

IMG_0292
A sampling of what you get when your life gets flipped upside down. #uplifting #brochuresfordays

I guess this will be the new home for musings on lopping my tits off and what it’s like to wear so many fashionable hospital gowns. Brace yourselves.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.

PS: Jeanne is a wonderful lady. She just delivered the worst news of my life and I was, rightfully so, a little upset.

PPS: Sorry, guys. I know this isn’t my best writing, but I’m a bit emotional and I’m also writing on an iPAD. Fuck Apple products #rt