I was thinking today as I put my two kids down to bed tonight at how extremely grateful I am for my life today.
It was just a year ago that I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I was devastated, I had not quite caught my breath from Franklins Autism diagnosis a few months before that. I went to get my annual physical early in the year to meet our deductible so we could get Franklin some additional therapy on our insurance so we wouldn’t have to pay for it.
I got a call from the doctor on my way to Franklin’s first observation at pre-school, and the words didn’t seem real to me. Carcinoma blah blah blah. I had to ask him, “DID YOU JUST TELL ME I HAVE CANCER????”
I entered a quiet rage. I have 2 little kids, why is this happening now????? My husband cannot handle what I do “behind the scenes” for the boys. The fear was palpable because every woman in my family that had breast cancer died from it, except my Aunt Kim. After picking myself up from the floor, it was time to fight. I took this crazy anger and fear I was feeling and said – OKAY CANCER, it’s on. Bring it!!!
Meeting with my family, my doctors and after a little bit of research the most effective thing to do was a bi-lateral mastectomy and having my ovaries taken out as well. With that procedure it carried a 99% survival rate, and that is the best I could do for my kids.
Then came the day of the surgery. We had prepared, my mom and Mike came to stay for a month. My small group carried our family with prayer and meals for a long time. My in-laws helped with the kids and anything we asked for.
It’s a crazy thing to go into a major surgery when you don’t feel sick. To wake up without breasts and in the throws of menopause was something that I was not at all prepared for emotionally or intellectually. I thought I was, because I was just doing the thing that felt right for my family and me. I needed to be better, and not be sick so we can get back to the business of being a family, I wanted to not be a sick mommy and I wanted desperately to be well to care for my children. My medical team was amazing and took great care of me. I had seen a lot of pictures on the Internet and thought I was ready for what was about to happen to me.
To wake up in pain with drains and pain pumps coming out of you is inexplicable and not to mention everyone that you love is looking at you like you’re going to blow up. The first few days were just a blur and everyone trying to keep my kids off of me. That first appointment at the plastic surgeons office when the bandages come off is way more than I can explain in words. HOLY MOLY, no picture in any book or any website could prepare you for the site of two massive wounds where your boobs used to be. I immediately burst into tears and the whole thing became a reality. My mom told me, why are you crying???? It looks good!!! WHAT???!!! I look mutilated, but I’m alive and am cancer free. By no means, am I whining. I was in shock.
It has been a long road of reconstruction and re-building my strength and confidence. I like my new chest but it still isn’t my old “girls”.
I feel very lucky and very fortunate that my cancer was found and treated early and aggressively. I sometimes feel guilty when I hear of others that have had such harder struggles or even lost their battles with cancer. I feel guilty for gratitude.
In the midst of recovering from this you don’t realize how weak a surgery makes you. I am taking much better care of myself than I have in the past and my strength is returning. I am constantly with my boys and grateful that I am able to be with my kids and be their mommy. It is my first and favorite job ever.
My marriage is stronger and weaker because of this. A huge hurdle to overcome in any relationship and we did it. Dave hasn’t quite accepted the new “girls” yet and is still experiencing.. I don’t really know but things are different and may or may not get back to normal. But I hear this is a challenge that a lot of breast cancer families go through.
My relationship with God now is stronger. My crazy anger and rage was really directed a lot at him. I couldn’t understand why I needed to go through this. Wasn’t having a son with Autism and a husband that struggles with Alcoholism, and a new baby enough for a family? My plate was FULL. Why do you think that I can handle all of this???? All I ever wanted was a house with a picket fence a couple of kids and a Suburban… I don’t remember asking for all this crappy stuff.
What I found out over this year of recovery is that every thing is a gift even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
I am still here for my children, I am still here for my husband, and I am still here for my family. I feel like my mom and I have the closest relationship now that we never had my whole life and I love her deeply. I am a breast cancer survivor and get to live my life when so many don’t and I choose to be grateful and at peace with that.
My friends are all amazing men and women that helped my family in so many ways during this time. I am truly thankful and indebted to all of them.