Flat Fashion

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I’ve been meaning to write this piece for quite some time now and I apologize to those of you who have been waiting for it.  Life struggles, busyness and weight gain (none of my clothes fit anymore) made it a bit of a challenge getting to it, but I managed to get out prior to my breast reconstruction in April to go find some clothes that work for a flat chest.

You heard me right, I did not stay flat chested.  This is a choice that I made long before my diagnosis, back when preventative surgery was still an option for me.  I always knew I would have a DIEP/TRAM procedure like my sister did before me.  At 42 years young, this seems like the right choice for me, but I could’ve also just as easily left it at this point.  I’ve never thought myself to be overly concerned about my appearance, but I do love clothes.  I prefer how I look with breasts, and it makes clothes shopping easier, but I was also able to see myself staying flat.  I didn’t hate it at all.  In fact, I found I preferred the flat chest in some clothes.  I found I was able to wear things that I never could before, even with my small Bs.  There was definitely some benefits.

After my double mastectomy, I was flat for a few months before I was able to comfortably wear prostheses.  I wore them most days when I went out.  They did make a difference, even when I thought I was perfectly comfortable being flat in public.  It was a big surprise to me, to be honest. Once I started wearing them, I felt somewhat “normal” again.  Some prefer to stay flat and that is a great choice, but it can be difficult to navigate this new body change.  Women’s clothes are designed for women with chests, after all, so discovering what works can be a frustrating chore for many.  Whether you are flat for a short time as you wait for reconstruction or choose to stay flat for longer, or permanently, here are my tips and tricks to hopefully help remove some of that shopping frustration and discouragement.

Body Shape Changes:

Many of us breast cancer survivors are not only dealing with the loss of a breast or two or changes in breast shape in the case of a lumpectomy but often we’re also dealing with hairloss and/or weight gain that also digs at the self confidence.  For me, I’ve had short hair before and I kind of even liked my buzz cut look so that wasn’t much of a concern appearance-wise, but the fact that the hair that came back in was so different made it frustrating and difficult to deal with.  The curls versus my previously straight hair and the thickness (not complaining) versus my previously thin hair, was a challenge in learning how to style this completely new head of hair.  Learning curve #1.

I also gained a lot of weight.  I was warned not to give into carbs and I don’t think I did too badly but the menopause and inability to do much physically definitely worked against me so I’m now the heaviest I’ve ever been.  I feel that the weight gain in my belly area did not help with achieving a balanced look with no breasts so that was definitely another challenge.  Not only does it eat at your self esteem, clothes are even more difficult to find when you need a large size for your belly, but smaller for your chest.  I had outgrown most of my clothes so I headed to the mall to try and find some things that I could wear flat chested with confidence.

There are two types of women who are living flat chested.  Those who are living this way but don’t necessarily want to draw attention to their flat chests and those who DGAF.  I’m going to focus a bit more on those who want to flatter their flat chests but not necessarily show it off.  Neither is right or wrong, it’s all a matter of preference and what you’re comfortable with.  I, myself, have gone through all sorts of stages, wearing clothes that obviously showed my lack of breasts and then later not being comfortable in those clothes any longer.

When you’re ready to go shopping for the first time after your mastectomy, make sure you go on a day when you’re feeling emotionally strong.  Take a day when you’re feeling kick-ass.  Grab yourself a coffee and set aside a whole day.  Take a friend if you like or go on your own but you need to have your head wrapped around the idea that it’s not going to be the same as before, because it’s not.  Sometimes a friend/loved-one whose opinion is honest and you can trust can help you see past your preconceived views of what looks good on you.  We can often get stuck on what we’re used to and not see the beauty in what is different.  You’ll likely find things you can still wear, probably many things you can’t, and some things you couldn’t before but can now.  Expecting or limiting yourself to clothing that were your go-to’s before though may bring you disappointment.  You need to look at this shopping trip with an open mind and have fun with it.  It’s the best way to achieve success.  And remember, it might take awhile to build up a wardrobe you are happy with but you will get there so also don’t expect to do it all in one day.

