A year ago this Memorial Day weekend, I began my descent into breast cancer Round II hell. On Friday, May 27th, I underwent the MRI-guided biopsies that would change my life (and my body) forever.
A year ago, on the morning of June 6th, as my daughter was yelling for me to come dry her hair after a shower, the phone rang and I heard, once again, "you have cancer." I listened to the details, thanked the caller, and got my daughter to school. I walked her there, walked home, called my husband, and fell apart. On the eve of my 10-year survivorship anniversary, I was doing this whole fucking thing again.
The summer was ruined, I'm not going to sugarcoat it. We had some good times, some wonderful times with family and friends, but there was a dark cloud over it all. My impending mastectomies loomed large and it was difficult, even for a mind-over-matter girl like me, to get over the thought of what was going to happen to me. To get over the fact that once again, I was going to be forced to make what seemed like impossible choices.
I went through the motions, made the preparations, and on September 19, 2011, my breasts were amputated. I was hollowed out, implanted, sewn up, and set free to "recover." And therein began one of the most difficult periods of my life to date.
It's so, so hard to describe the myriad feelings I've felt in the last year. Terror. Warmth. Gratitude. Dread. Wonder. Longing. Happiness. Pain. And let's not forget, itchiness. I celebrated every little milestone - and some were very little: from making my own tea in the morning, to being able to shower myself, to the ability to be alone in my home once again, to finally . . . finally! being able to sleep on my side, to clearance to open the refrigerator and lift things heavier than 5 lbs., to clearance for exercise. But things were still dark. My body was banged up. My mind was running wild.
But then sometime around the 4-month mark, the light began to shine in my life again, physically and mentally. I felt myself, MY SELF, coming back. My strength and stamina were improving. I'd run into DI's office and say "look! it's 9:30 p.m. and I'm still awake!" I could rotate my arms in their sockets and I feel my entire body getting stronger, again, from the Pilates and (then very gentle) exercise I could again enjoy. I was becoming me again. Only stronger. More determined. More gleeful. More joyful. Could it be? I was RECOVERING.
Now, a year out from diagnosis and 8 months out from surgery, I'm so so so happy to report that I'm "recovered, plus." I have energy and drive and determination again. I am happy and strong and these surrogate breasts I have feel like a part of me. Sure, I'm irate and sad that I did all that again and that I'm forever disfigured because of stupid cancer, but I'm beyond that, most days. Most days I'm giving cancer the middle finger by working out hard, facing the sun and smiling, making plans for the future, stopping to smell my roses, enjoying my dear friends and family and by, well, merely continuing to live.
If not for the miracles of modern medicine, my friends, I would not be here today. That little cancer I had in '01 would've killed me by now. I'm, as another cancer blogger calls it, a "Darwinian fail." But here's the upside of that. I got a second chance. And then ANOTHER second chance. You think I'm going to squander these amazing opportunities on stagnancy and self-pity? Hell no.
You never, ever know what's coming 'round the bend. It could be shitty, or it could be great. Why not steer yourself toward the great every single day you have? Why not? Don't you deserve happiness and fulfillment? I think we all do. I know I do. Watch me go for it. I hope you will, too.
So cheers to years, my friends. The last one's been crappy, but I have a really, really good feeling about the one upcoming . . . 'cause you know what?
I'm. Still. Here.