It’s hard to believe that 8 weeks have already come and gone so quickly.
I’m returning to work on Monday and I’ve never been more excited to get “back to the grind” in my life. It’s amazing how a good dose of reality can spark such a drastic change of perspective when you least expect it. The thoughts that once relentlessly clouded every single angle of my life have finally gone. I no longer feel trapped by the dark and unforgiving reflections surrounding my genetic makeup and the uncertainty of my cosmetic outcome has finally ceased, leaving only the most positive and uplifting points of view in its wake.
As a woman who’s been known at times for being violently insecure, testing positive for the BRCA gene mutation is probably one of the best things that could have happened to me. When I originally found out my results, the only thing I seemed to wrap my brain around was the cosmetic anxiety. The fact that my sister was battling breast cancer because of the exact same gene mutation wasn’t even on my radar during those first few months. How my boobs would look to other people solely trumped the more important aspect of the situation. Until other women started sharing their BRCA stories with me I had little to no appreciation for the fact that I had the upper hand in knowing about this at 27 years old. The majority of women I spoke with had already been through breast or ovarian cancer and that was the only reason they found out about this gene mutation in the first place. You’d think that having a sister as proof in confirming that the “what if” scenario can, in fact, happen to YOU would be enough of a jolt to make me see the big picture.
Fast-forward 6 months.
The day after my mastectomy I woke up to the worst amount of pain imaginable. It was about 4am when I called the nurse in and I remember telling her that my pain level on a scale from 1 to 10 was about a 15. She gave me some drugs and all was well in the world again. Four hours later, the pain returned and I couldn’t help but wonder how I’d make it through the next few days.
My sister, Heather, came to visit me that morning and I just about lost it when she walked into the room. After fixing a few pillows and adjusting that God-awful wannabe sleep number bed, I asked her how the hell she got through this. She told me that the surgery was the easiest part. She said after months of chemo, and losing her hair and feeling sick every single day that the mastectomy was a cakewalk in comparison to the rest of what she’d been through. I remember looking at her – gawking, really – and felt baffled by what she had just said. Clearly realizing the confusion on my face, she piped up and told me that she’d held back the pains and misfortunes of the chemotherapy to keep me from worrying about her. She pressed the fact that all she wanted at the time of surgery was to finally rid her body from the undiscriminating evil that could have so easily taken her life – taken her away from her two little boys, her husband, her family, her friends. It was in a bizarre way a joyous day for her.
I remember feeling ashamed. I was embarrassed upon each recollection that suddenly raided my memory – all serving as a stabbing reminder of my vanity and self-pity. While I was sitting around bitching over whether or not my boobs would look perfect, Heather – and so many other women like her – actually had to deal with CANCER. It was then, in such a humbling moment, when I finally decided to look at the bigger picture.
My only hope is for other women who find themselves in my position to feel blessed. Lucky. The end result with reconstruction will be fine. YOU, will be fine – not to mention alive. I’m celebrating my 28th birthday this month and it’s a comforting feeling knowing that I will have many more! And with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve all right around the corner, I couldn’t be happier!
At the end of the day, I have my life. I don’t have breast cancer. And I never will. Ever.
On a lighter note, here’s a little clip of the prep time with the nurses before surgery. Apparently the “cocktail” I was served beforehand was a hit. Enjoy!