1.  Try on everything, even stuff you didn’t like on you or couldn’t wear before.

One thing I noticed is that there are certain clothes that look better with a flat chest than with breasts.  My breasts were not large (small B) to begin with but even though they were small, I still found some things I knew I would never have been able to wear before, I now put on and liked on me.  I never would’ve though these clothes didn’t work because of my boobs, but it seemed without them, I had opened up a whole new realm of possibilities.  This was a bonus!  Have fun with it.  Go into stores you normally wouldn’t, try on things you never would’ve.  I went back to trying on some clothing styles I haven’t tried on since high school (I’m 42) and actually found some things I loved on me.  Pretend you’re a whole new you.

2.  Bohemian Style

I love bohemian clothes.  If you look at a lot of the bohemian stuff, it’s flowy, baggy and most of the models wearing it are not big chested women.  It’s often built for flatter chested ladies so a lot of it works well for us.  The style isn’t for everyone, obviously, but even if it’s not your thing, you might be able to find some clothing with a bit of that influence that works for you.  It’s all over the stores right now so that’s a good thing for us flat-chested ladies.  More to pick from.  Nothing beats a flowy kimono.

 

3. Sexy doesn’t just come from cleavage

Exposed shoulders, open back, peak a boo cut outs all provide a bit of sexiness without showing cleavage.  And guess what?  With no need for a bra, you don’t have to worry about your bra straps being exposed which is a bonus!  One of the parts of my body that gained the least amount of weight is my shoulders.  They still look OK and I love how sexy I feel when my shoulders are exposed.  Another thing is my back.  Feeling sexy in my clothes on a daily basis was never high on my priority list before cancer, but with all the physical changes that take away your feeling of femininity (ie. breasts, hair, ovaries), I realized it became more important to me.  Hope is not lost.  Being flat, doesn’t mean you can’t be sexy.  Think about showing off your shoulders.  Open backs, and some low cut tops work well for flat chested women.  If subtlety is more your thing, how about looking for peek-a-boo shoulders or cut outs (avoid cut outs in the chest area if you don’t want to draw attention there).

You know those really deep cut dresses you see at the Oscars or those tops that are so deep cut?  Many women with larger breasts couldn’t wear them because they’d be bursting out all over the place.  Well guess what?!  Now’s your chance to seize the opportunity to try some of these things.  Many of the women that wear these dresses have smaller chests.  Many tape their boobs down to make them smaller.  These things are made for flatter chested women.  Not all are created equal though and some don’t work without a bit of cleavage.  Also, scars may get in the way or, if you’re like me you have a dip in your chest wall that shows sometimes, and that you don’t want to expose, that can be an issue.  If you find the right one, though, this could be a very sexy way to dress when sexy is what you want.

My surgeon’s nurse told me when I had my mastectomy that I’d probably want to stay away from v-necks, and while I find many v-neck clothes don’t work well, certain ones do so don’t immediately shy away from all v-necks.  If you like them, give them a shot and you may find one that works well.

 

4.  Flat chested models

I found that quite often if I looked through magazines or Pinterest I found that the flatter chested models (which are many) helped me find styles that would be flattering.  If you see something on a model with a flatter chest, and you like how it looks, it might be a style that would be worth trying.

 

5. Layers – jackets, vests, kimonos

Layers are great ways to minimize and look good with a flat chest.  One important thing to remember though is that if you hot flash (because that may be a thing for you now) or are in a place where you may want to un-layer, you are going to want to make sure your lower layers work on their own.  Otherwise, use a light layer so this becomes less of an issue. A jean jacket, blazer fur vest or kimono are great ways to minimize the look of a flat chest if that’s what you want to accomplish.

