Happily Ever After

Where were you 2 years ago? In your life goals, family goals, love life, financial situation…. I know where I was. I had just started chemotherapy and just started to kill my DNA in order to stop the cancer from spreading further. At that point, I had only known for a month that I had cancer. I had only known for a couple of weeks that it was metastatic and had started to invade the rest of my body. I guess I’ve always been an overachiever.

Fast-forward to today. I never thought I’d be here. I never thought I’d be sitting on the bench at the gym mid-workout writing down my feelings and terrified of the next few years. For once in my life, I wish I was sitting here thinking about my life goals, family goals, financial situation, but not today.

Today I’m taking a day to remember how I felt. Validate those feelings and breathe easier knowing that no matter what, I’m doing my best 99.9% of the time. The .01% that I’m not at my best, I mean, well, no one is perfect 😂.

Where will I be in 2 years? What is to come for my future? Will I get hit by a car/truck/bus on a beautiful Minnesota summer day or will I live to a ripe old age of 99 (dear Lord, please take me before I’m 99. Amen.). Will it be cancer that takes me?

Do any of us really want to know?

One of my favorite songs is Vampires, by Jason Isbell, one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriters. It goes like this:

Maybe time running out is a gift
I’ll work hard ’til the end of my shift
And give you every second I can find
And hope it isn’t me who’s left behind

I love that song. I believe I’ve referenced it before. When I need a good cry and need to remember to step back and thank God that I’m still here, it’s my go-to.

Music fills my heart and soul. It’s how I used to get my kids to do things around the house. We’d sing like princes and princesses at the top of our lungs. For the record, I can sing on pitch very well, I can hear sharps and flats instantly, I can read music and play my trumpet beautifully. But there’s no chance that anyone would actually chose to hear any of it 😂. Also, I have a lot of anxiety surrounding what I look like when I play or perform. Playing the trumpet does not make for a graceful face, but I still love it.

Hitting the gym today, I chose NIN to listen to. It got me through and brought me back to those stupid fun days we had in high school.

Every day is a new one. I still have the chance to write more chapters to my story. I’m not ready for an epilogue.

Body Modifications

This one is a tough post for me to write. I’ve been so conflicted on whether to share photos of my body, one year post reconstruction. Not all of it (DUH), but the areas that identify my surgical journey.

I’ve worked incredibly hard and long on my self-worth, my confidence, my new body, my mind and heart….. all of the things that were previously or presently broken. I’ve invested in friendships, traveled and found great pleasure in my career, this summer and life. I am, to some extent, a different human than I was before cancer. In what ways? I can’t really say for sure, as I don’t remember much from then, but I feel different.

Something me and my doctors found out shortly after my first couple of surgical procedures is that I develop hypertrophic scars. Essentially, while I’m healing, I form a build-up of collagen in the scar area that gives it a raised appearance. They aren’t painful per say, but they can be uncomfortable wearing clothing or undergarments. They are semi-treatable. I have had steroid injections at most of the surgical sites, which is akin to literally being stung to death. All of which didn’t really help. Surgical removal is an option, but can always exacerbate the issue by creating even more scar tissue.

Because of the way I am healing and because I want to, I have decided to have my scars and asymmetries beautified with tattoos. After mastectomies and living without breasts for SIX MONTHS, my reconstruction came mid-summer. I’ve had so many questions about my reconstruction. Most people assume I have implants. I don’t. My surgeon took my belly fat and made breasts. I didn’t choose the size and didn’t have much of an opinion on them either. I just wanted to look normal in clothes. For about another six months after reconstruction, I didn’t have nipples. Just blank mounds that laid on my chest. It was like something out of a sci-fi movie. Super weird. Eventually, my surgeon made nipples and I had them tattooed to look more realistic.

Now that I’m done with the major surgeries, I’m ready for body art. My brother and daughter both want to have something similar to what I’m getting, which I humbly realized with my last visit with my brother, that the tattoos are for me. Let me tell you what. It still shakes me to my core to feel the love.

Well, here is what I look like in a swimsuit. I’m not ready to share what the harvest sites look like, but they are muuuuuuuch worse than this.

I wonder when the new neighbors will figure out why I look like Frankenstein in the pool 😂😂😂😂😭