Miss me? It’s been well over a month since I’ve shared here how things have been going. The past month by far has been the hardest of all of it. The chemo, the fatigue, the endless doctor appointments… all of it. You would probably think, but Martha – you finished chemo, you could relax and gear up for the big surgery, why so bad?! Trust me, I had big plans for those three weeks off – including lots of yoga, visits with friends and family, weekend plans and mostly celebrating! Well, my body and 20 weeks of cumulative chemotherapy had other plans…
But before I get there, I need to share my incredible news. I actually found out last Friday but have been holding it close to me for some reason, not really ready to share it with the world…maybe I was worried I’d jinx it, or somehow it wasn’t actually my reality. The truth is, Friday afternoon I got a call from my breast surgeon regarding the pathology report of the tissue taken out during surgery. It ALL came back negative. Every cell. The chemotherapy did it’s job and there is no evidence of cancer remaining. It worked. I am officially free of cancer. Which makes the past month all worth it. I am so relieved.
Okay, now that the happy stuff is out there… here’s the recap. 🙂
I finished my last chemo treatment on September 19th. I don’t know why but walking in that day I was so anxious. It is such a weird thing, finishing chemo. Obviously it’s awesome that you’re DONE, but then you’re also left sort of in this area where you’re floating, all alone and it’s just…. over.
I didn’t feel well that morning. If I’m being honest, I hadn’t felt good in weeks (thanks cumulative chemotherapy – I wrote about it here). My head was fuzzy, I felt weak and I was just ready to be done. But I was greeted with beautiful flowers, the smiling faces of my favorite nurses and family, and all the happy tears and joy of completing such a tough 5 months. I walked out of there feeling very proud.
The weeks between chemo and surgery were so hard. Much, much harder than I anticipated. I was wiped out physically, my emotions were all over the board and I was terrified for surgery. I wanted so badly to bounce back and enjoy the “freedom” but unfortunately I caught a cold thanks to my non-immune system situation, and then experienced crippling vertigo for more than a week. Holy shit, I hope none of you EVER have vertigo. Seriously. It was horrible.
There were a lot of days during those few weeks where I cried and wished I could fast forward, or backward or just hide until it was over. I wondered why me? I hated myself for being too weak to help cook dinner or give Dane a bath. I mourned old-Martha and asked God if I would ever know her again – because it didn’t seem possible she was still in there. I was scared. SO scared for surgery. I was a mess. I think, no, I know – it was rock bottom. I pulled away from my friends, social media – even this blog. It was just too hard to articulate.
Of course, there were good things that happened during the time off – I was able to get back to yoga (my saving grace), I scheduled myself for weekly massages with an incredible woman in my area who specializes in healing touch. I connected with fellow survivors that gave me sound advice and truly helped me on my journey. I enjoyed a few special weekends with friends and family even if I wasn’t at my best, and I slowly started to grow my courage to face my upcoming, life altering major surgery. Slowly, slowly the chemo started exiting my system and my brain cleared back up just in time for the big day.
Surgery day came, I put my big girl pants on and arrived to battle with courage and a whole heck of a lot of support behind me. I should take a second here to thank everyone who texted, called, messaged, or supported me in any way that week – even though I didn’t respond to all of them, they did NOT go unnoticed. To my family that came to the hospital, including my brother all the way from Fargo – knowing you were there on the other side meant the world to me.
Everything went smoothly during my 5 hour surgery, where my breast surgeon Dr. Pettit removed both of my breasts and my left sentinel lymph node for biopsy. Once she finished her part, my plastic surgeon Dr. Sonderman began the reconstruction process. Right now, I have what they call tissue expanders, which we will gradually fill up and stretch the skin until I’m ready for the implants. I will have a second surgery early next year to complete the process which may include skin and fat grafting as well. Until yesterday, I had four drains hanging from my sides to collect the extra fluid in the cavities where my breast tissue once was. I was able to go down to just two drains after a very positive meeting with Dr. Sonderman and hope to have those taken out next week!
As of now, I’m still sleeping in the recliner at night – it keeps me on my back and elevated which helps with the swelling and draining. I’m feeling well enough to cut out the narcotics for pain and am moving around easier each day, trying to slowly spend more time outside and taking walks. I can still snuggle with Dane as long as we remind him of my “owies” and that is one of the biggest rewards of all.
I am constantly blown away by the love and support I receive every day from my tribe. This journey has been long and so difficult and during each section I’ve found the courage to keep going largely because of my support crew.
So what’s next for me? Next week I see my whole dream team, my oncologist, my breast surgeon and my plastic surgeon. We’ll review the results of the pathology from surgery in more detail, talk about when check-ins will happen, and make sure everything is healing properly. I know that the next few months will include a lot of hard work for me including regular physical therapy appointments, finding a routine again and learning to love this new version of my body. There will be a lot of residual things I still have to deal with too. Chemo treatment isn’t over loooong after the actual infusions. I still have “chemo brain” from time to time, my hair is slowly starting to make it’s reappearance (it’s dark with a lot more gray than I’d like… but I’ll take it) and my eyelashes are tiny little babies. The eyebrows are still non existent and I look a little like an alien, but I’m ALIVE and I can deal with it.
I can’t wait to be cleared for exercise so I can get my strength back, I can’t wait to go back to work and feel like a regular person. I can’t wait to put together a cute outfit that doesn’t include sweatpants and a zip front shirt…. bring it on.
Life after cancer is going to look very different for me – I’m making a lot of changes in all areas. From the foods I choose to eat, to the products I purchase and especially how I live. Mostly I hope to help other people who are going through it, dealing with it in their family or affected in any way by cancer. It hasn’t been easy for me to share my journey, but it has been so worth it. xo