 

6. Scarves or Shawls

Scarves and shawls are so huge right now.  In the winter/fall or spring months (especially in Canada) you can throw on a big blanket scarf over any top and voila, no one will notice your flat chest.  Don’t forget those hot flashes though so if you think getting too warm could be a problem, you’ll want to ensure your under-layer is something that you’re comfortable in by itself.  Blanket scarves can also be worn as a “jacket” too, serving multi-purposes.  Lighter scarves work in the summer too, just make sure they’re big enough to fall down to at least chest level.  It’s a great way to make use of those head-scarves from your chemo days that may be sitting in your closet gathering dust now that your hair is growing back in.

 

7. Ruffles/cowls

Off the shoulder ruffle tops are perfect for camouflaging flat chests.  They make you feel pretty and sexy, and if you pick the right one you won’t even be able to tell there are no breasts under there.  Cowls do the same thing in the winter.  Just make sure the ruffles or cowl are big enough that they again hit at or below the breast area.  Not only are the off the shoulder ones good, all ruffles will help disguise the lack of breasts by providing interest and depth to take away from the fact that the chest is flat.

 

8.  Patterns and other details

I found that not all patterns worked well for me but patterns can draw the eye to the pattern itself making a flat chest less noticeable.  Other feature details not near the chest area such as bows or those peak-a-boos we talked about earlier, maybe a bright flower on an otherwise solid top are examples of things that can draw your eye away from the flat chest to an area you’d rather them focus on.

 

9.  Fabric

Fabric is a very important factor to consider when dressing regardless of if your flat or not as not all fabrics are flattering on all body types.  It’s even more important when you’re looking to draw attention away from a body feature such as a flat chest.  I found more structured or stiff fabrics worked better on me.  Flimsy fabrics that cling will often not be forgiving at showing the flatness of your chest and/or any of those dips or bumps left over from your mastectomy.  A flimsier fabric, however, on the right garment (ie. right cut) can still work so again, if it catches your eye, try it, because it may just work.

 

10.  Button up dress shirts

One of my favourite things to camouflage my flat chest was baggier button up dress shirts.  I love how these looked with my flat chest, despite them not being my favourite clothing prior to my surgery.  You can unbutton them to add some sexiness and they are very forgiving at hiding a lack of breasts due to the bagginess and the pockets that many have.

 

So there you have it, my suggestions for dressing with a flat chest.  Although I now have belly boobs (TRAM free flap reconstruction), they have come with their own struggles with regards to finding clothing that works and sometimes I find myself missing my flat chest.  I hope that those of you living flat chested find this guide useful to finding clothing that makes you feel sexy, beautiful and happy.  I’d love to hear if you have any tips and tricks of your own, so if so, please comment below for all to see.

Happy shopping!

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The Gift

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I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life.  I’ve struggled with low self esteem, anxiety, depression for probably much of it, if not all of it, and still do.  It’s rendered me incapable of being my true self and the person I want to be.  It’s deeply hurt many people that I’ve cared about.  For many years, I didn’t know why I reacted the way I did.  I didn’t seem to have any control over it.  For many years, I didn’t know why I couldn’t be happy or deal well with anything in life.  I didn’t seem to be able to no matter what I tried.  Therapy a few years back helped a little bit but although it opened my eyes slightly, I was still not in a place where I would put it as a priority to work at changing things.  It takes a long time to change a lifetime of behaviours and I just didn’t have it in me to give that time.

Recently, since starting to find my new normal after cancer, I’ve been talking with two wonderful ladies through Breast Cancer Supportive Care in Calgary.  These ladies have helped me learn for the first time how the chronic stress of my past (In the last 15 years there have been two babies (I found babies very hard), a miscarriage, starting a new business, moving to a new city, three separate cancer diagnoses of my mother, one for my sister, my BRCA1+ diagnosis, the deaths of three grandparents, an aunt, an uncle, my dog and my mother and my own cancer diagnosis), coupled with anxiety and depression throughout most of that, rendered me incapable of moving forward and frankly I have not been an easy person to be around.  I take responsibility for this.  I have deep regret for this.  I don’t use this as an excuse, but it is an explanation.  One that after all this time, I finally have.

