Prior to the race, I treated myself to a manicure, which never happens. Each color was a visual reminder during taper week of what I wanted to accomplish during each 6 mile set. Continue reading
Have you ever played that game called “Bull$hit”? Yep. I have. Have you ever heard “trust the process” and your inner critic screams, “BULL$HIT, I WIN!!!” Continue reading
Today is my anniversary. One year has passed since I had my bilateral double mastectomy. A year ago today, I was up at the butt-crack of dawn and heading to the hospital with Mom, Dad and Liz. Check-in was at 5:15am and surgery was at 7:00-ish am. Two surgeons, along with two amazing teams, and 7 1/2-ish hours later, I was “out” of surgery. Continue reading
Leading up to this weekend, I was extremely nervous. I had trained and felt pretty good, but I also had some training runs that led to some self-doubt. What the heck did I get myself into? Did I bite off more than I can chew?
Rewind back to about October/November…
A friend tagged me in a Facebook post about doing Ragnar Relay as an ultra. I immediately said to sign me up. This’ll be fun! Now, remember, during that time I was about 6-8 weeks out from my initial double mastectomy. I spoke with doctors and they were 100% confident I’d be able to do it. Afterall, they reassured me the upcoming second surgery would be a piece of cake! Ha!
I had the second surgery and had complications – fat grafting issues and nerve damage in my stomach at the donor site. There were several times I wanted to back out of Ragnar.
I didn’t. I started “training” once I was cleared 100% by my doctors back in the middle of February. I remember texting a friend freaking out because I had only been able to run one mile. Then I upped it to two miles. How the heck would I be able to run 31-ish miles. I slowly started getting back at it. My pace was more like a turtle running through molasses. I did a half marathon in April and was two minutes off my PR (personal record). I had only done 9.5 miles leading up to that and most training plans have you doing anywhere from 10-12 miles the weekend before tapering.
Well, my motto for the year is to wing it. I definitely winged that one. It gave me a huge boost of confidence and exactly what I needed. If I could pull 13.1 miles outta my rear, I could certainly train for Ragnar but no pulling that out of my rear.
I continued training and doing double runs in a day and a few times a week. I also signed up for a few half marathons that also fell on back-to-back weekends or every other weekend. One of my teammates said the ultra could be done on simply half marathon runs. She’s done several Ragnar relay ultras, so I had that to fall back on.
I wanted to do Ragnar Relay for myself, team, and as an inspiration to other double mastectomy ladies. I needed to do this to prove to myself that I can do it. There’s nothing holding me back but myself.
Anyway, Thursday afternoon, everyone (but Susie) met at my house. I had the van packed with our food container and cooler. My dad made us some car decals and we were putting them on as people got there. The van looked pretty cool!!!
We headed to Madison and picked up Susie from the airport. From there we grabbed dinner and went straight to the hotel to settle in. I was exhausted. I hardly slept Wednesday night and woke up super early Thursday morning. I took vacations days and wanted to sleep in.
I was runner one so I got all my stuff ready and organized. When I packed for this, I put all of my running outfits in gallon zip lock bags. Then when I was done I could throw my clothes back in the bag and no sweaty or stinky clothes out. Imagine what the smell could end up being like after all of us being in a van for two days!
Friday morning, we woke up, had breakfast and headed to the rainy start. We arrived, got our race bags, went through the check-in process, and hung out in the rain.
Next thing you know it was 7:50am and I was about to embark on one of the craziest things I’ve ever done! We took a few pictures and the announcer was shouting out team names. Eek! I was runner one and my first leg was 10.5 miles. We decided as a team to do back-to-back legs to have more down time. We all still had three legs to do, just double the miles than your typical twelve person team.
Leg 1: Run through Madison in the rain!
I started off nice and easy. I put in my average pace as 10:30/mile, and figured that would give me a little bit of a buffet as time went on. It rained/misted for about 6 miles.
Leading up to Ragnar weekend, I never ran in the rain. I would skip running outside and run on the dreadmill. I know, such a diva! My friend Anna laughed at me all the time when I told her I wasn’t running outside. I bumped into her at REI one rainy day, and she said, “what if it rains Ragnar weekend. What’re going to do?” Yeah, WHAT IF!!!! Obviously I would have no choice but run in the rain.
