So here's the thing...this post covers the experiences I've had from January 19th to today, January, 24th. I'm still in the hospital, but I'm certain this story is meant to land in the lap of someone who desperately needs to understand that you are NOT alone and that even though my world literally collapsed in a matter of hours when in fact, I was on this amazing trajectory of healing, I once again found myself back into a frightening place where just now am I starting to see the light once more. The physical pain I've endured in these past days has been a challenge, but the emotional blow and the PTSD that so quickly resurfaced from a previous near fatal sepsis experience secondary to my stage 3 cancer diagnosis has jolted me to my very core. For the first time in my life I've had to tell my dear friends I just need to be left alone to deal. That's not me at all, but it was necessary for me to be able to be coming up for air now. Believe it or not, it is like REALLY hard for me to share things that I often want tucked away from the world, especially when it comes to protecting my vulnerability, BUT sharing my story has become less about me, really, and more about helping others and myself find some hidden meaning in the times that seem like they are tearing us apart. I'm currently living through something devastating, defeating and just flat out scary and hard for me. I'm documenting almost all of it in real time and because of that, it is so raw and vulnerable. My only guide is my inner warrior so my thoughts and reactions. may not always be appropriate or well thought out. They are, however, real. I hope you read on, but know that I have used language that isn't always "pretty", but rather packed full of emotion, rage, grief, sorrow and fear...so, I can't really help it.. In talking with. my amazing surgeon again today, he said that what's beautiful about what I'm doing with this blog is being raw and honest and not always sugarcoating everything so that another young woman who receives the message feels heard and understood. After all, when we are torn into pieces, we just want to know there is a way back to feeling whole again. I am here to do just that for someone else because right now I'm my own guide and it is super hard. I'd kill for someone to show me the way. I know, though, that I will find my way and it will be right for me, so I'm not completely helpless, just a little lonely on this weird path that no one understands once again. I am currently in yet another hospital bed, I, in fact, was killing it on a Friday a few days ago as I was being wheeled into emergency surgery. This irony was pointed out to me by one of my survivor sisters because I was too sick to even see that. So if you want, sit back and read on. Again, I'm choosing not to change the raw stuff because the iron was hot, just as is the point....this will make more sense in a second I promise.
(Back Story.... As a refresher for anyone who hasn't read my blog before, I just had a successful reconstructive surgery for both of my breasts in November following a near three year cancer debacle of sorts. I had been feeling so great and ready to start moving forward. Life, however, quite abruptly had other plans.)
January 22, 2021:
I read a quote today that read "Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with."-Henry David Thoreau
This whole story actually begins on the 19th of January, but just today am I able to start jotting some things down. I'm pretty sure reading this quote was one of the many signs, lessons, or "ah ha" moments that I've had today as I type this from a barely lit hospital room with a pulse oximeter on my middle right finger which makes typing extremely difficult by the way! Some of my blog, or at least the really traumatic early experiences have been captured not in real time, but as I have reflected on them and what they have meant to me. This time I am deciding to strike while the iron is hot and give it to you as it is unfolding for even myself.. The good news is that this means I am beginning to feel better because even 9 short hours ago, I could barely lift myself out of bed, let alone type. The bad news is that sharing what feels so raw and confusing for me leaves me wondering if I should be even sharing it in the first place. The only thing that drives me to put it out there is seriously the hope that someone...somewhere feels the gentle hug of a soul who cries the same tears you do and who is trying so hard to be brave and strong while holding it all together on the outside (ok, only sometimes) yet completely crumbling on the inside. Just like you. My shattered wings, see your shattered wings and together I know we will fly once again just as soon as we heal and put the pieces back together again.
This all started just three nights ago. I started running a high fever. I had aches and chills and I couldn't really eat or drink much. My left armpit and breast were killing me. I swore it was all because of the chest flys and new weight lifting regimen I had just started a couple weeks prior. Now, I realize that doesn't explain the fever,. but it explained the pain...kind of? I had my second and presumably final reconstructive surgery two months ago, maybe it was related? Then I thought is was a weird reaction to the Covid Vaccine I had 5 days prior. Both of these theories were debunk'd by my surgeon. I did have to have a rapid Covid test to make sure I wasn't dealing with that virus before being able to make the trip to Sioux Falls. This whole process cost me a day of me struggling through it with nothing but Tylenol, a prescribed antibiotic from my surgeon and my dark, sarcastic humor. Add to that some tears, not much sleep and maybe a little profanity under my breath. The Covid test came back negative which wasn't a big surprise, really, but it took away my worry that I wasn't going to be able to get help very easily. It was frustrating that because of Covid, I was delayed a day from being able to see my team due to the types of symptoms I was having. Let that sink in you guys. People are really struggling with health conditions that are not due to Covid and because it has been so difficult to get this under wraps in our country, treatments, surgeries or whatever are being delayed because it has to be ruled out first. I'm not upset that I had to get tested to make sure I was safe for my team, I would certainly do it a million times over to keep them safe. However, the fact that this fucking uncontrolled virus is costing us valuable time that should spent saving our precious lives....it's hurtful and it's wrong. I just wish everyone could just try a little harder to help put this thing to bed so we can move on and help not only our frontline heroes in healthcare, but in education, the food industry and just everyone! For God sakes, can we just work together??? My condition was worsening by the hour. Every damn minute was another step closer to my hopeful rise or in this case, my fall. . I'm just so tired of the selfish shit I"m seeing every single day. Over it.