When I got diagnosed with cancer I knew of the perspective people said it would offer.  I’d heard of the clarity it would eventually bring.  It didn’t seem like it was happening.  Almost one year after treatments were done, I still felt foggy, like I was floating through a dream.  Not connected to the world.

Then it happened.  A small glimpse of what was to come.  A tiny bit of light.  On a drive through the Rockies on a beautiful day, I looked up at the mountains that I had seen hundreds of times before and they were new to me.  It actually scared me as I didn’t recognize them and for a moment didn’t know where I was.  I felt that connection in your heart that you get when you see something beautiful in life.  It was like I was seeing them for the first time.  It was fleeting, but it happened and I felt it strongly when it did. It was joyous and hopeful and encouraging.  That was the start of it.

In the month that has followed, I have slowly found my “life” coming back.  The tension in my neck and shoulders has improved greatly.  I am sleeping better and I have started to get a lust for life again.  Something I haven’t had for a very very long time (even pre-cancer).  I can’t even really say “again”, because I’m not really sure I ever had it in the first place.  The post-cancer perspective is starting to come.  The worries in my mind are slowly being replaced with plans for the future.  I’m tired of being scared all of the time.  It’s that constant fear that has held me back.  It’s not completely gone, but I’m finally willing to fight it and since I’m focusing on self-care these days, my kids are older and in school, I finally have the mental ability and desire to commit the time to it.  I can’t afford not to.

I feel childish at times because of this new awareness creeping in.  But that’s what it’s about.  I’ve always said no for fear of being judged or looking stupid.  I don’t care.  If I feel a need to play a video game, jump on a trampoline or do a cartwheel because I haven’t for years, why not?  There are so many things I’ve always wanted to do but never did or said no to out of fear.  My new motto seems to be why not?  I’m feeling more open to new things, less anxious and more carefree when things don’t go the way I’d planned.  It’s encouraging.

We only have one life.  I wasted a lot of mine being less than I should’ve been.  I now know the value of life through cancer.  I’m not a different person because of cancer, but my view on the world is different and it’s opened a door for me to finally see myself more clearly, understand myself better and bring out the Paige that has been hiding in fear my whole life.  I’m sure it will be a journey with setbacks and it may not be as easy as I want it to be, but I’m excited.  I’m really excited to see what I can do and who I can be.  Now I just need to work on being patient, because my list of adventures is long and growing every day.

I can’t change my past.  I wish I could go back and do it all over again.  I wish I could’ve been better for my family and for me and could take back so much.  I feel I’ve wasted so much of it. What I can change is my future and I’ve never been in a better, more enlightened and determined position to do so.  Thank you cancer for giving me that.  Fuck you for all the shit you put me through first and that which I’m still going through, and for everything you’ve taken from me, but thank you for the gift at the end, for it is truly priceless.  I can finally see the ocean through the swamp I’ve been trudging all these years and it’s beautiful and big and full of mystery and I’m ready to swim!

Hope

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Today I feel hope for the first time in a long time.

I have found hope to be a difficult thing to hang onto these days.  The struggle I have had over the last six months has probably been the hardest of my whole cancer experience.  Harder than the treatments.  Perhaps that is because when you’re in the middle of it, you are in survival mode and not really dealing with what is happening directly, but rather, from a place above, looking down on it.  When the dust settles, it comes with a lot of emotional turmoil and I have talked about that before.  But what can also come with it is physical pain.

I have been struggling with soreness/stiffness in my neck and shoulders for about 10 months now.  Basically, it started shortly after my treatments were done.  A panicked trip to the doctor and one x-ray later, I was cleared of any bone mets because, yes, that’s immediately what I’d convinced myself it was (hello post cancer anxiety).  No amount of stretching (I’ve been going to physio) or Advil or prescribed anti-inflammatory cream seemed to help for anything longer than an hour or two.

