2015 was the strangest year of my entire life, by far.
It’s been a while since my last post and that’s because my mood in December was totally rotten. I’m not a misery loves company kind of chick, so I kept that shit to myself, until now.
I’ve finally found some clarity and optimism to put the last couple of weeks into perspective.
December marked what I hoped would be the final stage of my breast reconstruction, but it also was the culmination of a year full of loss… I didn’t just lose my breasts in 2015. I lost a lifestyle I loved. I lost people I love. I lost my independence. I lost my sense of comfort. I lost the plan I’d envisioned for how I wanted my life to unfold.
And now I have to start over.
I’ve never been one to treat a new year as if it’s some big milestone… but this year, it really is.
Today, New Years Day, I press reset and welcome many new changes… it’s exciting and terrifying.
But I’ll get back to that… this is how December started:
My “easy peasy” exchange surgery was three weeks ago. I can’t believe how fast that time flew.
On the contrary, the days immediately following my surgery felt like slow torture.
Even though everyone I spoke with, including my doctor, said this surgery would be a breeze, “a walk in the park, compared to what you’ve gone through…” it wasn’t.
It was worse. Imagine that…
As the doctor wheeled me into surgery, I was actually excited… I was looking forward to waking up with a body that felt, and looked, a little more like it used to. I was excited to try on new clothes again. I figured I’d be sluggish post-surgery, MAYBE for a day, with some moderate soreness, but I expected to go home the same day and to be ready to rock rather quickly.
My surgery was short, just over an hour. The doctor found my parents in the waiting room and told them, “Everything went very well. This was simple. She’s gonna be great. See you at her visit next week.”
However, I woke up to something I did not expect… PAIN.
Excruciating, searing, sharp, radiating, hot poker-like pain just under my left shoulder, that traveled down my arm and up toward my collarbone.
Pain that hurt worse than my 7-hour double mastectomy.
And I couldn’t focus on anything, BUT the pain.
I’m pretty sure the nurse taking care of me in recovery thought I was crazy. No matter how many times I told her that my pain was at a 10 (out of 10), she’d tell me, “Be patient… let the meds I gave you work.”
Nothing worked… except morphine… which I had to beg for… while sobbing. I’m NOT a woman who cries when she’s in pain. In the past, I’ve opted to deal with the pain rather than deal with the side effects of pain medication.
We called the doctor to make sure nothing was wrong and he explained that he’d removed a lot of scar tissue that had built up from my mastectomy. What I was feeling was significant nerve damage. He told the nurse to load me up with morphine and ice packs.
I’ve since read that nerves in scar tissue can cause pain 1,000 times worse than in healthy tissue… WOW.
And the doctor didn’t think it might be important to share that information with anyone after surgery, the nurses, my parents… cool.
The morphine dulled my pain enough for me to leave the hospital, and I suppose everyone thought the worst was over, myself included… I never should have left.
When I got home, I took more medicine and collapsed into my bed… the pain was already starting to creep back.
And it didn’t go away for several days. In fact, it came back with a vengeance.
I was sick from the anesthesia and couldn’t keep anything down, the Percocet I was given for the pain wasn’t making a dent and I was starting to think something was terribly wrong. The on-call doctor assured me there wasn’t anything wrong… this was normal.
My cousin Meg, a pharmacist who practices pain management (and luckily lives around the block) came over with an arsenal of meds and gave me a plan. Every three hours, around the clock, for days, I was taking something… I was exhausted, but so grateful for the relief.
The irony is, I didn’t feel swollen and I didn’t have any pain where I thought I would, at all. Had it not been for the pain in my left arm, I wouldn’t have known I’d just had surgery.
Cosmetically, I’m underwhelmed with how I look. I don’t love the shape. The implants feel hard. Trying on new clothes isn’t much fun at all. My doctor said that in three months time, I will probably look differently than I do now. At that point, we’ll decide whether I need additional procedures.
And just like that, the reservations I described in my last post, where I melted down in my doctor’s office prior to surgery, were validated.
December is also when the side effects of the tamoxifen I’m taking decided to kick into gear, and I feel fucking weird. I have hot flashes all day and through the night. I have insomnia, usually falling asleep at 2 a.m. and waking up at 5 or 6 a.m., along with a host of other weird changes.
So, with all of this going on, it’s reasonable that I spent the month feeling disappointed, physically uncomfortable and mentally drained. Christmas didn’t really feel like Christmas and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Feeling that miserable is exhausting… my tired is tired.
But the best part is, all of those things I described, are just memories now… and I’m ready to kick my shitty feelings to the curb.
I’m ready to return to my house, and find a new, awesome daily routine.
I’m ready to get back to the gym, work out like a madwoman and get my body back… I’ve never been more excited to work out in my life.
I’m ready to set high expectations for things I can control and leave the rest up to the universe… I’m ready for things to fall into place on their own.
I’m ready to put my blinders on and laser focus on the things that will make me a better person who has better days.
I’m ready to live spontaneously, plot my course the way my gut tells me to and truly enjoy every day doing things that I love.
I’m ready to accept that my journey may not be over, but that breast cancer doesn’t have to consume my life, 24/7, because guess what… breast cancer is so 2015.
In 2016, I have a healthy body, a healthy mind, healthier relationships and a healthier way of living.
I’m ready to find that person inside of me that all this crap has been preparing me for.
There’s something very special about people who have experienced a life threatening illness at a young age… we have a certain kind of wisdom about life and how precious it really is. We live with a fear that is difficult to describe and even more difficult to admit.
But we also have something that’s invaluable… resolve.
So if I was able to accomplish all that I have in 2015, the worst year of my life, just imagine what 2016 holds… Happy New Year ❤