It was extremely relaxing running in the rain. There was this calmness about it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had to chuckle at myself though. Here I didn’t train in the rain but ran in it. I watched people prance around the puddles delicately and hop over some like they were playing hopscotch. I was already soaked anyway, so I just ran right through them! Can you say the joke was on me? Thanks, Mother Nature!
For the first leg, my average pace for the 10.5 miles was 10:22 a mile, and I was ahead of my arrival time by a few minutes. Yay!
I had a few kills and felt really good. A kill is when you pass another runner. It doesn’t count when you pass an ultra runner, at least that’s what we said!
I arrived at the second exchange and met Cat who took on the next two legs. I changed and got out of my wet clothes and we got to the next exchange to wait for Cat and drop off Melissa. The rain cleared and it turned out to be a nice, cloudy day which is perfect running weather. We met Melissa to give her water and a snack. She was running over 16 miles total for her first leg. Crazy, huh? Then it was Susie’s turn to run. She ran, and then we picked her up and off Jenni went.
We went to the next exchange point and I got ready. I was next up.
Leg 2: 8.7 miles on some trail
Prior to this leg, Cat taped up my knee with KT tape because my right knee was bothering me. I started running again around 8pm and the next thing I know, the tape was falling off. Ugh.
I’m totally a fan of running at night because it’s so peaceful listening to nature and looking at the stars and moon. It was overcast and foggy so none of that happened, but it was still an incredibly beautiful and relaxing.
During my double training runs, I tended to do better in my second run. Leg two was no different. I averaged 9:47 for my 8.7 mile run. Yay!!!
Next thing I knew I was arriving at the exchange and slapping the wristband on Cat’s arm. I felt really good and actually wanted to keep running!!
I felt great for a while afterwards, and then it hit me. My stomach felt like crap. I couldn’t eat anything and only water tastes good. I started downing tums, but it wasn’t doing anything.
We continued meeting at the exchanges to drop off the next runner and pick up the previous runner. We had a blast in the van driving and hanging out. We laughed, joked around, and at one point attempted to sleep.
I still felt like absolute crap no matter what I did. Oh well, I had to suck it up and prepare for my final run.
Leg 3: 12.1 miles.
My third leg was running through Racine and ending in Kenosha. How extremely boring…the only exciting thing was the rain I was running in. Yes, Mother Nature had a laugh at my expense.
I felt okay the first few miles and then it hit me – my stomach hurt and my quads were screaming and cursing my name. Holy crap.
I took a walk break and texted my mom telling her I was dying. She texted back asking if I won the race. It’s a joke between her and I. Anytime I do a race, she always congratulates me and follows it up with “did you win?” We both laugh and laugh.
I started laughing and texted back saying “no, but I’m not winning and am letting my team down.” I was averaging 10:30 and progressively getting slower. No matter how many shot blocks I ate or water I downed, nothing was helping me! I was bonking.
I didn’t want to let my team down and felt I was (even though I know I wasn’t – the games the mind plays). I texted them saying I was sorry and averaging an 11-ish mile pace. There was nothing I could do but suck it up and put one foot in front of the other.
I got to exchange 25 and the volunteers were shouting my number out. I kept yelling I was an ultra and running through. They didn’t comprehend until I ran to the exchange thing and ran back out to the trail. Everyone started cheering for me and telling me how I was crazy! When they passed me, they all told me I was awesome. It gave me a little boost but didn’t help with my dead quads.
Pretty soon I spotted the “one mile left” sign. Yayyyy!!!! I took a selfie with the sign and got a little emotional. Holy crap. I just ran 31.3 miles in 24 hours! No freaking way. I picked up my pace a little bit and attempted to finish strong. But, that didn’t happen
I couldn’t believe it. That run felt like it took me a million years to make it through, but was all a blur when I reached the exchange and passed the bracelet on to Cat.
My teammates met me and off we went to the next exchange. We received messaged from Cat saying she was hit by a car, okay and going to continue trying to run. She was hurting badly, so we drove and met her and Melissa graciously agreed to take her last three miles. Melissa’s total mileage for the two days was 37plus miles.
We continued dropping and picking up runners. Jenni was the last runner and would take the last two legs to Chicago finish line.
We drove to the finish line area, parked the car and scrubbed the van decorations and sayings off the car. We all hobbled to the finish line and cheered other runners and teams to the chute.
