Beating Breast Cancer – Weekly Update #9

Beating Breast Cancer as a Thirty Something - Update 9

I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and have decided to blog about my journey.  If you need to catch up on my story, please check out this page for the chronological list of posts.

Alright…I’m just going to start by saying that this week was SO MUCH BETTER than last week.  Granted, I have had a few “I am turning into an old woman because cancer treatment is tearing my body apart” moments, but I have barely been nauseous.  So, there’s that.

On Monday I had my toxicity check, which was super quick.  I met with the oncology nurse practitioner and we talked about which of the many, many potential chemo side effects I was actually experiencing.  What I learned is that my degree of nausea isn’t too much of a concern because I am still able to find enough to eat and drink (after a lot of searching); I hadn’t lost too much weight and I wasn’t dehydrated.  Apparently it is not uncommon for people to stay after this particular appointment to get some extra fluids, because the sweet gal at the front desk seemed surprised when I didn’t need to see the nurses for fluids after I checked out. So chalk one up for Team Stephanie, I guess??

The nausea slowly faded away over the course of the week, but was replaced by some crazy back pain.  It is a spasm like I have never experienced before, which makes me think it is related to my cancer treatment (I’ll ask at my chemo appointment this week).  It isn’t anything too earth-shattering, but a bit annoying.  I’m glad it didn’t surface until after the nausea was gone.  One ailment at a time!

I didn’t have any other cancer-related business until Friday; I had my first complimentary consultation and facial with the esthetician at the cancer center. Holy smokes. It was lovely.  We’re not talking about some walk-in beauty salon facial.  This is full-blown, strip-down-and-hop-in-the-heated-spa-bed-facial.  As if that weren’t enough, a little conversation that I had with the esthetician led me to an “aha moment” about something that had been bothering me this week.

Lately I have been feeling like my womanhood has been getting stripped from me bit by bit (mastectomy, hormone supressants, upcoming hair loss, possible ovary removal, etc. etc.).  I’m not really bothered or embarrassed by my appearance.  I am me.  I am grateful that the cancer is gone and will do anything to prevent its recurrence. It’s mainly just this overall feeling of annoyance with the situation.  I’m 33 years old, for Pete’s sake!  I shouldn’t be thinking about flat-chested bra options and hot flashes.  I should be cruising Pinterest boards for fun summer outfits, not worrying about whether the shirts will have easy port access for chemo or trying to find pants without metal fasteners for PET scans.

But during my conversation with the esthetician, which was about womanhood in different cultures and how the women watch out and care for each other in every culture, I had a lightbulb moment:  A lot of what I am losing (mostly for a brief period of time) fits more into the category of femininity.  I’m going to be bald and flat-chested for a little while, camouflaging my scars and odd proportions in oversized shirts and feeling a little less-than-feminine.  BUT…the divinely-appointed attributes of womanhood that I hold dear, and the qualities of womanhood that we were discussing together during my appointment, are still 100% intact.  In fact, this trial will only make those attributes stronger, leaving me a changed woman (for the better!).   Since that is the case, I can handle the short-term loss of what makes me feel “feminine” (especially since my patience will be rewarded with new, beautiful boobs!)  I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else, but it was an important distinction for me to make this week.

Since there was little to report in the cancer world, I thought I would give you an update on how my surgery recovery is going.  This week I celebrated one month post-op, so this is the perfect week to show you how things are healing.  (WARNING:  I will never show you full-on pictures of my body because even I have my limits, but I will show you some pictures of my skin and isolated areas of healing.  If that will make things awkward between us when we pass each other in the supermarket, you might not want to finish reading this post.  No hard feelings, though!)

My incisions are completely healed; the last of the thick scabbing came off this past week.  You can actually gauge how my breast scars are healing based on how my port scar looks.  I took an up close picture of the port scar, but my computer scrambled it and I’m too tired to take another picture.  This picture will have to do.

Port Scar and Port

So just imagine two long versions of this scar (on top of the port mound) straight across each breast.  The inverted T wouldn’t have allowed for good enough margins for my tumor removal, so I had the long, straight incision across each breast.  {{ Doesn’t the port look crazy?  Do you see the three raised dots that form a triangle?  That’s the guide for where the port needle is inserted. }}

Surgery Scars

Elsewhere on my torso, I still look like a little beat up.  Here’s an example from under my right armpit.  The bruising is still there from my sentinel node removal, the red dot is the scar from where my drain tube came out, and the little bit of the line on the right is the edge of my mastectomy incision.  I also still have a little bit of swelling.

Post Mastectomy Profile One

And here’s my profile, which should be changing ever-so-slightly every two weeks.  I’m excited for my next round of saline injection coming up this week.

As for my range of motion, I am doing well.  I can lift my arms completely over my head, with only just a touch of resistance.  I can wear all of my regular clothes again, but I still have to be a little choosy about fabric and fit.  A wonderful development is that I can comfortably sleep on my side again.  I hate sleeping on my back, so I was very excited for this milestone.

Even BETTER than sleeping on my side is that I have been able to take back some of my baby-rocking duties.  I have to use a pillow on my chest because it can still be a little uncomfortable for the baby to lie directly on me, but it is a small price to pay for those precious baby snuggles.

I have been able to drive for a while now, but the seatbelt goes directly over my port (which is not very comfortable), so I use a thin little pillow for some cushion.

So there you have it!  One month post-mastectomy and things are healing up pretty well.  I am feeling ready to conquer this week, which will include chemo round two, saline injection number two, and probably my hair loss.  Have a great week!

Keep Reading – – > Weekly Update #10 (March 18, 2017) {Second Round of Chemo, Hair Loss}

2 thoughts on “Beating Breast Cancer – Weekly Update #9”

  1. You are amazing Stephanie!! I will be praying for you this week with the next Chemo treatment. I would love to help if there is anything I can do . . .

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