Just a Chapter
Five short days ago, as the sun cast its first rays into the morning sky, I checked into the hospital for surgery #4. Prior to cancer, the most significant part of my medical history included a broken arm in 5th grade and my three babies I had in my thirties. That was it. I had never had surgery, medications, nothing. And yet, I found myself walking myself into the bustling early morning halls of the hospital to get this next surgery underway. The days before, I was preparing my home and my family for my upcoming inability to do all the things that we are all accustomed to me doing. Also, I ran. I ran and ran and cried and ran some more. I was preparing my active self for this idle I currently find myself in. I'm not good at idle. To me, idle means cancer is controlling me, so I have a hard time just being still and healing. It's just..... complicated. I was very fearful of surgery taking a wrong turn like it did the last major operation I had. Nothing with that whole experience went according to plan. Post operative sepsis and organ failure was not what I had anticipated. As much as I knew I was stronger and in a better place this time, I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about that experience during the sleepless nights leading up to surgery day. To settle your curious minds, this surgery was reconstructive in nature. It is fixing the parts of my previous reconstruction that didn't heal right due to that surprise infection, radiation and post radiation infection/swelling that I experienced. It was also to replace my implants that have been voluntary recalled due to the possibility of them causing a rare form of lymphoma....uh....no thanks. (Advice: My dear warriors, make sure you know what is in your body and ask questions....your body, your choice....be your greatest advocate!) Doc said this surgery was to make the necessary corrections and make me feel and look the way I had intended to look in the first place. This is positive, right? It's a step in the right direction and a step into the world of me feeling whole (hopefully) once again. As positive as this all is, it still brings up a lot of fear, emotions and worry that no matter how I prepared myself, I just couldn't escape.
Surgery day went well! I was wheeled into the operating room, positioned on the table and my last memory is the nurse and anesthesiologist telling me they were going to take good care of me. I woke up in recovery nauseous, dizzy and feeling so incredibly drowsy. I had on the oh so fabulous surgical bra that any of my mastectomy sisters might relate to how glamorous this is (total sarcasm here) and I also had a brace wrapped around my torso. Lucky me, this addition to my wardrobe is with me for the next 4 weeks..sigh. The fat grafting that was done left my entire midsection feeling incredibly bruised, battered and sore. I was able to go home that day after several hours of waking up and becoming more stable. The hour and a half ride home was a blur. My bed felt amazing and sleep came so easily to me that night. The next day I had some visitors and flowers and texts from my great friends and family. I was honestly in pretty good spirits! Besides the pain, I was happy to have it all behind me. It was the next day that I want to shed some light on. Two days post op...this is where there was a lesson to be learned.
Physical pain and surgery go hand in hand, right? But emotional pain....trauma.....I didn't see that part coming. Nevertheless, it reared it's ugly head and I've learned some valuable lessons. Two days post op I found myself really short tempered. I was hollering at my kids, annoyed at my inability to lift anything and sad. I was so, so sad. I would just start crying. At first I thought it was because I hurt every time I moved, but before long, I realized it was because I was hurting but not in the way you think. I was angry, I was sad, I was hopeless, scared and afraid. It was as if all of the emotions associated with my cancer battle that I thought I had tucked away and dealt with were resurfacing. As the tears fell down my cheeks, I muttered out loud "why am I still dealing with this" and "how did I get here in the first place". These are questions I will never know the answers to, but they will haunt me probably for the rest of my days. I truly am stalked by my demons, but hopefully....hopefully guarded by my angels.
About a year ago, I had a colleague say to me one day when we were talking about something cancer related "how long are you going to use that cancer card?". I played it off, but that statement has hung on with me ever since. In that moment I felt shame that I wasn't "over it". I felt like a fool that I still had shit to deal with. I've said it once and I will say it a million more times....cancer doesn't just end once active treatment is over. Was I through with chemo and radiation at that time? Yes! Was I relieved about that? Also, yes! But I was also still receiving monthly injections, a daily clinical trial medication (chemo) and numerous post treatment issues. To this day, there is not a month that goes by that I don't have to deal with the damn cancer card. Is it getting better and less frequent? Yes...but I'm still actively working on overcoming the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with in my entire life physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially and everything in between. So in my post op hours of feeling this roller coaster of emotions, when I was initially feeling shame and anger and all of it...I quickly realized that it's ok for it all to resurface. It's healthy to deal with it and it's normal to be triggered. I hate that this has all happened to me, but I don't hate how it's forced me to dig deep within myself and find this vulnerability and strength that makes me who I am. As broken as I am and feel sometimes, I repeatedly pick myself back up and put my pieces back in a way that makes me even stronger than before. That is something. Just because some of my journey and experiences are presumably over, doesn't mean I'm over it. And that is ok. Hell, it's. more than ok. I'm willing and determined to let it all make me BETTER! That's what warrior souls are all about, if you ask me. You and I can be brave, strong and a little broken all at once. My stories are a helluva lot more interesting than if everything just worked out, right? (wink) As I continue to feel a little stronger with each passing day both physically and emotionally, I truly am taking this idle time to feel ok with where I'm at and what I've endured. Healing is messy, but it is also a gift. It may seem like it goes on forever, but it truly is just one chapter of a long beautiful story. I salute the souls that have wept in the darkness and rose above their pain. You are my people. Stay strong and put your broken pieces back with flecks of gold, for our souls were destined to sparkle and stand apart from the rest. I will leave you with a quote that resonated with me. I hope it gives you hope and makes you feel as if even in moments of despair, another chapter, a beautiful one, is waiting to be written. Go live it! -M
"You're allowed to cry. You're allowed to fall apart. Life gets dark sometimes and you're allowed to have a reaction. So let your tears fall. Let your heart pour. Let it all out until the weight of the storm has passed. Before you know it, your sky will clear up. The sun will come out- and she will fill your heart with light again." -Angelica Moone