We started getting nervous. Next thing we know, it’s raining and lightening out and no sign of Jenni. The stupid stop lights were interfering with her agenda. Honestly, it’s so hard stopping and going. It’s difficult to get the legs going again especially when you’ve already ran such long distances already.
Jenni made it and we all ran across the finish line, only to be tossed our medal package and a few pasta cups. We took one picture and were instantly told we had to leave and get to our vehicles! No finish line party or free beers for us!!
Once in the van, Jenni got a text saying the race was called and teams had to get their runners off the road.
All-in-all it was an amazing and fun experience. I learned much about myself mentally and physically and I wouldn’t trade those things at all. I also learned much about everyone else, too! It was an absolute blast and an amazing girls weekend. Who goes on a girls weekend and runs an ultra relay? All of us crazy chicks!
Running 31 miles is no joke on the body. Take that and throw in no sleep and it makes for some delusional and funny moment. In the end, I’m extremely happy with my performance and would do it again in a heartbeat. I recorded most of my runs and between the three I averaged about a 10:30 pace.
short and sweet about what’s going on with the recovery and stuff.
I had a follow up doctor appointment yesterday and received some good and bad news. On Monday it will be four weeks since my expander/ implant exchange and fat grafting surgery. I’ve been frustrated because at this point with the last surgery, I had been doing PT faithfully, lifting my 2/5 pound weights, and walking on the treadmill anywhere between 2-4 miles at a crack. This time around? Walking from my car to house (vice versa), work and that’s about the extent of it.
Its frustrating but I have to listen to my body. It’s best I stop and smell the roses instead of putting myself several steps backwards. It’s key I don’t do much upper body stuff right now so I let the fat grafting from the donor site (belly) adhere/”took root” to the boobs, it’s new site. I needed a lot of grafting done on the left boob to even out dents and ridges. It appears some spots are dying and may need another round of fat grafting. Potentially. Not thinking about that though. Also, my implants are larger than the expanders so I need to let the pec muscles stretch a little more and settle in.
I asked Dr S yesterday when the restrictions would be lifted and why I was still having such terrible abdominal pains at the fat grafting donor site. I sat there topless while he examined me. The new girls look great and he took time to admire his artwork. My chest was a blank canvas that he turned into something I can honestly say I’m growing to like.
He noticed my stomach was still swollen and sensitive to the touch. I’ve been wearing yoga pants and loose bottoms since day one and have only worn jeans a handful of times. Anytime I wear jeans or something tighter, my stomach is in excruciating pain.
After talking about restrictions and things I got some good and bad news…
1) I can bike on the trainer, but can only sit upright – no aero position. I only have a triathlon bike so promised him I wouldn’t ride aero and would use my arms to support myself. Just because he said I can bike easy doesn’t mean I actually will…keep reading.
2) no swimming for at least 6 months (ok, just kidding). Not sure when I’ll be able to swim, but there’s no rush. I have no desire to get in the pool anytime soon.
3) I can start running again in two-ish weeks. Tentatively speaking. Depends on the bad news…
1) I can start wearing “normal” bras again. I hate shopping – it’s depressing shopping for new ones so I gave up. Sports bras or nothing it is.
2) I have nerve damage in my lower stomach area at the fat grafting donor site. At this point, we aren’t sure if it’s a temporary or permanent thing. This one sucked to hear, but it’s out of my control and there’s nothing I can do. I’m hoping it’s not a permanent thing.
The nerve damage would explain why my lower stomach area has been swollen still and hurting. At least I have some answers now.
If the spots of fat grafting I mentioned above do fail, I will not be doing another surgery or round of fat grafting. After being in this much pain still from it the first round, I’m not dealing with it again. It’s not worth it to me. I’m fine with debts and ridges. It’s my new norm and there’s a story to tell.
So, with that, I’m excited there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I desperately want to be done with this and move on with my life. I want things to go back to normal…well, let’s be honest, I’ll never have that normal again (which is sad at times and I still tear up about…like right now), but I want to get on with things, figure out my NEW normal and start loving my body again. I’ll bounce back in the multi-sport world, but there’s no pressure or stress to get back in the game. I will race again, but not at the old intensity. I just don’t have that in me right now. Heck, I might just throw in the towel for the year and come back swinging in 2016!
