Category Archives: Mastectomy

Spring Break

I’m soaking up the sun in Florida.  I thought I’d post some pictures of us having fun.  I’m sporting a curly after-chemo cut.  I try, but I can’t do anything with it but leave it curly.  After several self conscious days in my swim suit I finally figured out a way to cut a hole in the lining of my bathing suit to add my prostetics.  They still slide down a bit but at least I LOOK like I have breasts.  I’m too cheap to buy a mastectomy bathing suit because my surgery is in less than a month.  (I am SOOOO excited about this!)  There’s nothing like wearing a bathing suit to remind you of your mis-shapen body and self-image.  (My sister is wearing the hat.)

amy-and-meleah1charisjenelijah

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A Friend

“But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!”

When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in. And so the two of them traveled on together to Bethlehem.”  (Ruth 1:16-18)

Ruth had a hard decision.  Go the safe route with Orpah, back to her people and familiarity, or travel into the unknown.  Commentaries will say that Ruth loved her MIL so much that she couldn’t part with her.  That might be the case, but I think Ruth was willing to travel the more difficult path.  She wouldn’t leave her MIL in crisis.

She had no idea where she was going.  She knew very little of the God of the Israelites.  And even Naomi knows she won’t be having more sons and Ruth probably isn’t going to be “miss bachelorette” as a moabite woman in Judah.

Ruth had a lot of unknowns and her future looked grim and she had every reason to turn back.  Who can fault Orpah for making the decision to return?

On this breast cancer journey we don’t really have a choice to travel this path of the unknown.   We don’t get the option of turning back. 

When I was diagnosed with IBC I had about three weeks of testing before I started chemo.  During that time I was sure they would tell me it was all a mistake.  It wasn’t.  In fact things got worse when they found it in the other breast.  I tried to figure out how I could get out of having chemo.  I couldn’t.  Then with the mastectomies I traveled to U of M sure they would tell me that since the cancer was gone after chemo I wouldn’t have to have mastectomies.  I did.  Now I am at the eve of starting radiation.  I don’t want to do radiation.  I will.

I am taking the path of big question marks.  The difficult road. 

But I’m not alone.

Just as Ruth traveled the difficult road with Naomi, John describes Jesus as the friend of all friends:

“When the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is.” (John 16:12)

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Ruth stuck with Naomi.  Jesus walks with you.

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Clergygirl Cancer Counsel #6

Two words:  Physical. Therapy.

Tomorrow I get to go.  I am so excited.  It is making a world of difference in how I feel.  I am doing my stretches and massaging my scar, armpits and arms every day.  I am a good student:) 

I know she’ll tell me she can see the difference.  I can too!

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Doing Better

I’m doing better since I started taking the pain meds again and the physical therapy is helping a bunch!  The therapist confirmed what I suspected…..the big bulge under my armpit is in fact a very tight muscle….which is keeping me from raising my arms fully.  So she showed me how to do some massage and stretching exercises.  We noticed a difference as she did it.  I left feeling great.  I go twice a week and she said its really critical I work on this before radiation because radiation will effect my skin/movement as well.

Clergygirl Cancer Counsel #3

I’m taking my own advice: don’t try to stick it out if you need the pain meds!

Yesterday I was hurting.  Emotionally and physically.  It’s very difficult to describe the post-mastectomy pain.  My armpits and the back of my arms hurt the worst.  It’s just very uncomfortable.  It’s a numbing, burning type sensation and I’m scared it will never go away.  I have to remind myself I’m only 3 1/2 weeks out from this and I need to be patient.

Besides hurting yesterday I kept looking at things that reminded me of my loss.  We went swimming with the kids last night and as I was getting my swim suit I glanced at my…ugh-hum…unmentionables (lol).  Not that I wear them now that we have three kids…..we’re usually on the quickie route when we are intimate.  Non-the-less I’m sad I don’t want to wear them and how this has effected my desire for intimacy with Jeremy.  I feel sad for him and then I feel guilty even though he doesn’t want me to feel that way. 

Then we got to the beach and of course I looked like a breast cancer patient with my hair and flat breasts.  So I felt self-consious.  But I refuse to mope at home for my kids sake I need to live weather I feel like it some days or not.  And then I just hurt.  The water was cold and it added to my misery so I watched Jeremy romp with the kiddos.

Then she showed up.  This beautiful woman with totally flat breasts.  I watched her play with her kids.  They were such a cute family.  And she was as cute as could be with no breasts.  Seriously.  I really don’t think she had had cancer and there she was to remind me I was not alone with my flat breasts.  And I could still be cute:)

So I’m dealing with alot of emotional issues with the loss of my breasts, I can at least take some pain meds to feel more comfortable.  I’m taking my own advice.

Living

The kiddos have gone to bed,  The sun is setting and Jeremy is playing the guitar in the next room.  It is nice to enjoy the quietness.  We don’t get that much around here.

Today I went for my first physical therapy session at Bronson.  They mainly quized me on what hurt, how I felt, etc.  They measured how far I could lift my arms, movement, etc.  I am really glad therapy is happening.  I’m so determined that I want to get back to normal as soon as possible.  I’m not miserable, but I wake up every morning thinking about the fact that I have to go through another day feeling like this.  The physical therapist and I chatted as he was measuring and discovered I USED to do triathalons and he DOES them now (notice the difference…..lol).  I admitted that now more than ever (since cancer) I want to be more diligent about getting back into swimming and running (the biking not so much).  I’ve been eying the masters swim team in the YMCA brochure….he said not quite yet…..but soon.  I really got the feeling he was looking forward to working with me so I can get back to living how I want to live. 