It's now Thursday and I finally go to Sioux Falls to see my surgeon. I threw my face wash, moisturizer and brush into my bag because I guess I kind of knew I wasn't coming back home. Why those are the only three things I grabbed, I have no idea, but it was something. I guess I also took my pillow because I couldn't even keep my eyes open in the car. So not how I normally roll. I saw my team and they didn't even give me any run around. "We need to admit you". I was honestly kind of relieved because I felt SO BAD. I just wanted some help. When I got in my room I'm immediately hooked up to all the of machines and to no one's fault, I go through the many failed blood draws/IV pokes. You see, my veins are really tough to access after all of the trauma over these last 3 years. I can't access anything on my left side because of my lymph node removal, so the right arm is the pin cushion. She gets the brunt of everything and this girl is T.I.R.E.D. My port was removed over the summer so that isn't there to help the process. Finally, after some tricks, everything is in place. My takeaway from this night is I'm getting some powerful meds. My body is marked up like a map tracking the spread of the infection on my left side of my body and hopefully I won't need to be taken to the ICU and also I might need emergency surgery if things don't get better. Awesome. I just need something to make me not hurt so bad. That's the goal, right?
Friday, the morning greets me with the news that my infection is not worse, but it's also not better despite being pumped full of the greatest and most powerful of antibiotics. If we don't act, I would no longer be in "pre sepsis", I would be in full blown sepsis. Well, I've been there folks. I honestly didn't know if I could make it through that again. So, surgery was the answer. I was going to have my left implant removed, the area irrigated and next steps would be revealed based on what they found. I know this was the right thing, but already my demons were bearing down on me and I was feeling shame, fear, guilt, embarrassment, pain and so much more. I had spent so much time in my surgical journey going to sleep with breasts and waking up with breasts. I don't know how to do it this way. I've never wanted to do it this way. What the actual fuck am I going to do to not completely lose it? By 10am the Infectious Disease team came in and talked to me about their role in my case and it's just triggering the severity of everything and also the need to do surgery pronto. The hospital transport gal started wheeling me from my room to surgery and she was very gentle in her voice as she was talking to me. She asked me if I go to church. I said "kind of". I mean Covid, not so much. She then asked if I pray....I said "I try, but I often feel like no one is listening". She non judgmentally responded that she has always believed prayer to be vital in getting through times like these. I get very defensive about this normally because no one knows the shit I've had to deal with. There's even more than what I put out here that has rocked my world and I'm trying so hard to be spiritual and have faith, but sometimes I just don't feel it. I'm trying, I'm almost pleading for God to bring me back....I paused and thought maybe this woman and this conversation at this moment might just be that. Her words are prompting me to rethink a few things and be open to some ideas. That for me, right now, is something. I've never gone into a surgery sick, so this was a different experience. I remember in pre op there was the live video feed of the penguins being fed at the zoo....I just watched them diving and waddling and I remember telling the nurse how much I love penguins (so weird, but true story). She said they are never this active at this time. I smiled and thought ok, someone is trying to send me something to settle my spirit. The next memory is coming out of surgery. I had a breathing tube during the surgery so what I was hearing was when they were trying to get me breathing on my own. I heard three voices kind of hollering at me saying "Mia! In through the nose, out through the mouth! Come on! You can do this!". In my mind I was like I am! Pay attention! When I woke up there was just one woman calmly reminding me to do this. I have no idea who the other voices were....I'd like to think my deceased Grandparents were shaking me up to give me life once again, because honestly, I just felt so tired and really, really sad. By midnight I"m not sleeping. I'm broken. I'm missing a piece of me and I will never be ok again. I cannot move on from this moment and I'm pissed and completely defeated. I'm so sick of trying to do good in this world and getting what for it? The tears just will not stop, this horror is familiar and yet new. I can't do this anymore. I'm. just. not strong. enough.
