I often relive the moment I was told I have cancer. Where I was downtown Denver…. the cross streets. Gradually coming to my knees and eventually finding myself leaned up against an office building as the doctor told me the devastating news. Tears just streamed and my heart ached. In so many ways that moment, those emotions, that fear come rushing back every day since.
Thursday afternoon, with my roommate and Samantha (my cousins wife) I went to the plastic surgeon. We went through my reconstruction procedure and I signed all of my paperwork. The nurse explained in detail how I will have four drains put in to help drain out the fluid collecting due to surgery. Two drains for each breast. The drains will have to be emptied and the amount of fluid measured each day (multiple times). I will have the drains as long as fluid is collecting. Estimated (3 weeks). In addition to the drains I will be given what they call a pain pump. Until the Sunday following surgery, this will secrete numbing medication into my chest to help reduce the pain. Once it is emptied I will pull the cords out myself. I think it may have been at this time, that the nurse said, “You look terrified”. I simply took a deep breath, said “Well, I have cancer. So yes I am a bit terrified”. Throughout the two hour appointment I went in and out of shock. At times I would handle things as though it is a was a business deal. I would process the information and ask specific questions. At other times it would occur to me that the nurse was telling me what will be happening to me. That those cords, drains and medication are going to be inside of me. Then the shock would wear off and my eyes filled with water.
Following the appointment the three of us went to lunch and shared a bottle of champagne. We talked more of my fears and processed more of what is my new reality. When the hostess poured our champagne into the glasses we told her how much we liked the glass. (unlike traditional flutes they were round). She proceeded to say “they were actually designed and inspired by Marie Antoinette breasts.” I smiled and thought “well of course they are…..” I cannot escape it even if I tried too.
Following our lunch we headed to Nordstrom so Candice could purchase me a Diptyque candle to keep with me and burn at all times. These candles can only be found at Nordstrom’s and come with a heavy price tag, but once you smell them, you would understand (they are amazing). The three of us wandered the mall, I purchased a soft loose fitting shirt (anticipating this being my wardrobe for a month of two). We all agreed in spite of the afternoons appointment with the surgeon we had not been shopping with other girls at the mall since we were in high school and it was kind of fun.
Friday evening I had a special appointment (after hours) to see my hair dresser. I had been advised that cutting my hair prior to surgery would help make it easier. Easier to maintain and should I eventually undergo chemotherapy than it would make it less dramatic should I loose my hair. (shorter pieces falling out than longer pieces).
As a side thought, losing your hair is sort of a cultural right of passage for cancer patients. It as though your bald head tells people that “you must really” be sick. (Truthfully hair loss due to chemotherapy means that they were not able to get all of it out in surgery or they want to make sure it will not return). It is a strange sort of label we place on individuals or children who are sick with cancer. I have come to understand that hair loss or no hair loss. Cancer is cancer. It sucks. It hurts, it aches and it robs. I pray that Chemotherapy is not required for me….. but understand that if it is I will be prepared either way.
My hair dresser who has become so dear to me, shared champagne with me (Yes… you are seeing a trend, when trauma happens drink champagne it helps) while she cut a significant amount from my head. I cried. We discussed my new reality. Although it was an unplanned hair cut. It was less traumatic as I had previously thought it would be. (I kind of like it anyway :))
You can see my before and after pictures below, as well as me sneaking the bottle of champagne in.
As for the remainder of my weekend it was one of the most beautiful Colorado weekends in a long time. I rode my road bike for 30 miles on Saturday, watched football, and started nesting. I have what seems a lot of things to do before preparing to not be able to move or lift much. I have begun laying out my recovery library books (books I will try and read), as well as packing for Louisville. I fly out Thursday morning.
This has really happened quickly. I have already incurred close to $4,000 plus in medical bills, was given sheets of prescriptions (over 25 or so to be taken after my surgery).
On a positive note, The Ironman organization refunded my entry fee for the Boulder half ironman ($370.00) without hesitation which is such a relief. As well as I was able to get a credit for my flight to Guatemala for my best friends wedding I will be missing. The little details are coming together and a week from Wednesday I will be admitted for surgery…..
I plan to continue to write, share my journey and invite all of you to come to battle with me. Sunday I was running at Washington Park, stopped to take a deep breath and was so filled with joy. I am so humbled that God would choose me to have breast cancer. Yes it has been hard, and it is only going to get harder but the overflow of gifts that have come because of this diagnosis, sweet conversations with friends, transparency with others, tears about future all are because of cancer.
I have also learned the sweet surrender of not trying so hard anymore. I am giving up. Most of you that know me well, know that I like to be in control. I like to plan things out, make things happen, execute things well and this diagnosis has literally stopped me in my tracks. I feel broken, hurting and am going to trust that all things truly do work together for good and this small part of my story is going to mean good things to come.
This morning I met with the Fertility doctor. I will write more on this later. Much like me, I am sure you are wondering why…… (truthfully I am not sure I am ready to talk about this piece publicly yet).
Below are some pictures from this weekend, on my bike ride, my run and a picture I snapped at a bar while watching football. I would not recommend getting diagnosed with breast cancer (I would not recommend it ever really) but if you do especially not during the month of October. IT IS EVERYWHERE.
Really wish I could have asked the lady if I ordered the drink could it be free, and I could keep my donation for myself 🙂
As well a great picture of three great friends who honored me during the Breast Cancer walk in Tegucigalpa, Honduras this past weekend.