All along this cancer journey I get the feeling people want me better.  I have yet to meet a person that just doesn’t seem to care.  So if you ever have to take this journey or are starting it and reading this…..there will be many along the way who will work with you, take care of you and want the best for you.

Victory Sign

I hate mass emails.  I get forwarded so many emails.  If you’re known for forwarding mass emails, I’m sorry to say I don’t read them.  I know who you are and I still love you, but I will read the title and I can already tell I won’t read it if it’s of the mass variety.

So my MIL only saves the very best ones for me to read.  But even then she has to call me if she really thinks I should read it…..or anymore watch it.  So today she called me and I reluctantly went to my email.  I was surprised.  I liked it.

It reminded me that God can use the worst of situations.  I wouldn’t have wanted to hear that when I was diagnosed even thought I knew it was true. 

Breast cancer has stolen so many things from me.  So many things that define my womanhood.  My hair (temporary), my breasts (temporary).  I can’t even make a victory sign with my arms anymore (like Sheryl Crow here).  My muscles don’t let me stretch my arms that far. (this I hear is temporary too)

But I am reminded that what makes me a woman is not my hair or my breasts.  My womanhood is found more in the nurturing of my children, my compassion for others, and my character.  And even though I have beaten cancer and want to hold up my arms like Lance Armstrong after winning the Tour de France, I hold tight to victory in my heart through what Christ did for me on the cross. 

Romans 5:8 from the message says this:  “Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”

We are never perfect and Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.  We are always in process.  We are always on the journey.  If we had to be perfect we would never make it.   The victory in all of this is that I am so loved.  Jesus stretched out His arms for me on the cross and He stretches out His arms for me now with all my cruddy baggage. 

He’s holding up my victory sign even though I can’t.

My body will never be perfect, my heart will never be perfect, my choices will never be perfect, but I am trying to be more like him through His grace and I know it is by His stripes that He offers me complete healing and perfection.

The video says it way better than me in less words.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvDDc5RB6FQ

A Funk

I’ve been in a funk today.  Like in that “spotless mind” movie with Jim Carey when he just knows something is missing.  I think I’m beginning to realize something is missing.  And well….a lot of things are missing. 

This morning my MIL left after being with us for three weeks.  I didn’t have to load/empty the dishwasher once while she was here.  Laundry….what laundry?  She also painted my bathroom and did a lot of other grandmotherly things.  She let me sleep in and rest every day.  All those things plus she’s just a good friend and I like having her around. 

Then I realized I had lost Dr. Alfaraz’ phone number.  I looked everywhere.  It was my security blanket.  I’m not ready to accept that I will need to get to know a new doctor.  I’m not going to call him because I know he needs rest and to move on.  I just need to have his number.

Then Elijah got sick.  He was irritable with a gooey nose all morning.  The kind that runs and doesn’t stop.  So now….my MIL is gone, my doctor is gone and my son is sick.  The dam broke.  I wept off and on through the morning.  My mom called and freaked because she thought the worst.  No….just me in a funk again.  I’m having issues moving on again.

I found the phone number.  I programmed it into my phone.  I won’t call.  But at least if I think something really bad MIGHT happen I’ll have the number just in case.  Like what if I have a recurrence? 

That and I’m missing my breasts.  I really do miss them.  I keep trying to act like I don’t, but I do.  I’m tired of being in pain.  I keep hoping for normalcy.  I know people think I look really normal, but what they don’t know is that I have to hold my arms an inch or so away from my sides so as not to rub the scars under my armpits.  And any fast movements hurt.  It hurts when I have to run after Elijah or when I read to the girls and they squirm.  It hurts when I try to reach the crackers on the top shelf.  And Charis cries when I tell her mommy isn’t capable of having friends over today.

Yup, I’m in a funk.  Tomorrow will be better.

Progress

I’m getting better every day.  I can feel it.  The back of my arms and my armpits still hurt.  It is a numb burning pain.  In fact it feels a bit like a bad sunburn.  My oncologist told me my brain is trying to figure out how to respond to the nerve dammage and its getting mixed signals.  I’d really like it to figure it out….and soon!  The scar is still tight.  I feel like I have a rubber band around my chest. 

At times I get sad because I feel like I will never feel normal again.  But then I am reminded that I am cancer free and I quit feeling sorry for myself.  My oncologist has arranged for me to go to physical therapy so I am looking forward to doing whatever I need to do to get full motion back into my arms.  As of now I can’t lift my arms above my head or reach high or across.  I am slowly being able to lift Elijah for periods of time.

Thanks for praying for my recovery!

Clergygirl Cancer Counsel #2

Post-mastectomy care:  Your armpits will hurt.  They will not look swollen (at least mine weren’t) but they will feel it.  You will not want to touch them with a razor or deodorant. 

My solution: Lafe’s Natural and Organic deoderant spray.  I promise you….it hurts to put on deodorant.  After a few days I got sick of the stink.  There are several organic companies with spray deodorants you should be able to find at a health food store.  Weledahas some but I’m not about to pay $15 for a bottle of deodorant.  It must be insanely good….lol!  This cost me $4 and works pretty well and it is aluminum free and paraben free.

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