After an exceptionally difficult spring wherein I lost my mother to cancer, was dealing with some pretty major personal issues and two more surgeries (breast reconstruction and preventative hysterectomy) everything came to a head.  The pain and stiffness in my neck had gotten worse.  My therapists attribute it to anxiety and stress and have been working with me to help me mitigate that in my life.  I’ve always struggled with anxiety though and changing a lifetime of behaviours is a slow and difficult process.

The soreness in my neck had changed.  It was in a different place.  It was no longer just when I moved my neck, but I could feel aching when I was sitting still.  All this newness created more anxiety and fear about metastasis and that didn’t help anything.  That added anxiety and the pain was affecting my already less that good sleep which further exasperated the problem.  This past weekend, I was in so much pain, I spent most of the weekend in tears and popping muscle relaxants (I’m usually one to avoid pills but I needed some relief and the hot tub, hot/cold packs, massage were not helping).  On Sunday, I gave myself “hickies” from the jets in our hot tub, trying to get some relief.  I also spent the night crying to my husband about pretty much everything.

When I woke up on Monday, I was still a bit sore, but I could move my neck.  When I woke up today, I had very little stiffness and I currently feel the most “normal” I have in as long as I can remember.  I can move!

Maybe all I needed was a good cry to get it out.  Maybe it was a culmination of all of the other things I had done to try to remedy it that had finally kicked in.  Maybe it was the pillow.  Maybe it was just luck, but I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful it will last.  I’m hopeful it will be the start of getting back to feeling “normal” in a body I no longer trust.  In a body that no longer resembles me.  I haven’t felt this kind of hope for a long time, but to be completely open and honest, hope scares me.  Behind that hope, I still have the fear that maybe this is mets and I’m just getting a day of relief.  I still have fear that if I let my guard down, it will come back.  This is my life now, unfortunately.  I’m told it fades, but until I actually feel “good” on a regular basis, it’s hard for those things not to creep in.  For now, though, I’m hanging onto that hope as tightly as I can.

This is part of life after cancer.  My diagnosis was 21 months ago.  I finished treatment almost exactly one year ago, but it still goes on.  There are so many lingering effects, both physical and many mental and emotional, that take much longer to heal.  It’s hard to be happy when you hurt both inside and out.  It’s hard to be grateful when you look in the mirror and see how much has been taken from you.  It’s so easy to say “be happy, you’re alive” but when your life doesn’t feel like much of one, it’s hard to do that.  Being able to move my neck and shoulders without pain or restriction for the first time in  months though, is a big help.

Thanks to my husband for being the recipient of my frustrations, fear and tears the other night.  I know it was the furthest thing from fun for you, but it helped me more than you, or I, could’ve known.  (PS. Maybe I need to take up boxing as an outlet for my woes)

 

The Calm

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I wrote this one about two months ago.  I still struggle with the lack of sleep and similar fears (although those of cancerous ovaries are now gone).

I find myself alone most every day, with the exception of my new best friend, Moose (our puppy).  Despite having so much time to myself during the waking hours, it still seems that those moments after I crawl into bed and the lights go out, are the ones where I think the most.  The ones where all of my thoughts and emotions come forth as I listen to hubby and puppy breathing (or sometimes snoring) away deep in a slumber.  I lay there, still awake, thinking.

It is this time of day, the calmness and silence, where I know that there will be no distractions.  No phone calls or texts coming through, no kid bursting through the door any minute to ask for something….completely alone, undistracted, with my thoughts and feelings.  This is when I most often feel scared.  Scared that my cancer will return.  Scared that they will find it in my ovaries and my fate will end up the same as my mother’s, my kids without a mother to guide them through their milestones in life.  This is when I’m scared of the long term effects this disease will have on my marriage, my kids, myself.  This is when I feel the most sad and empty.  Missing my mom.  Trying to stay strong for family, but the mask comes off when they aren’t there to see my broken heart.