Anyway, there’s a little glimpse of what’s going on in my world.
There’s times I feel broken with this and everything going on…but…I remember this…
Cheers to another day! Knowledge is power. Thankful to know and be proactive!
Monday morning, December 29th, I had surgery to swap out my rocks (expanders) for nice, squishy implants. I woke up super early and followed doctors orders – shower with this special soap and put this prescription patch right below the ear. Done!
Mom and I arrived at the hospital around 5:30 and I checked in immediately. After that, we went to the third floor to the ambulatory surgery center. The nurse assistant, Daphne, took me back to my room and I changed into the gown, walked to the bathroom for that happy dance (pee in a cup), and back to the room where I settled in. Daphne and I got to know each other pretty well after my first surgery when I had to go to the ER and spend the night. She and I caught up on Monday. She’s a breast cancer survivor herself and I got her to commit to doing Team Phoenix. I told her I’d train with her and help her get back into fitness. She hasn’t done much and was really excited when I said I’d do whatever it took to help her!!
The nurse eventually brought me two pills to help combat the nausea and an Ativan to calm my nerves. Shortly after that the anesthesia doctor came in for a visit and to confirm what he was going to do. He was already aware of what happened last time and reassured me he was going to give me a different anesthesia so I wouldn’t get sick. My favorite nurse came in and we chatted. Valerie is another sweetheart and puts me at ease every time we talk. She’s kind, compassionate, and encouraging. She’s always telling me I made the right decision and how proud she is of me.
Dr. S came in a few minutes before surgery was to start to mark my chest and my stomach for where he’d be taking the fat out. The incision would be through my belly button and he’d pull fat in the general area and transfer it to my left boob area. The left needed the most work; it sunk in badly! He also marked the right and left love handle just in case he needed to pull fat from there as well.
The nurse and anesthesia doctor wheeled me out of the room and down the hallway to the operating room. I actually remembered it this time because I hadn’t had the knock-out medicine yet. He couldn’t give it to me sooner because I needed to be marked and plus my IV needed to be flushed a few times. Speaking of that, it hurts like none other…and as a result my hand has a HUGE bruise on it. Ouch! I made it to the room, met the team, and even made it on the operating table all by myself. They moved me, hooked me up to machines, put a few patches on me…and la-la land I went…
3 1/2 hours later, surgery was successful…AND, he even got me bigger than anticipated. Sorry, no Pamela Anderson boobs. 2 1/2 hours on the left, 1 hour on the right. The part that hurts the most, believe it or not, is the stomach where he took the fat. He had to take more than anticipated (no arguments there). Originally he was only going to have to transfer fat to the left boob, but the right needed work after the implant was put in.
My stomach from the belly button down and to the right hip is really swollen and bruised. I look like I’m 4-5 months pregnant. It hurts. I can only wear loose bottoms otherwise I’m in excruciating pain. My arms and chest don’t hurt as badly as the first surgery, but there is still pain. A lot of bruising at the fat grafting incisions. Total incisions this time were 8 – one under each boob, 1 fat grafting incision at belly button, 3 fat grafting incisions on left boob, and 2 on right boob.
I’m incredibly thankful he didn’t have to take fat from my left love handle area. He marked it and the incision would have been right on my tattoo I got shortly after Sarah was diagnosed and I found out I was BRCA1 positive. I’m super elated I didn’t have to have drains this time around. Like I’ve said before, drains suck BIG time.
I had to leave the original bandages on for the first few days, so I didn’t get to take a look. I’ve seen them now and the foobs look good. Actually, let me clarify, I’m happy with how they turned out, but haven’t come to terms or accepted the new girls. I hope, someday, I can learn to LOVE them. Every day I have to put new gauze and tape on over the incisions and wear this Granny surgical bra to keep the girls tucked. I won’t be cleared to do things or go back to “normal” for anywhere between 2-4 weeks.
It is so awesome to no longer have rocks in my chest! I can’t even describe the feeling. This surgery was a breeze compared to the first one. There’s still a lot of pain involved and I’m taking a few steps back, but it’s completely worth it. I’ll be back to working out, eventually. My body needs to heal, considering I had two major surgeries in three months time. There’s no pressure! I’ll bounce back (literally and figuratively)! Ha!
