I’m Not Dead Yet…

I knew it had been a while since I’d posted, but I didn’t realize it’s been THIS long. I should bring things up to date. SO MUCH has happened since the last post!

First, I’m single. Again. The “wonderful boyfriend” who had been so supportive decided, a week before the surgery, that he couldn’t handle the thought of me going through what I was about to, so he broke up with me. Via text. I suppose it’s for the best, in the long run, that I know now whether I could actually depend on him, but damn if it doesn’t STILL hurt, two months later.

The surgery was August 21st. I was in surgery for WAY longer that I’d thought, 13 hours total. The cancer surgeon, Dr. Wright, came in and did her part, which was essentially to “melon-ball” my breasts. From what I can tell, she basically scooped out all the insides, leaving the outer skin intact (except for the nipples–those are gone). Then Dr. Rinker, the plastic surgeon came in and made incisions all the way across my lower abdomen, from hip to hip, and moved my belly fat up to my breasts, stuffing them like pimientos in olives. 🙂 Everything is healing up nicely at this point, but that week I spent in the hospital was…well, intense, trying, and humbling. Having to have a nurse take care of your most basic of needs will bring a person to humility really quick. I won’t describe the most humiliating part of that experience, but I wouldn’t ask my closest and dearest of friends to do what was all in a day’s work for the nursing staff at UK Chandler. Bless them, they were AWESOME. All of them.

Once at home, my friend Jill was kind enough to stay with me for the first three days, helping me up and down and fixing me meals and such. I think she rather regarded it as a bit of a writer’s retreat, since we spent a lot of time with our heads in our respective laptops. The people at my church are awesome too, organizing a meal train (www.mealtrain.com) to bring me food each day. I still have a bit of it in the freezer, they brought me that much.

The best news so far is that my cancer was caught early enough that they got all of it, and I don’t have to go through radiation or chemotherapy. That’s the biggest blessing of all! I am on a hormone blocker, though, tamoxifen, for the next 5 years, until they officially declare me cancer free. I’ve only been on it for a week or so, so it’s too early to know what, if any, side effects I’ll have to deal with. I’ve heard that there are mood swings and such, apparently all the side effects of menopause without the “pause” part. Damn. I really want that “pause” part to kick in. Anyway, it’s too early for me to tell whether the mood swings I’m having today are the tamoxifen, the PMS, or the result of having to go off my Prozac (it reacts badly with tamoxifen, I’m told). It could also be just depression at still having no job. My unemployment insurance has run out, and I still don’t have steady work. What money I have is swiftly running out. Even so, I’m in so much better shape than I could be that I just keep reminding myself how very blessed I am. I know God’s got this, but as Tom Petty says, the waiting is the hardest part.

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The Story So Far…

To help you get some of the nuances of this journey, I need to go back to a little over a year ago; specifically, May of 2012. I’d been in a dead-end job for 12 years, even after having gone back to school to get a graphic design degree. Graduating just in time for a serious downturn in the economy, there seemed to just NOT be any other jobs out there. However, I met a new coworker who told me that this wife wrote and was indie publishing romance novels. I told him that I was an aspiring designer and that my dream job would be designing books. Thus, a business relationship and a sliver of hope was born. In May of 2012, I was let go from my job. Apart from a few friends I had made there over the years, the only thing I miss about the place is the health insurance. I now have none.

I coasted along for a few months, not going to the doctor unless necessary. And the only thing that was really necessary was for me to keep my prescriptions for blood pressure medications up to date. After a couple of times going to a local clinic to get prescriptions, they told me they were no longer able to fill them, and that I would have to find a regular doctor. So I broke down and went to the county Health Department.

Once all the paperwork proving I was poor was done, they started catching me up on all the exams I hadn’t had for years. Gyno and colonoscopy appointments went fine, and showed nothing wrong. Then, they sent me for a routine mammogram. A week after the mammogram, my results arrived in the mail. They needed “more info”, and wanted me to have another round of mammograms. This time they took so many, I asked if I could order the package, and do those come in wallet size? Three and a half hours, between mammograms and ultrasounds. A few days later, I get the word: we need you to come in for biopsies. We have found “areas of concern”. One fine needle aspiration, and 3 ultrasound guided core biopsies. That was last week. They said they would probably have the results early the next week. THE NEXT DAY, the nurse called me to let me know that my left breast is positive for cancer, and they aren’t certain about the right. More tests. I will write more about the actual day of the biopsies in another post. There are some amazing women working at the University of Kentucky Comprehensive Breast Care Center, and I want to tell you about them.

So now the waiting. As Tom Petty says, the waiting is the hardest part. I have scheduling that I need to set up for the other areas of my life, people, and I have to wait to see what I’m gonna be doing for the next few months…