This calm is when, after the distraction of the day tricks me into feeling like none of the last 18 months were even real, the reality of it all sinks in.  For those minutes, sometimes turning into hours that I lay there, unable to sleep, I am able to feel again.  My emotions that have been numb for so long as I try to cope with 10 years of heartbreak after heartbreak come back, if only for a moment.  This is when the tears come. And then they are gone as I drift off to sleep only to start all over again come the morning.  Emotions numbed back down, feeling little of anything.  As I wake, it’s as if I’m in a dream, nothing seems real anymore.

Broken Teacups


Our lives are like a broken teacup, once beautiful and perfect, but now shattered into pieces.  We will never be able to piece them back together to look like a teacup as some pieces are too damaged.  Instead, we will create a beautiful mosaic with that teacup.  A new piece of art.  Not perfect in the traditional sense.  Still with signs of wear and cracks, but beautiful in its imperfections and despite its damaged parts.  This is what lies beyond for us.

After my mother’s memorial on the weekend and my clear pathology from my hysterectomy, I am now in a place where I can start building that life, that mosaic, and slowly, carefully, I will.  I will never truly get over my mother’s death, it is not that which I am moving on from.  I am moving on from the extremely difficult task of watching my own mother dying from a similar disease to what I was currently fighting.  I am moving on from cancer, and although the plan for my mosaic may change throughout the process, as things crop up, and although I’m still at risk for recurrence, I’m starting building and looking forward to the future for the first time in a long time.

Closing Doors


This post will mostly be an update of my most recent surgery, a preventative hysterectomy due to my BRCA1+ status and subsequent high risk of ovarian cancer.  My risk of ovarian cancer due to this f*$king genetic mutation is about 50%.  I think it might actually be higher now that I’ve had cancer already, but regardless, it was recommended that I have ovaries, Fallopian tubes and my uterus removed as a preventative measure.  

The ovarian cancer risk has weighed heavily on me since I was first diagnosed as BRCA1+, even before I had cancer at all.  It was the first thing I looking into regarding preventative surgeries as I know the screening for ovarian cancer is poor and as such, it is often caught late stage, and therefore deadly.  When undergoing treatment last year I asked my oncologist about the risk and was assured that the chemo I was taking would also treat anything (not sure about the validity of that, as most ovarian patients seem to be treated with different chemo, but if it was said to ease my worries at the time, it definitely worked).  When I was done treatment, it was again discussed and noted that I needed to get it removed.  When my hope to combine that with my reconstruction surgery fell through, I was set for a third surgery.  This happened one week ago on June 29, 2017 (one day less than one year after my first surgery in this battle, a double mastectomy).

As expected, the surgery which was only 1 1/2 hrs, and recovery have been quite easy compared to my reconstruction.  The hardest part of this one has been the emotional toll.  This preventative surgery was the surgery my mom had when they found her ovarian cancer, which eventually took her life.  That gave me a lot of anxiety.  In addition, I was going to be staying in the same wing at the FMC where my mom had spent a good part of her last months.  I was more concerned, going into surgery, with the care I would be given, as my mom had had numerious issues when there with the various staff.  In the end, the staff were great to me.  It was walking past the rooms at the start of the unit that was hard.  The rooms where all the older ladies, I suspect the terminal patients, were placed.  The room where my mom last stayed and where I had visited her.  When I looked through the open doors I had to walk past numerous times daily (there’s only one rout to walk and I had to walk 4 times per day as part of my recovery), I saw old ladies suffering from this disease, hunched over in their chairs, signs on doors that they needed special precautions to prevent infection, nurses suiting up before going in.  There was no happiness here,  no smiles, only despair.  It was so sad and heartbreaking and the hardest part of any of this surgery.  I did not want to become one of those women.  I did not want to remember my mom as one of those women and I was scared that it could happen to me.

My surgery went well.  She went in horizontally on top of the scar I already had instead of vertically, as they usually do.  I was told afterwards, this was a good thing since apparently from my c-section 6 years ago, my bladder had significant scarring on it and that scar tissue had fused to my uterus.  I don’t really know how this was good versus going in vertically, but hope to find out more down the road.  Regardless, it was interesting to find out about something that had happened so long ago, that I had been completely oblivious to.  