Anyway, that’s all for now. One of the side effects of the nauseau medicine is blurred vision at night. So, with that, I’m going to take a pain pill, get comfortable in the recliner, and pass out for a little bit…hopefully…lack of sleep seems to be the story of my life again.
Tits (aka: Firm Jugs)
(A little something I wrote tonight…)
‘Twas the night before surgery and all through the house
not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.
The boob pillows were hung by the recovery chair with care
in hopes that new boobs would soon be there!
I am snuggled up and comfortable in bed,
while visions of surgery and boobs danced in my head.
While Lexi Rat slept soundly close by,
I can’t wait to wake up from surgery and say, “boobs, hiiii!”
And soon enough the alarm clock will go off,
and I’ll spring from my bed, “cough cough”.
Off to the hospital we’ll be dashing,
and soon enough the girls will be flashing.
Oh I can’t wait for these rocks to go,
So I can get on with my life’s show.
New foobs, bras, tanks, oh my!
Wait until you see my new boobs catch your eye.
With my lovely surgeon so spunky,
I know in a jiffy he’ll get rid of the funky.
He’s so precise and meticulous with care,
and claps his hands and call the staff by name…
oh but I don’t remember their names…
Down the hallway we will go, through these doors,
down this way and I won’t remember because sweet dreams and la-la land shall I be.
I’ll wake up hours later oh so high,
down the hallway we will fly.
Up to the recovery room we flew,
with my new Pamela Anderson foobs and surgical bra, too.
Foobs. Foobs. I have new boobs.
And then in a twinkling, I’ll hear them say,
“you’re clear to go, my what a wonderful day!”
The chest is plenty tight
but new boobs make it totally alright!
My eyes how they twinkled. So slap happy I’ll be.
I can’t feel a thing, as my friend Dilaudid helps me.
My chest is chubby and plump,
but thats okay I won’t be a saggy frump.
Don’t be jealous when I’m old,
for you will have the saggy bags I’m told.
I can’t wait to be done with this and give santa a holly jolly kiss.
Recovery will be/should be a breeze.
But don’t worry, I won’t be a tease! T
This will all be a blast in the past,
I can’t wait to swim and be fast… (for these helium-ish firm jugs will keep me afloat!)
I did all of this to avoid the dreaded C word.
My, I hate Cancer, it’s such a turd.
Knowledge is power and I have no regrets.
Happy double mastectomy, rocks and now implants to me, and to all a good night.
Lately, my life’s music has been more like jazz rather than pop, classical or whatever. If you know anything about jazz, it’s all spontaneous, random chords thrown here and there, things mismatched, random solo outbursts between instruments, piano plunking away…I would love it if my story and life was a complete classical symphony. But lately, it’s a half-written, unfinished symphony. The musical lines are twisted, tangled and unresolved. My eraser is my biggest friend as I’m constantly rewriting chords and phrases. I cannot predict things and there are too many unknowns. Jazz is known for its improvisation and the performer’s own interpretation. Right now, I’m doing a lot of improving and figuring things out as I go. Many phrases and chords are unsettled. Movement One in this symphony still has yet to get a finishing cadence, unlike the last page of a finished book. I may never get that perfect cadence of my symphony, so I may just have to learn to love jazz and accept the unfinished cadences and chords. Life is confusing, messy, and full of unknowns. But, lately, I’m learning there’s nothing wrong with that and having an unfinished symphony.
Forgive me for being rather quiet on my blog.
I’m mentally trying to prepare myself for this surgery that’s right around the corner. I should be excited to get my implants. After all, I’ve been joking about it for the longest time. I am, but at the same point, I’m not.
I had my pre-op appointment bright and early this morning. It was at the hospital that I had my surgery at. I was excited while driving there, because this is one step closer to surgery, new fake boobs, and this all being behind me.
That moment when you walk into the hospital, check in with admissions, are taken to the third floor to the pre-op/surgical center, get taken back to a room while walking passed all the rooms I was once in, and smelling that familiar smell…all while trying not to cry, puke and run…
The last time I was on this floor was back in September when I was checking into the hospital and saying goodbye to me real boobs. There was something about being in the surgical wing, smelling that smell…
I wanted to cry. Being in that same area brought back so many emotions. Anytime I’ve been to the hospital for physical therapy or post-surgery visits, I’ve been able to subconsciously ignore that hospital smell. This time around, the all-too-familiar scents and visuals of the third floor made me want to puke. The smell there was completely different from the other floors! I don’t like hospitals ever since September.
