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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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.

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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.