Overall, I did not have much pain.  The pain I did have was gas pain from my bowels as it pushed on everything that had been tampered with.  It felt a bit like early labour or menstral cramps and was quite uncomfortable.  So much at a few points that I did ask for something stronger than the Tylenol and Advil I was getting.  Twice, I had morphine at a small dose but by day 2 things were better and I was back to the regular meds.  

I didn’t eat for probably the first 4 days as I had no appetite.  I was released on July 1st (day 3), after a doctor wrote up the orders following a visit where she complimented my plastic surgeon’s reconstruction work (always nice to hear).  Coming home was a whole other thing.  I hardly took any painkillers (no prescription was given, just Advil and Tylenol) after coming home.  It took a bit to get my pillows all set up in bed to be comfortable.  Mostly, since coming home I’ve been very groggy, but have had troubles napping during the day.  I’ve had virtually no pain, although if I do overdo it, I get a bit tender, but nothing sitting for a bit doesn’t cure.  As the days go on, I am eating more, and I find my mobility is better (I can get up from sitting and laying and lay/sit down much more easily and I even can lay on my side now) and I get less tired after doing something.  It’s definitely coming along and after only 1 week, I’d say I’m doing well.

The menopausal symptoms that come with a hysterectomy also haven’t been too bad at all.  I am getting hot flashes but they aren’t nearly what they were after chemopause so I think my body is managing quite well.

Mostly, the struggle right now is the anxiety of waiting for the pathology results to come back.  My surgeon told me that everything looked completely fine to the naked eye and that suggested if anything was there, it would likely be stage 1 (microscopic).  They also did two pelvic washes just to be safe and remove any microscopic cells in case there were some present in the pathology.  She is going to call me personally with the results which should be late this week or more likely early next week.

So after this surgery, I am looking to close a door.  I am hoping (and it should be, barring any recurrence or positive pathology results) that this will be the very last of my non-elective surgeries, of anything meant to treat or prevent cancer.  I hope this for myself and for my family.  This disease has damaged us.  It has taken a huge toll.  This is the first opportunity in 18 months where I have not had one more treatment or surgery waiting for me.  The first time, the slate is clear.  We need to close this door and open the next door to our future.  One without cancer.  One where we can reconnect, where we can love freely again without fear, where we can live again with a renewed perspective.   So for the next few days I’ll be crossing my fingers and toes for clear pathology results that will guide the way.

UPDATE:  30 minutes after posting this, I received the call from my surgeon.  My pathology was clear.  No cancer was found.  I can officially start moving forward.  I feel 1000 lbs lighter.

Dear Daughter

Dear daughter,

On the eve of my hysterectomy surgery, you came to me crying, unable to sleep.  When I asked you why, you cried about how you were going to miss your teacher, almost the exact words that fell from your sister’s lips when she came home from her last day of school earlier today.  I asked you if there was anything else and you cried.  You cried about how you didn’t want me to leave for surgery tomorrow.  How you were going to miss me so much while I was away.  You just wanted to cuddle with me and sleep with me tonight.  I offered to lay down with you in my bed and snuggle until you fell asleep, and I would get daddy to put you in your own bed later.  Off you went to get your blanket and a stuffy.

When I met you in the bedroom, you had, out of the 100 stuffies on your bed (OK, maybe there wasn’t quite 100, but it must be getting close), you chose my old teddy bear, the one given to me in grade 4 by my sister and that I had passed onto you a few years ago.  Your choice was surely not coincidental, but carefully chosen as that teddy helps you feel close to me.  As we snuggled, we talked more and you expressed how you were worried that what happens to a mother, will also happen to a daughter.  I thought you were worried that you would get cancer, but soon realized you thought my fate was going to be the same as your Nana’s who’s recent passing you are still processing.  You didn’t want me to die.  As I have previously, I again struggled for the words.  I wanted to tell you that was never going to be the case.  I wanted to promise you I would always be there for you, but I couldn’t.  I needed to reassure you that I was OK without worrying you that I might not always be.  My fear of not waking up from my surgery (yes, I still struggle with that) and my fear that the little belly bulge I currently am sporting is not just typical bloating but rather, ovarian cancer rearing it’s ugly head, or that my dog who has been following me EVERYWHERE can sense something I am not yet privy to, needed to be hidden from you.  Even the fact that these thoughts were in your head seemed to be some “sign” to me of what was to come.  My brain knows this is not likely, but my anxiety believes it is the absolute truth.