I texted a friend and told her I was going to puke. She was extremely supportive and positive. She told me it wasn’t crazy having those emotions. I had a traumatic experience there.
Things changed when one of my favorite surgical floor ladies walked in. We caught up and she made a lot of notes for this next surgery. She even gave me a prescription for some patch I have to wear prior to surgery to prevent me from getting extremely sick. She also ordered more blood work. Apparently when I went in for surgery back in September, I had some low blood count numbers. They needed to draw blood today to see where things are at. If the numbers come back low, I guess I’ll cross that bridge. I should have asked more questions about that.
I still feel like I’m going to puke after being there. I don’t have an appetite. I didn’t think being on that floor would affect me like that.
I left and drove up the lakefront. I had no destination in mind, but just wanted to drive. Normally when I want to clear my head, I hop on the bike; it’s too cold and windy to do that now. So, I aimlessly drove north along the lakefront for a while, turned on my favorite music, and eventually headed to a favorite thinking spot. My brother and I would cruise in his go-kart of a car he built and head up there during the summers. We’d walk out to the lighthouse and sit and talk. It was too icy and slippery to walk out there, but, I hung out there for a bit, listened to the waves crashing in, and reflected.
I’ve been told this second surgery is way easier than the first. It’s not a 7 ½ hour surgery again with any overnight hospital stays. It’s maybe a 3-4 hour surgery and outpatient – I get to go home the same day! He’ll be taking the expanders out, putting the implants in, and transferring fat from my belly to chest area to even out the new rack. I have ridges and indents that need some work. However, the thoughts of no sleep again, not being able to wash my own hair, having to deal with drains and those incisions, having raw and sensitive skin, sleeping on my back again when I’ve finally figured out how to sleep on my side…and the list could go on, doesn’t excite me.
The drains are the worst and I can see why people don’t do reconstruction. I’m still having issues from the drain incisions the first time around from the scarring and how Dr. S had to put them in me. He had to go through my rib cage and oblique muscles to get the tube up and around the expander. They were placed through the incision and sewn into me with stitches. They pulled and snagged. It was extremely uncomfortable. I’m a tough cookie and always handled pain well. However, the drains were depressing. The thoughts of having them again are depressing.
I never want to see gauze or tape in my lifetime again. Ever. The thought of having to tape the drain incisions and ripping it off raw skin every day, makes me cringe.
I gained a little weight after the first surgery from lack of activity…and maybe from too many fudge bars. But hey, they told me each popsicle counted as one fluid. Ha! I was in great shape prior to surgery and lost a lot of upper body after. I’m nowhere near where I was, but I’ve busted my rear to get it back at it and to lose those few extra pounds I gained. I’m not there and it’s frustrating. There are times I want to give up, but know I cannot.
I woke up and had some bad reactions/complications after surgery. The pain couldn’t be managed or controlled and I got extremely sick. I’ve already informed the hospital and my surgeon of what medicine they are not allowed to give me. After today’s appointment, the surgery center has notes and things on file! They reassured me this time around, I won’t get that sick and have reactions.
Psychologically, I’ve been working through accepting my new norm and body. I have my ups and downs just like anything in life. Every day I’ve been standing in front of a mirror and saying one nice thing I like about my body or simply looking at my scars. I’m in a way better place and can truly say I’m okay with them. I’m a symmetrical person and only wish the drain incisions were at the same spots on each side. Ha!
Everyone around me is super sick at the moment, and I’m fearful I’ll get whatever they have. I’m not allowed to take any medications until surgery. I’m not sleeping. I’m in pain again and can’t get comfortable. Damn weather changes!! Oh well, it will all be a thing of the past some day!!
I know some reading this will think this is petty. I’m sure once I’m on the other side, I’ll read this, chuckle and think it silly to have written this.
Like every obstacle thrown my way, I’m a fighter. I’ve been learning to accept the new limitations. Sometimes you have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to learn things about yourself and see what you’re capable of. This has definitely pushed me, taught me much about myself, and shown me many things about life and the human body and mind. This will all be something of the past and I’ll move on to bigger and better things…and eventually face that moment and time to remove my other body parts that define women.
