So I put a little poll out there on my Instagram account and asked people what they wanted to hear about from me on the blog re: cancer. The response was fairly unanimous. People want to hear me complain. You want to hear about the hard stuff, the stuff that got me down. If you follow me on social media, I hope I’ve made it clear that this cancer stuff does absolutely suck. There are no two ways about it. Between the 5 mile runs and all the other positive fluff…there was a lot of very raw emotion, puke, crying, anxiety, constipation (ohhh emmm geee the CONSTIPATION!), threats to move back to Chicago (by myself)…the list goes on. So here goes…the negative things that hit me the hardest:
The waiting: There is SO much waiting during this process. There was waiting for my mammogram, waiting for my biopsy appointment, waiting for the results from my biopsy/my diagnosis, waiting to know if the cancer had spread, waiting for my surgery, waiting for my second surgery, waiting to start chemo…I mean if there is anything that cancer has taught me it might be a TAD more patience. Actually that’s a lie, but it sounded good right? Seriously the waiting game in all of this is agonizing. Thankfully I have my kids as a constant distraction during all of the waiting. Speaking of my kids…
Having kids at home while going through cancer: This is one of those sucky things that truly isn’t sucky because quite frankly, I can’t imagine going through what I went through without my kids at home cheering me on. But on the MANY days I felt like complete crap, having kids at home that were watching me, still needing to be fed…it was tough. Like probably the hardest part about this entire thing for me. Not the having to be fed part because honestly, that’s what carry out is for. But the watching me, observing me, wondering why I was taking things out on them part? That SUCKED. Because yes, we are lucky that our kids were so young when I went through this because they don’t get it at all…but knowing they don’t get it, that part killed me. My hope is that someday, decades from now, my kids will understand what I was going through during this insane period of our lives and feel like I handled everything like a boss.
Side effects of chemo: I almost hesitate putting this in here because at the end of the day, EVERY SINGLE PERSON handles chemo differently. I had three other friends going through this at the same time as me and we all handled each phase of chemo very differently from one another. For me, I slept like complete crap. Like there were nights I slept for zero minutes. Newborn days had NOTHING on this level of insomnia and it was awful. Another thing that really surprised me and actually sort of crept up on me was the weight loss. I’m currently 27 lbs down from mastectomy day, May 21st, 2018. My appetite was pretty terrible post surgery and during chemo and it was something I didn’t realize until after chemo was over. I was still nursing Rose the morning of my mastectomy, so some of that weight was postpartum/nursing related, but an almost 30 lb weight loss feels surreal to me. Another side effect? Chemo brain. I wrote a post about it and obviously tried to laugh it off, but chemo brain is real. Between failing my Minnesota driver’s test and leaving my poor dog outside at night when it was 15 degrees out…ugh ugh ugh. Lastly, night sweats. Or rather, menopausal symptoms. All I can say is hats off to my mother and all other women for going through menopause because it freaking sucks. And I clearly was not expecting this at 38 years young…not even a year after having my last baby.
Change of routine: While I literally have zero regrets about this, we pulled both Cora and Amelia out of (pre)school while I was going through all treatments. The week after my mastectomy, I was recovering at my parents house and Josh and our au pair were at our house with the kids. Cora went to one of her last days of preschool and in one day she picked up two viruses – the stomach flu and croup. In May. After that, I was 100% convinced that Cora must lick the floors of her school because honestly, HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN? Having four very young sick kids at home is miserable. Having four very young sick kids at home, while mom is simultaneously going through cancer treatment? Well it can be scary. And since we all know preschool days are basically just one disgusting virus after the next and I wasn’t up for any additional stressors, we took school off the table. It’s unconventional, but it worked and I’m so glad we did it. The one time I picked up a cold from my kids during chemo, it took me down. A cold. It came close to delaying my second to last chemo treatment and when you are the one going through chemo, a delay is heart wrenching. Treatment for cancer will take over your life. It’s all consuming and not just for you, but for the people around you, as well. It’s intense, it’s exhausting and it’s disruptive as heck.
Having a new set of fewbs (Fake boobs = fewbs…a term we use in the cancery community): The thing is, I played this one off well. To most I would say (and still say!) that I was excited to have “perky fewbs” after breastfeeding four children. And I’m sure that in a few years, when I’m further removed from this entire debacle, I might see it that way. The TRUTH is? This was one of the hardest things me for me to accept. I was 7 months postpartum with my final baby when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Breastfeeding had never come easy to me and Rose and I had it down like champs. Regardless, I nursed my baby the morning of my mastectomy. The 3.5 hour surgery took close to 6 hours because every time my poor breast surgeon went to make another cut, she’d get a milk duct and make a complete mess of the operating room. TMI? Well…the thought of it is a little funny, but holy CRAP did this part suck. To make matters worse, this baby that only I would feed for the last 7 months…I didn’t see her for close to 3 weeks post surgery. It literally felt like someone had torn her out of my body. My hormones were a complete and total disaster and I was so freaking mad. It felt cruel. For the first time in all four postpartum periods, I finally wasn’t experiencing any postpartum anxiety and then this happened? Amazingly, over the last 8 months, there have been a few women, in an attempt to relate to me, that want to talk “boob jobs” and say how great it is that we have a perfect set. It literally broke my heart and made me want to scream. The difference between me and a woman that had a boob job? I didn’t want this. This was not elective. This was not a choice. I didn’t get a boob job, I had reconstructive surgery as a result of a mastectomy because I had cancer. And I went on to have months of chemotherapy and radiation. Not. The. Same. Also, for the record, my set is very far from perfect. I am learning to be OK with what is there. The only positive about them is the fact that I no longer need to wear a bra. And as someone who has always had to wear one, that is pretty awesome. But I have zero sensation and never will and permanent THO (look it up if you don’t know).
WHEW! That felt GOOD…as I said on my first post, part of writing on this blog is that it is therapeutic. I hope people can read this and relate, can learn, can find some connection if they are going through it, realizing the things they are feeling are not abnormal (even if it feels completely abnormal). There is no way around the fact that cancer sucks. But coming to grips with the parts that suck makes you appreciate the good hours and days that much more. Cado On!