a little c

because I refuse to give it a big one

Pretty Average

Posted by wendy on 2011/06/20

I have been thinking about all of the people I’ve met in the last 6 months–at all stages of this particular path (El Camino De cancer), and you know I have to say–I’m not all that special.  (Now, before y’all go getting all up in arms because Wendy Doesn’t Think She’s Special, I want to stress that I KNOW I’m special.  We are all special little snowflakes.  I know that.  Some of us are fabulous little snowflakes, and I totally think I am one of them–so, no worrying about my self-esteem, m’kay?  It’s intact.)

When I say that I am not special, I mean that I think that more and more, I am ‘the norm’ when it comes to cancer patients.  Cancer is not always the death sentence that it once was.  Chemo has changed dramatically in the last 10 years.  And, it is evolving even further–last week, I was discussing it with the nurse practitioner at the Oncology Center, and she told me that there are trials right now that involve the use of cytoxan/taxol all throughout the process (no adriamycin!  Those of you who’ve had dealings with the Red Devil can sit back with me and ooo and ahh over that little tidbit.  I’ve got to get more info from her, because seriously–googling cancer trials yields far too many sites for me to sort through right now). But, even barring that…as sick as I felt after treatments 3 and 4, I lived through them.  It is not pleasant.  It is not fun.  But, it’s doable.  Do you hear me, Dear Frantic Googler?  It can be done.  You can do it.  You really can.

Where was I?  Digressing, I know.  I’ve had some very nice things said about me lately, and it’s very humbling and sweet–but, when I hear the words “I hope I could react like you have”…my very first thought is this “You would.  You will.”.   I’d say cancer brings out the Awesome in nearly everyone, but I think we’re all pretty awesome to begin with.  We play the hand we are dealt.  We have our initial reaction to it (tears, denial, blame–which, coincidentally, is also how my last marriage ended), then we realize that life must go on.   (yes, I know there are exceptions to this rule–but this is an “I am fairly average” post, not an “I am EVERYONE!” post.)  Believe me, I remember the period of  thinking it would be so nice if things could just STOP for me.  “But, I have cancer” could have been tacked onto the end of so many sentences.  (The dishes need to be done..but, I have cancer! The light bill is due..but, I have cancer!  heh.)

The thing about life is that it will relentless push you forward whether you like it or not.  And, I’m glad it did.  No one wants to get dealt the cancer hand, but when you are–you will deal with it (see above, “Dear Frantic Googler–it can be done”.).  I don’t feel especially brave about any of this.  It is what it is.  I mean, let’s face it, if we could run from cancer, I know a great many of us would have a 4-minute mile in our bag of tricks.  I’d have roadrunner legs under me to get away from all of this–seriously.  And, I don’t even like running.

I think if I had any real advice for someone newly diagnosed, it would be this “find your voice”.  There was so much information being thrown at me when this first hit, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t make any decisions, so they were being made for me–and they were the wrong decisions (for me).  They originally recommended a full mastectomy and a tram flap reconstruction of the right breast, combined with a reduction of the left and nipple reconstruction of both nipples (so they’d ‘match’)–I have a horror of surgery to begin with, but the idea that they were going to take my stomach muscle horrified me (especially since I’d worked so hard last year to HAVE a stomach muscle) and losing my nipples was equally upsetting.  I still remember what it felt like the night I laid in bed with my mind rolling around, and I thought the one thought I had not dared before, “What if I say no?  Oh my God, can I say no?!  Yes.  Yes, I can. No. No. No.”  I slept like a baby the rest of the night and called my surgeon the next morning.  I told him I would NOT do a mastectomy, I was keeping my damned nipples, and we needed to look at other options.  (In my case, a lumpectomy and a reduction (no nipple removal), combined with chemo/radiation.  But, let me stress, THIS was what worked for me.  What works for other women could be something entirely different.)  I think the key is finding your voice and having a say in your treatment and your recovery.  So, give yourself time to process–and then speak up. Your doctor, however well intentioned he or she may be, is NOT the Boss of You.

Radiation Chic!

I'm pretty sure when they say "one size fits all", they mean it literally--because I'm pretty sure all of you could fit in this gown with me.

 

I took the route that made sense to me–for who I am and where I am heading.  There are more risks with keeping more breast tissue (seriously, I had to FIGHT to keep my nipples, and while I realize that may sound like a silly thing to some people, but I’m also betting it makes perfect sense to others.) and I had to consent to radiation to make my surgery as good as a mastectomy, but I’m okay with that.  There is a risk it could come back.  But, there is always that risk, isn’t there?  I have met the Thing That Might Kill Me Eventually.  Isn’t that a weird thought?  Frankly, I prefer to focus on the fact that it didn’t kill me.  I’ll worry about That Thing when I’m 90, but not before.  NINETY, I SAY.

Again.  I have digressed.  Where was I?  Oh yes.  Every day I get in my car and drive 20 minutes for a 10 minute procedure–but that was the trade-off for keeping my breasts.  I will do it gladly and hopefully with minimal bitching.

If I DO complain, remind me how fabulously perky my non-murderous little boobs look in a white t-shirt, will you?

5 Responses to “Pretty Average”

  1. Lomara said

    You are so amazing and brave and strong. I want to be just like you when I grow up. ❤

  2. Jen S said

    I ❤ you so much darling! It is true; everyone's c story is different. Having a voice is key. Also you are surrounded by those who will stand and speak with you.

  3. I love this. You are so right on, that there are so many different ways to go and right way is the way that fits for you. I am thrilled too that nipples stayed, although I always said, longevity trumped cosmetics….

    You are rounding third girlfriend!

    xoxo

    Lauren

  4. shirley said

    I love this and you. Great advice. Keep the faith.

  5. wendy said

    ooo…You know, I meant to answer this and I forgot–Because yes! I believe longevity trumps cosmetics too–I should have clarified the big issue with my nipples wasn’t with my surgeon–it was the plastic surgeon who didn’t like them–they’re “too big” and there was “no way I can reconstruct a nipple to match, they’ll both have to go”. (Granted, there is always risk with keeping extra tissue, but since I was keeping part of my breasts, I figured keeping a few extra grams of nipple wouldn’t kill me*–they got nearly 4 pounds from me as it was. hehehe.) I think that was my line in the sand moment.

    *Um, if it does, in fact, kill me–everyone can feel free to say “I told you so!”.

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