I should be happy about this upcoming surgery, but I’m not at the moment. I’m scared, but this is all another thing in my life that will make me stronger and something I can use to help other women. This is completely worth it when people tell me they read my blog and as a result they finally got that mammogram done they’ve been putting off. Or when someone emails to say it was refreshing reading my story and gives them hope for when they make their decision. There is beauty in this, even on cloudy days like today. I need to keep the finish line in perspective, which is hard to do at times with a blurred vision.
Someday, this symphony will get its perfect cadence and turn out to be beautiful. Until then, right now I’m going to enjoy the jazz improvisation in this movement, and learn to substitute dominant chords and nonchord tones to something beautiful. There’s dissonance right now, and that’s okay. This movement will get untangled, the chords will line up and make sense, and I’ll be writing the next movement in my symphony.
*Soon-to-be your BFFF (Best Foob Friend Forever)*
PS: my apologies for the music references. I was a music major in college and had years and semesters studying music theory and all genres of music.
PSS: Forgive me for my bad day! This, too, shall pass!!!
To Someone Going Through a Double Mastectomy…
When I started opening up to friends about how my genetic testing results came back and I was positive, I got mixed reactions. From that day on, I used it as an educational means instead of getting upset. Do things still bother me? I realized there were plenty of ignorant and stupid people who didn’t care to fully understand or listen to what the “diagnosis” meant.
I don’t think the comments were meant to be hurtful. But, they can be especially when someone is about to embark on an extremely stressful, emotional and unknown journey. Like I’ve said in a previous post, the comments weren’t a reflection of me; it was a reflection of those that said them.
So, let me educate you on what NOT to say to someone watching a sister go through breast cancer and someone about to go through a preventative double mastectomy due to being BRCA1 positive. Continue reading
I’ll be the first to admit I do not have a green thumb. For many years, I had my own garden and was proud of my accomplishment of NOT killing things. They did okay, but wasn’t anything spectacular. I spent hours a week weeding, watering the plants, and tending to it. I researched which plants you should and shouldn’t grow next to each other. I bought a small greenhouse to start the season earlier, so I could reap the benefits sooner. I carefully measured (with a ruler mind-you) how deep I planted the seeds in the cups. It took time and dedication. But, I did it and the sense of “I freaking did it” when I harvested my plants was awesome.
If you do research and understand the laws of nature, you can create, grow and cultivate gardens that overflow with fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Same applies to life. If you use those laws of life to your advantage, you can grow a life full of meaning and beauty.
In life, each of us is growing our own gardens within us. Life brings us all kinds of circumstances, and some have a painful path to walk. Every thought you have is your soil. We’re all given a little piece of ground to work with. My garden isn’t the same as yours; and yours isn’t the same as the next person beside you. Each garden comes with different soil, seeds and climates.
In a garden, weeds steal nutrients, space, water, etc from other plants. They can overgrow the garden and take over whatever is in its path. Weeds like fear, envy, grief, rage, doubt, insecurity, etc can all feed those weeds. It’s important in any trial that you’re pulling those weeds out. It’s okay to have certain thoughts and feelings while going through tough times; however, it’s not okay to let things go, fester and become a deeper issue.
All gardens have potential to blossom and be beautiful. Sometimes while taking care of the garden, you have to get your hands a little dirty, play in the soil, and tend to the pests. In life, we have to do the same things when circumstances and trials come our way. We can turn our heads the other way and ignore those weeds, but what good does that do? Why bring out the weed whacker, when you could pull those few weeds here and there? It takes constant tending and, perhaps, years to uproot certain weeds.
Gardens grow with love and care. Feed your garden with truth, acceptance, trust, joy, dedication, forgiveness, patience, thankfulness, inspiration, kindness, etc etc.
I’ve had to take care of my garden a lot in the last few years, more so this year. I can see how things and circumstances I’ve had to go through have led up and helped me be where I am right now. 2014 hasn’t been a kind year to my family or me at all. But, I have two choices – become angry and resentful for the cards dealt my way or look at it as a growing opportunity. Like I’ve said many times before, life doesn’t come with guarantees or promises that it will be easy. I haven’t arrived, nor will I ever fully arrive until I’m taken from this earth.
