Cancer Update: The State of Me

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At the end of Let Me Get This Off My Chest, I promised that I’d update my blog some day and share my progress. As of yet, I have no nipples; no tattooed-on areolas; my implants are still a little strange. During my last visit with the plastic surgeon, she decided that since the skin on my radiated side was so thin, we wouldn’t bother with nipples. And I’m okay with that—I’d kind of decided I didn’t want to be bothered with them anyway. She did suggest I come back to see her in the fall—now—for the tattooing, which she’d do in her office as a quick outpatient procedure. I haven’t made this appointment; I just haven’t been in a hurry to go back. And I may decide not to have areolas tattooed on. I may get brave and get little Hello Kitty faces instead, or tattooed pasties. Thanks to my online friend Jen from Australia, I know these things actually exist. (Thank you, Jen, for sending me these wonderful little pictures of fanciful tattooed breasts and, uh, interesting bras.)

A year and a half out from my bilateral mastectomy, and one year out from my reconstruction surgery, I still suffer pain in the right arm area towards the back and shoulder. In LMGTOMC, I briefly touched on my visits with a pain management doctor and how none of my doctors seemed to know exactly why I’m experiencing this pain. The low-dose prescription of Nortriptyline, while it did lessen the pain, the side effects of tingling in my legs and feet were worse, so I stopped it. Upon reflection, I think some of the pain has to do with all of my years working as a court reporter, with a little bit of arthritis mixed in, and some of the rotator cuff issues I’d had a couple years before my breast cancer’s recurrence. All of these things together probably contribute to my situation. So I continue to pace myself, taking small court reporting jobs (small = less money), and I try not to overburden my arm. I did sign up for NaNoWriMo (the madness in November that is National Novel Writing Month) to work on my young adult novel, but I didn’t “win.” That’s okay. I didn’t expect to. Life, work, and my own physical limitations intervened. But I am 27,000 words into my work in progress. I’m giving myself to the end of February to complete my first draft. (We’ll see.)

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"One star for you!"

Recently I received my most negative reader review as an author for Let Me Get This Off My Chest. That really hurt. Almost as much as my bilateral mastectomy. I knew it was inevitable though. You put something out there in the world, and opinions will vary. When I read the review to Steve, his response was so charitable. “I wish her well.” For whatever reason, she didn’t find what she was looking for in my book. I hope she finds what she needs somewhere, and I also wish her well—even if she did think my book sucks donkey balls.

About a week after I saw her review, a woman reached out to me, telling me about her upcoming surgery and how much LMGTOMC was helping her. I also read this to Steve (because I read everything to him) and he said, “Merry Christmas.” Yes, that’s exactly how it felt. This kind person had given me the gift of knowing that I did have something worthwhile to say. We all do.

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Which leads me to this: writing LMGTOMC was therapeutic for me. In the days following my surgery and reconstruction—days that stretched and lengthened as my recovery took longer than I’d anticipated—writing helped me. It gave me focus and purpose. It helped, taking those things burdening my mind, and freeing the space by putting those thoughts on the page. Since LMGTOMC’s publication, I realize that I need the women (and men) who have reached out to me probably more than they need me.

My internal pep talks haven’t lessened; they’ve increased. I still pray a lot, mostly asking God to help me to be a better person. It feels like I take two steps forward, one step back. The dance of life.

Each day, I encourage you, you encourage me. We will get through this together.

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