When you asked what Nana had that she died from, I couldn’t lie.  I had to tell you it was cancer.  I reassured you that it was different than my situation and that my medicine got rid of all of the cancer I had.  I made sure you understood the difference.  Since my last surgery, you have lost someone and that has now become a reality for you and for that I am so sorry.

With that, I sang you the songs we used to sing when you were younger.  You slowly settled in, your arms around my neck, your soft cheeks brushing on mine.  Oh little one, how I wish you didn’t have to know this horrible disease.  Oh how I wish I could promise you it was no longer going to affect you.  I can’t do that today, but I CAN promise you that I am going to fight the hardest I can to do whatever I need to so that I will be there for you. So I can see you go on to spread your joy into the world.  To change the world for the better.

Sleep tight little one.  Tomorrow I will be stronger for you because tonight, I found one last little bit of strength left in me.  One last little flame was ignited and it is going to burn the crap out of this disease.  I love you more than the world itself.

Love,

Mommy

Goodbyes

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During the last 16 months I have had to say a lot of goodbyes.  I am getting tired of saying goodbyes.  There have been many kinds of goodbyes.  Some have been good ones, some have been sad ones.  I have said goodbye to my breasts, my hair, my mother, my dog and my body and life as I once knew it.  I haven’t written in awhile as life has been chaotic but I wanted to write today as I approach another goodbye in my life.

On Thursday, I head in for another surgery.  This one is preventative (hopefully that’s all it ends up being).  I will be going in for a full hysterectomy (ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus) to remove my risk of developing ovarian cancer (which is at 50% with my BRCA1 gene).  On Thursday I say goodbye to what is left of my physical womanhood.  My breasts are gone and my female organs will soon be gone as well.  This surgery will eliminate my chances of getting ovarian cancer and in doing so will bring a lot of relief, but not before awaiting the pathology results brings a lot of anxiety.

A preventative hysterectomy was the surgery that my mom had when they found her ovarian cancer, which ultimately, and recently, took her life.  To say I’m scared is an understatement.  I have cried so much in the last two weeks and been on the verge of tears nearly every day with fear and anxiety.  This time, I’m not so much as scared of the surgery itself (although not waking up is still a fear of mine), but of the results that will follow.  I can only hope that those results are positive and with that, say goodbye to the fear of ovarian cancer ever getting a hold of me.

As my surgery date is only one day off of the one year anniversary date of my mastectomy surgery, I am reminded of the day I said goodbye to my breasts.  I now have new breasts and although I love my new shape sans clothes, I don’t much like my shape in clothes.  They feel big and droopy and to me, I look like a big old babushka.  I have elective surgeries in the future where they can fix some of the things I do not like, but currently I have no interest in more surgeries.  I’m done.

Given my hysterectomy is my last expected “required” surgery, I will hopefully, baring any recurrence or ovarian cancer, be able to say goodbye to surgeries of this sort forever. I’m hopeful that when I wake up Thursday, post surgery, and later receive the pathology results, that I will be able to say goodbye to some of the anxiety I have had over fear of ovarian cancer.  I hope that I will be able to forever say goodbye to non-elective surgeries.  I hope that I will be able to say goodbye to cancer and to start to move forward away from it and all the heartbreak and destruction that it brings and truly be able to start to find focus on a new, better life; my best life.  Of course, breast cancer recurrence is still possible for me and that sigh of relief won’t be there until about 3 1/2 more years (but who’s counting, LOL), but at least for now, I can finally start to move forward out of the dark and into the light.