Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy - One Month Later

It's been a month since my double mastectomy. It is entirely cliche but it feels like yesterday and ten years ago, all at the same time. Look at this girl - donning Warrior gear, looking fierce.  All ready to tackle this thing and also, not ready at all.

 

So tough.  I mean, really.

 If I could go back to that day, these are the things I would tell her.

 

This is going to be hard, but don't worry. You can do hard things. The hard things will get really hard for a while; like a feeling that you won't feel better. The pain will be more than you've experienced before. The medicine will make you feel worse instead of better at first.  For a day or two, it will feel like maybe you bit off more than you could chew. And for a fleeting moment: regret. A tiny moment.  But it will pass. It all will pass. And the relief will be so much greater; especially when you see that pathology report. When alas, you KNOW you did the right thing. Because changes were happening in there. Bad things. You will feel like you have most certainly done the right thing. No looking back.  And you are in SUCH GOOD HANDS.  You LOVE your reconstruction team more and more every time you see them.  They are AMAZING.  Look how happy you are now at your appointments!

 

No helmet.  Jus standard issue MD Anderson robe

and strapless dress for easy access.  And a smile.

 

Let's go ahead and take of that Warrior helmet now. It's not necessary. It's been a great concept and a wonderful goal, but here's the thing - you are who you are.  And because even warriors must occasionally have bad days. We're going to have more than a few bad days and you are going to worry quite a lot and that's okay. No use in beating yourself up about not being tough enough. Let's let it be enough just to have done the hard thing. Okay?  Baby steps.  Warriors and Worriers can perhaps coincide.  At least now we're not worrying about breast cancer.  And that's HUGE.

 

The pain will subside a little more each day. The drains will be your arch nemesis.  Sorry. But they will suck.  A lot.  But hey, it only lasts a few weeks. The expansions are painful but not unbearable. The physical pain is bad but the heartache is worse.  This is the stuff you were afraid of, but didn't know how to prepare for.

 

This is going to be harder on the kids than you anticipate.  Your heart will break every time Zack raises his arms for you to pick him up.  Every time.  And it will break even more when he just stops coming to you and chooses someone else.  He will start calling out for Daddy when he wakes up, instead of you.  It's okay.  It's good for him and it's good for Danny.  But it will sting a little. When he gets hurt, and wants you to pick him up and comfort you, you would move a mountain to be able to make that happen.  But you can't.  You have to gingerly get down the the floor and awkwardly hug him when you want nothing more than to sweep him up and bear hug all the sad right out of him.  He'll have sleeping issues.  Your baby is just out of sorts.  His crib is not in the right place, there are people coming and going, his mom can't hold him...you can't blame him.  But you guys will have some moments.  When you're in bed and he comes to keep you company and there will be your own special bonding time that you hope will somehow make the guilt a little less heavy.

The tray made and excellent venue for

cars and trains.

Emery will have it the hardest.  She will become completely preoccupied with you, your health, your mom's death, and seemingly begins to question everything in her life regarding it's stability.  She will not want to leave you.  She will resist going to school.  She will cry almost every night at bed time.  You will have discussions with her on a daily basis about "the sick that made your mom die" and why you are not going to get it because you had the surgery.  You will reassure her endlessly. You will give her anything and everything that reminds her of "you" just to get her to sleep at night or out the door in the morning. (Spoiler alert: she's going to lose your special "I Can Do Hard Things necklace on the playground.)  You will look at her sweet face in all its anguish and all its worry, and tell yourself, "I did this." And you know that it's not "your fault" and you know that this was something you had to do, but you will question the timing and whether or not you could have done more to help her prepare or just....anything.  You want to make it all go away for her and take her back to the carefree, smiling six year old that she is.  She will get a little better every day.  And then she'll have setbacks.  But she is having more and more time when she is the old, pre-surgery, SMILING Emmie.

 

I love this smile.

 

Then there's this girl.

 

Here she is demonstrating her

incredible strength before field day.

Don't be fooled, mama.

This is where you screw up the most.  Because you are so worried about Zack not understanding why you can't hold him.  And so preoccupied with Emmie being so outwardly falling apart; that you don't realize that she is feeling slighted.  The two little ones are getting extra attention and she seems so fine and handling everything so well. (Except that she hates homework.) But you are so proud of her for her maturity and keep thinking, "Wow. Addisen is coping with all this craziness, so amazingly well."  And then you will get this letter:

 

And then you will go in the bathroom and cry because you have failed her.  She has, in fact, been lost in the shuffle and you will be so mad at yourself for not seeing more clearly what was going on. She's been going through it all, just like everyone else. You will have been in such day-to-day survival mode and "let's just keep everyone's head above water" that you will take for granted the one that is doing so well.  And it stings too.

 

It all hurts.  It all sucks.  You will wish you could wipe the entire last couple of months from their lives.  But you have to keep reminding yourself that this one year of hard is necessary.  That we are having this one hard year so that we can have a lifetime worth of everything else.  That's the hope anyway.  The master plan.  So please don't forget that.  You did this for them.  As much as it feels like you did this "to them" right now...you will have to let go of the guilt.  It's really hard seeing your family fall apart.  It's really hard watching your husband work his ass off every day and night and then have to ask him to do one more thing when you know he's exhausted.  It's really hard being a bystander in your own life.  But you have to just keep telling yourself that the point here was to REMAIN in your life.  For good.  And you will think about some women you know right now who are doing much harder things.  The ones who didn't get to stop those bad cells from changing further and the ones that are fighting against something instead of preventing it.  You will save your prayers for them and their struggle and their families because their hard things need more attention than yours. (If you are one of my prayer warriors, please - Emily, Heather J., and Heather S. Thank you.) In addition to them, I have learned of at least three more friends of friends that have just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It's just not fair.  I wish everyone got to have this chance. We are so very lucky. Remember that.

 

You will need to just know that this too shall pass.  And that the hardest part is over now.  The fear is gone now.  The normalcy will return.  And someday, hopefully soon, our family will all feel as though our feet are on solid ground again.  We will deal with the emotional aftermath for as long as we need to.  We will love fiercely and tirelessly.  We will be stronger as individuals and a family. We will remember that we belong to each other.  And we will be okay.

 

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