Two down, one to go… in terms of my “major” cancer treatments. For those of you who are my Facebook friends, this is old news. But for my blog friends it’s been months since an update. In early March I wrapped up chemo treatments – 6 rounds that began back in November. Last week I had a double mastectomy (without reconstruction – that will come next year). So I’m now at home recovering, mentally well, but physically still coming around.
Chemo – you nasty $%@&*, I am so glad to be rid of you. You sucked. You (temporarily) stole my joy of coffee. You jacked up my finger nails. You gave me a taste in my mouth that still induces nausea if I think about it. You fogged up my brain. You zapped my energy. I’m no longer bitter about my hair because I’m rocking the bald and frankly I don’t miss the shampoo-condition-blowdry-straighten/curl routine that used to eat up a large portion of my mornings. You almost took my eye brows. But, you have a few redeeming qualities… you gave me sweet new friends from the infusion room. You gave me a newfound respect and admiration for the hardworking, amazing chemo nurses (especially mine, Jenny) and doctors who went above and beyond to make sure I got the best care. You gave me an appreciation for actually feeling well because by contrast it is oh so fresh how terrible feeling terrible is. You sucked. But thankfully the bad parts are fleeting and the good parts will carry on. And after all, you did your job – you helped get rid of my cancer.
A few weeks after my last chemo treatment, my amazing hubby Blake coordinated a surprise end of chemo party for me – a big shindig at our house where we celebrated the end of that chapter with family and friends. He thought of absolutely everything – surprise out-of-town guests, a mascara-alert tribute video featuring my sweet children, a beautiful gift, and a legit pig roast. Apparently he’d been scheming for months. I am forever grateful for his unconditional love and caring through this mess. He is the epitome of our vows – for better or worse; in sickness and health.
My surgery has been an interesting, introspective experience. I’ve read about many mastectomy stories; I follow a breast cancer support group on FB; I’m familiar with the physical and emotional scars to be expected. And so as my surgery date approached, I kept waiting for the dread to set in… losing your breasts is a big deal; however dread was never an emotion I felt. So I thought for sure once I was post-surgery and saw my scars, my concave chest and drain tubes hanging from under my wounds, that it would hit me – the finality of it all. But it hasn’t. I’m okay. I am really okay. But in truth I feel a little guilty about being okay. I know it’s not this “easy” for everyone. I’ve been blessed by God’s peace ruling in my life… and by my “don’t worry about what you can’t change” attitude. I am so grateful for this mindset and His grace. Hopefully it’ll allow me to embrace the “rock the flat” mantra as much as the “rock the bald” – especially as I begin to venture outside of my house – I’m cautiously optimistic 😉 Already I’ve been on the winning side of when guests arrive unexpectedly at my house and I have that initial feeling of “oh crap, I’m not wearing a bra!” it’s immediately followed by, “oh yeah, I don’t need one!” There’s always a silver lining, folks!
I met with my surgeon yesterday for my post-op appointment and to review the pathology report from the tissue collected during surgery. As many of you know, I’d been praying for the words “complete response to chemo” which would mean that they found no cancer remaining from the chemo treatments. I had already learned immediately following surgery that my doctor only had to take two lymph nodes and that both tested negative for cancer (even the one that had biopsied positive months ago). But yesterday I learned that there was still some cancer remaining in the breast tissue that was removed, although it was much smaller than the original tumor, and undetectable by touch. The chemo had done a number on it, but had not removed it completely. I was a little bummed about this as I just felt sure that the chemo had done the full job. But as I’ve thought about it the last 24 hours, I feel like maybe the results are a way to keep me depending on and trusting in God to see me through this. Perhaps results that the chemo had gotten rid of the cancer would have left me too logically confident that I’m in the clear, and would not have given me the opportunity to be more spiritually dependent. Despite a little disappointment, my doctor called my results great – they were able to get clear margins around the cancer they removed. As far as the cancer we know about, it is now ALL GONE. I’m hesitant to use words like “no evidence of disease” yet because I have to not had another scan to see if the suspicious spot they saw on my internal mammary gland is still there. I will be doing radiation beginning in May, and so this should take care of anything remaining that surgery and chemo didn’t get. I should have a scan after all treatments are done to know for sure.
Two-thirds of the way done, while slightly battered and bruised, I’m still optimistic and encouraged. I’m still choosing to see the blessings from this journey and how much I will have gained on the other side. I’m still feeling God’s joy and peace. I still feel like the devil messed with the wrong chick – not today satan! I still feel incredibly blessed by the outpouring of prayers and support for me and my family. Y’all, this is the most humbling and beautiful experience I’ve ever been through – to witness miracles, healing, God’s grace, the way my selfless friends and family have continued to give and give and give (this is not a short journey and they just keep giving). To be given the opportunity to see just how much you mean to the people around you is just wow. It’s hard to put it into words.
For my praying friends:
- PRAISE that my surgery was successful and uncomplicated
- PRAISE that they only had to take 2 lymph nodes that were both cancer-free
- PRAISE for continued peace for me and my family
- Pray for my complete healing
- Pray for my upcoming radiation treatments and that my side effects are minimal
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
Love you all!