Emotional healing journey after a mastectomy and hysterectomy at 34 when you are a homeschooling, dancing, running go-getter and (at times) a perfectionist with anxiety and depression:
1st anniversary year – Wow! We did it! A whole year. I’m still super sore and not back to feeling like myself yet, but I should start feeling better really soon. Doctors said three months should see me feeling mostly like myself again. Others said to give it a year. So I’m a little behind, but the worst parts are over!
2nd anniversary year – Hmmm…still feeling SUPER tight and achy with occasional shooting pain. I wonder why it’s taking so long to feel like myself…I feel like I’m less than others and not healing as fast I should. I definitely am not like my old self, but I’m trying to trust and have faith anyway. Praying. A lot.
3rd anniversary year – What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with the doctors I had? Why did we have to change insurance companies and lose consistency of care? Why didn’t I bravely do more research on this process instead of just going forward without more education? I know I should just be grateful I’m alive, but I miss the life I had and would have had without this huge change…but maybe I wouldn’t have had it. I don’t know. I’ll just keep doing what I can to be grateful and take care of everyone. I wish I could afford to check-in and see a Dr to follow-up. Still trusting God the best I can. Finding moments of gratitude when I’m less sore and getting stronger. Savoring the little victories through the struggles. Grateful when I can lift something without help because I remember the trauma of not being able to…enjoying those little victories! Then feeling torn between wishing there wasn’t any trauma at all and feeling blessed that I can appreciate basic mobility in my arms and chest. Two confusing sides to this coin. I wish I had more faith. I wish I had more self-love and didn’t see so many setbacks. I wish we hadn’t lost those years…but maybe we would have missed more if I hadn’t done the surgeries.
4th anniversary year – Accepting a new normal, or at least starting to as I still deal with minor pain. Wishing I’d made this choice for the right reason – to be empowered, not because I felt like I had to sacrifice myself for my family. Praying lots more and trying to forgive others and myself. Losing some resentment as I learn to know and love a new, different me. Seeing the positive more as I recognize how grateful I am to be here, the love I have surrounding me, teaching me to love myself fully again, and thankful that I never had to hear the words, “You have breast (or ovarian) cancer.” Also, feeling guilty that I won’t. Trying to tell myself I’m not weak for being preventative. Still frustrated at times to have foreign silicon in me. Still, sometimes, missing kids I’ll never have and meet in this life. Choosing to be grateful for the beautiful lights of kids I do have and the ways I get to teach other children in my community. Wondering if I’ll ever teach fitness classes to adults again or run without the “zingers” of pain in my nerve-damaged muscles. Sometimes I run anyway. Sometimes I dance anyway. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I pout. Overall though, I keep moving forward through the occasional downpour of tears as I accept reality. Having faith in the middle.
5th anniversary year – Peace inside regardless of the line I can feel under each breast of scar tissue, simultaneously both numb and painful, like pins and needles that will never stop feeling that way. It’s ok though. Really. I’m ok. I’m not bothered by my hormone meds or the routine of having implants. Not too much. It is what it is. No life is free from pain. Has it really been 5 years? Isn’t that funny? I was already planning on having a fresh start on some health goals, and this anniversary in a way feels like my body giving its blessing for those efforts. Years of prayers and processing have given way to new confidence. Love for God. Hope for my future. Some mourning and regret for times I was bitter, but pride in my sense of grit. Recognition that all the emotions – up and down -were part of this healing process. Will I lose the silicone? Maybe. Will I keep trying to exercise through the tight muscles and nerve damage. Definitely. Would I wish this on anyone? Never. Would I do it again? Yes. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I would. Because I trust Eva from 5 years ago. And as hard as it all was, there have always been shining moments where I could feel the correctness of this choice, even if I didn’t understand it or necessarily choose it for the right reasons. But I did act out of love, and that is heroic. I see that now.
Today I walk with my head held higher, less by fear and more by faith – faith in the healing journey, the forgiveness journey, the growing journey, the resilience journey, all part of God’s journey for me. I love me and who I’ve grown to be through this process, though I do wish I’d had more grace through it all. I give myself grace now for those dark moments. I was too busy keeping it together for my family to get to this place of healing sooner, but little by little, I’ve taken time for myself over the years to meet and get to know this new me, to love her anyway, scars and all.
Above anything else, I love where I get to be in these journeys thanks in part to crazy-supportive friends and fiercely loving family. I will never be able to adequately thank everyone for the part they’ve played in my healing process. You are all pieces of me and the sum of your unconditional love, selfless service, and endless kindness is so much more than anything any doctor took out of me. Thank you for filling my life with incredible beauty in the moments where all I could see was loss. You are all why I am still complete. <3
It’s been 5 years since that last doctor’s visit, and I’m ready to let it go. As I move forward feeling more whole than ever, I know that today is just the beginning of everything else this life is really about… It’s time to close that chapter and embrace this life I have today, the one I’m still lucky enough to be living. <3 Here’s to what’s coming next!