With a garden, you have to learn to let go of things that are out of your control. I can be OCD at times (shocking!) and want to plan out every aspect of life. I planned races this year and had some pretty lofty goals, only to have things out of my control mess that plan up. Vineman Half Ironman was going to be MY race. I went into it with a stellar training plan, hired an amazing coach, had a race plan to accomplish and shave off an hour from my previous half Ironman time…I had all my ducks in a row…My nutrition going into the race was the best I’ve ever executed. I woke up race morning and ate my calories. I did the swim and set a personal best. Hopped on the bike and started eating/drinking…only to start puking within the first few miles. I couldn’t eat the rest of the day and my “run” suffered. I had no intentions walking a majority of the run, but I had to do whatever to get to that darn finish line. I planned to do my very first marathon in October and signed up prior to Sarah’s diagnosis with breast cancer. Well, I got my genetic testing done, got a surgery date scheduled, and had surgery. No marathon for me this year and I’m completely okay with that!!
Our lives are subject to elements that are completely out of our control (sickness, death, storms, disease, etc). When I had my garden, I had to deal with all sorts of pests – rabbits, foxes, deer…I couldn’t get rid of them and putting a fence/cage around it did nothing to keep them out. In fact, I think they started taunting me even more when I put up the cages. In life, it’s the same thing. You can put up protective barriers around your life to not let those pests, hurts, pain or whatever in, but they’ll still get in some way, somehow. You can put walls up, but that only lasts so long.
Prior to surgery I had plenty of fears, a lot of them I built up in my head, and let them consume me at times. It was part of the process and dealing with emotions. Here are a few for example: 1) I wake up during surgery like Sarah did during her second biopsy. 2) I lose blood supply to my nipples, they die and are surgically removed anyway. 3) My incisions pop open and take a heck of a lot longer to heal. 4) The drains get snagged and pulled out, which results in fluid build-up and pooling between the expander and Alloderm. Infection settles in and there’s the possible removal of the expander anyway. 5) My body rejects the expander and they have to open me up again to remove them. 6) As a result of number 5, I’m flat-chested for at least 6 months before they can try the whole process again. 7) No sleep, blood clots, issues prevent healing. 8)…..
All of those fears couldn’t be controlled. I learned to deal with those issues as they came up. I couldn’t plan things out or be in control; whatever happened, happened.
Right now, I’m focusing on letting go of my fears and worries with this double mastectomy and life after. This last week I’ve had a lot going on and much out of my control. I could bore you with all the things and details, but I won’t. Mostly, anxiety/fears leading into this week. I have plenty of fears and concerns with more doctor appointments and even going into this second surgery (expander/implant exchange) come December (fingers crossed!!). I don’t want to get too excited, because that could very well change. Again, out of my control! I cringe at the sight of seeing gauze, bandages and tape. I fear I’ll get super sick again like I did. I’m scared and fearful of the pain that will come with this next surgery. Although, most of my research and talking with other’s have said the second surgery is a complete breeze. No hospital stays, less pain, bounce back quicker, and much more. I don’t like the unknowns. The worst of what could happen already happened with simply doing the double mastectomy. I don’t know what to expect with this expander/implant surgery, but I do know it’s not worth stressing myself over the ‘what-ifs’. I cannot control the outcome, but can only trust my doctors that they’ll what their skilled and trained to do. They’re the experts.
I can’t keep feeding my thoughts and fears, because it leads to other problems. I’m pulling those weeds in my garden and replacing them with seeds of love, beauty, self-knowledge, strength, and acceptance. I want my garden to continue blossoming into something even more beautiful. Growing a garden takes time and constant nurturing and tending. It won’t happen overnight and I’ve accepted that a long time ago. I can’t advise you on what to do in your garden, but I can be there to love you and support you no matter what. I haven’t worked with your terrain, fertilizer, weather conditions, pollination, climate, etc etc. I cannot tell you how to grow the best garden. I’ve weathered different storms.
I’m learning to bend with the storms, let go of the conditions I cannot control, let the storms and rainy days better me, trust the sun will continue to shine, and continue to blossom. And you know what? I want to share my garden with others and let them in on my journey.
I’m learning to let go, one day at a time. I’m learning to continue taking care of my garden and mind.
“Life is like a garden, you don’t end up where you started…”