Five Months Later

Today I hit an almost milestone.  Five months ago today I had my breast cancer surgery.  Whether it was a physical memory of the procedures that day or just routine aches, I found myself remembering the pace of that day with a little anguish.  I awoke exhausted this morning.  I couldn’t conceive of getting out of bed.  My body hurt all over.  And to make matters more aggravating, I was assured that my period once again started…eleven days after “Aunt Flo” left me…which is just one day longer than she’d stayed during her last visit!

Well, that sucked!

What I’ve learned is that living after cancer treatment is finished is more of a challenge than actually facing the diagnosis and pursuing treatment.  I thought that it was all behind me.  But what I have recently learned is that it’s really all in front of me.   The good news for cancer survivorship is that the numbers are growing, with an estimated 12 million survivors living in the United States today.  I am one of those!  YAY, me!  But the reality of living after cancer has been beaten is the knowledge that whatever struck you before could strike you again.  Of course I say:  “It wouldn’t dare!  I think I showed it who’s boss! ”   But the words of my beloved Dr. Goulet have haunted me since he uttered them back in September, “Breast cancer isn’t like some other cancers where we can say once you reach the five year mark we know it won’t come back.”

So I’m vigilant:  at massaging my entire arm from my fingertips up to my armpit and then across my chest to my neck;  at massaging my incision scar; at massaging my entire breast between both hands; at wearing some kind of support all the time when I’m awake and upright; at not drinking hard liquor; at limiting my intake of wine to maybe two glasses a week – and then it’s cut with diet Sprite or Perrier water; at limiting the amount of fat in my diet; at eliminating my formerly routine tanning bed sessions during the month of February to help me beat the winter blahs; at drinking water, water and more water; at maintaining a vigorous physical exercise program; and continuing to work at losing the excess that I allowed to add up over the last several years.  Leaner is better when it comes to fighting cancer!

My life has changed dramatically.  I’m tired far more than I ever was before.  I don’t have the endurance to keep going like I did two years ago.  And I have more difficulty focusing and concentrating, although that comes and goes depending on my fatigue.  Oh, ya.  And now I’ve got this funky menstrual thing going on.  Yee-haw!

I know that as time progresses I will continue to be thankful for each day.  I believe my morning routine will become easier to handle.  I believe that I will once again wear a pretty bra with color and lace and plunging cleavage instead of my various sports bras.  They’re all pretty, but there’s not a plunge to be found!    And I believe my fatigue will one day lessen, as will the nerve pain in my arm – which has honestly diminished from the last time I complained about it!  I also believe that I will fit back into my size 10 jeans.  (I never tossed them out.  Would you?  I mean, I was h-o-t!  And I’m inching ever closer every day!)

Five months post surgery. I’m still making changes to accommodate my new situation.  I’m still learning how to be a survivor.  And I did something this past weekend to ensure that everyone this summer knows I’m a survivor.  I bought a two-piece swimsuit.  A little string bikini top and a cute pair of bottoms.  Actually 2 tops!  One black.  One hot pink.  Oh, ya.  They’ll see me coming.  And why shouldn’t they?  For the first time in my life both of my breasts fill a string triangle top symmetrically!  I can’t wait for warm weather.  Who’s with me?  Survivor, up!