Saturday, January 23, 6 am... I find myself in a puddle of my tears once again. Up since 3, crying since probably 5. I honestly thought I had turned a corner with this emotional baggage, but emotional healing is so freaking complicated. It might have something to do with the little sleep I'm getting because my mind can't stop racing. I had just settled myself down from the types of cries where you struggle to catch your breath and in walks this young man to draw my labs. If you know anything from my previous ICU days/stories, I have this knack for being a magnet to these guys coming in at the most embarrassing moments that in retrospect is servicing perhaps two purposes. One, complete and utter comical relief for the man above as I quickly apologize for being a grown ass woman sobbing in her bed in the wee hours of the morning. Ugh....embarrassing. The other purpose is that optimistically, I can leave some sort of impact on him as to the hardships I'm facing and how it can shape his understanding and just overall empathy of so many womanly experiences... ...or bloody hell I probably just traumatized him. who really knows. haha! So we started chatting and he asked what has been the most exciting thing that has happened to me today. (Note: he's been on a 12 hour shift so today is really yesterday. I think?) Umm. Nothing. I said you mean, traumatic? His response was traumatic and exciting can be two very different things. Point taken and confirmed. He got me thinking and talking. It wasn't bear my soul kind of talk, but it was definitely deeper than surface level conversation. Oh how I needed this. Before he left he noticed my book on the table and asked what I was reading. I had brought with me Brene' Brown's"Rising Strong". He hasn't heard of her, so I began my explanation telling him why she resonates with me and what I'm learning. My whole point in telling you this sequence is this. Just minutes prior to this event,,I was hysterically crying in my bed pleading for God to help me. "I can't do this alone this time" is what I actually said in my prayers or actually pleads. I can't hide that in my experiences, I have often felt God's absence. I'm not proud to say this, but I'm being honest. As this young man left, my sorrows felt a little lighter and heart felt a little fuller. Whatever the reason this situation occurred, I'm taking it as a gift and a blessing. And that's where I'm leaving this one, too. I didn't sleep all day Saturday and emotionally, I just needed to exist. My dear friends reached out and I'm sorry I pushed you away. Thank you for knowing I just needed to wrap my head around this. My dear friend and beautiful yoga master sent me some playlists that I had asked about to help me find the head space to just silence what is going on inside. I played an angel themed playlist for 8 straight hours during the night. I mayyyyybe slept like 4 total hours, but it was better than nothing. By morning I felt like I had tamed the demons that were keeping me from clearing this messy path that I'm on. I actually am quite capable of turning the next few months of challenges into my own beautiful story of healing, rebuilding and manifesting the shit out of what I want to have happen next.
So, as of tonight, Sunday, the 24th of January, I'm putting this entry and myself to bed, even though I"m still. not home. (I know ya'll are like thank the Lord because this is so long! haha! I hear you). My positives right now include"
1) I am still alive . I have the greatest plastic surgeon and team and I couldn't feel any more blessed. Dr. Martin walked over to the hospital all weekend and even during a snowstorm on his days off to see me and we have had the best talks. He has helped to ground me and I know this is all temporary.
2) I have survived yet another life threatening infection and knew the signs early as to avoid even more damage to my body.
3) I"m heading home tomorrow to heal and then I start to work though some appointments with my team so I'm ready for hopefully my last reconstruction in a couple short months.
4) I've pretty fucking low here you guys and yet somehow, I'm optimistic about what is to come. I'm actually excited about the chance to really heal and nurture the side of my body that just needed a little more love and attention. My left breast was violated by a tumor and traumatized with radiation. She needs me to be kind to us both and watch out...her second act,, more like 4th act if you count the original version (lol) will be the best of them all. No I won't show you, you will have to take my word for it when it happens.
5) Once my appetite was back several days into this.....A menu and just calling in what I want to eat and it being brought to me for every meal ....well any mother can attest that this is perfection!
6) And lastly it was nice being told that "I look too young to be going through all of this" ... I just heard the "look young" part and I"m taking that home with me. hahaha.
Thank you for the love, the prayers....everything. Sorry this is so long. I will be back on much more poised, edited and refreshed soon. I hope I've made those of you who have been following along proud that even though it's taken me a little time to view this, too, as an opportunity and not my demise....that I'm holding true to what Killing It Friday is all about. I love you whether you feel complete, broken, shattered or somewhere in between. Keep On Killing It My Angels. -M