Shields Up

1-11-2021

Happy New Year!  Although the holidays were different for many, I hope love and optimism found their way into your homes throughout the holiday season.  There is nothing more precious than the love of those you hold dear and no star brighter than the one of hope. 

I am currently 4 weeks and 5 days past my surgery.  While the physical recovery has gone well, the emotional and hormonal aspects are starting to take a toll.  I feel as though I had mentally prepared for a short temper and outbursts of irritation.  I was ready to present Jim and Jacob with metal shields to deflect my emotional tantrums and the occasional shoe, mug or decoration I was certain would be flung their way.  I am happy to report not one item has been tossed in either of their directions. Truthfully, it wouldn’t matter if it was, as I have terrible aim and they would have been safe regardless.  However, windows, walls, the dog and any empty space within reach are always in far greater danger….but damn, it would have been hilarious to watch them dodge thrown articles with some kick ass shields. 

Speaking of tossing things…..I want to throw out a quick reminder on the intent of this blog.  I have started it for a few reasons.  One, writing is the best way I know how to organize my own thoughts.  Two, I wanted a way for my loved ones to be able to follow along with how things are going.  I am socially distant from many, but this is a good way to keep the communications up to date and provides details directly from me. Third….and most important to me….is to have an outlet to share my journey with anyone in the future that may be able to benefit from my experience.  It may be someone who has been diagnosed with BRCA themselves or a loved one of someone who is BRCA positive.  Now that my sails have been set and I am on course, things may start to get a little more detailed and seem unsettled at times.  I have no doubt someday the sailing will once again be smooth, I simply have a few more storms to weather.  SPOILER ALERT…..there are 2 pictures of my squished breast in this post (bound to happen.)  Turn back now if it is going to bother, offend or blind you. 

Still reading?  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Now, let’s chat about recovery some more.  In addition to the hot flashes (which I totally anticipated), there are several things I wasn’t prepared for.   Most notable… increased anxiety and depression.  Both have decided to rear their ugly heads and I am not exactly thrilled about it.  I try to keep the faith and imagine in time; things will level out and I will feel more like myself in the near future.   For now, I am trying my best to take it all one day at a time.  I plan to write a more detailed entry about this in the future but want to hold off for now. 

While I think I have had a fairly good go at recovery, am lucky to have a supportive husband, an adult son at home to help and a Grand dog that doesn’t care if am on the mend and continues to insist on belly rubs and daily walks, I find that this recovery has been a bit more daunting than I expected.  In my mind, I would be up within a week, Cricutting, reading, writing etc.  Instead, I am experiencing frequent headaches, a foggy memory/thought process, am exhausted, sad and uninterested in anything other than Animal Crossing.  Thank goodness for this video game is all I have to say!  In the game, I am creating a respectable island, have a decent number of bells in the bank, can swim at any time of the day and get to talk to several colorful characters each and every day.  It’s a fine and peaceful alternate reality.  The only “complication” I have had from surgery is I may have “over done it” over Christmas and due to some additional pain directly above my belly button and a tightness of the skin in that area, I had to be put on limited movements for a couple extra days between Christmas and New Year’s.  I was glad it was between the two as we managed to sneak in masked visit with family Christmas Eve. 

For anyone who has an upcoming Hysterectomy and or Bilateral Salpingo-Oopherectomy, my greatest suggestion is ~ listen to YOUR body and YOUR doctor.  I had very minimal spotting, which I am grateful for.  However, I continue to have an odd sensation of mildly uncomfortable pressure more toward the rectal area when urinating.  The doctor said this is normal and should dissipate in time.  I mention this because it was a little unsettling and is one thing I wish I had known could happen ahead of time. Also, pain in the belly area continues to come and go.  Like pulling a muscle, a small turn in the wrong direction can cause pain in the abdomen that feels like a needle stabbing me from the inside.  Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often and sitting down seems to help it pass. 

Insomnia and Hot Flashes.  These two things are no joke!  My insomnia has returned from a decent hiatus with a vengeance and the hot flashes, well, let’s just say that my house is pretty much like the Arctic and my son and husband have just claimed that working outside in the cold while standing in the freezing creek was warmer and more comfortable than the current conditions inside our home.  Meanwhile, the only reason I remain clothed is to spare my son the inevitably long hours of counseling he would require from witnessing his mother lounging on the couch in her birthday suit with a cool cloth slapped on her forehead. 

I had my first appointment with a Hormone Specialist the week between the holidays.  She made a couple things very clear.

  • No matter what anyone tells you…..Surgical Menopause hits harder! 
    • Even if you are perimenopausal, if your ovaries are yanked, buckle up, cause your hormone levels are taking a nosedive and it will take some work on your part to avoid a crash and burn. 
  • There are some things you can try before Hormone Replacement Therapy
    • We decided we would try Neurontin to see if we can get the hot flashes under control and aid in my sleepless nights.
      • This treatment takes awhile to actually work, so I am trying to be patient.  I will share how it turns out in a future post. 
  • It doesn’t matter what you do, weight gain is probably in the future.
    • For some reason, even if Hormone Therapy is tried, women still tend to gain weight in the belly area.
      • This pattern can last for years, BUT….the good news is…..once you are fully through the perimenopause and menopause phases (7-10 years), weight loss can happen again.  – Perfect….I have many more years to stress about my belly fat.  By the time I may be able to lose it, I probably won’t give a shit and may even embrace my chubbiness by that point. 
      • The doctor stressed weight “management” for now until eternity. 
        • I’m guessing this means the McDonald’s Cheeseburger Meal and doughnuts I crave are forever going to be forbidden fruits. 

While we are on the topic of appointments, I want to talk about the Mammogram I had just before Christmas.  The Breast Oncologist was adamant that I do NOT miss this appointment.  If you are a BRCA patient or know a BRCA patient…forget that…if you have boobs……PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, get your mammograms!   I have read several articles recently that mention the decrease in scans due to COVID-19 and I cannot stress enough how important this test is.  Consider checking with your mother, sister, grandmother, aunts, nieces, cousins and friends to see if they have gone this past year to be checked.  If they have not, now is the time to remind them to schedule their appointments. Early detection can lead to positive outcomes and Lord knows we need all the positivity we can get right now.  Okay….off my soapbox and back to the Mammogram.  As my sister drove me to my mammogram, she shared with me she has never had one.  This was not surprising to me really, as she is 11 years younger; however, what did surprise me a bit was that she had no idea what a Mammogram consisted of or looked like.  It occurred to me WHILE I was having the scans that some of the young ladies who are diagnosed with a BRCA mutation may have no idea what this particular test entails.  Even though it’s not exactly comfortable, it’s not terrible.  It also does not take long.  A little flattening, a little breath holding and a few clicks from the tech to take the pictures and you’re done.  Since this could be my last mammo, I decided to take a couple pictures for posterity sake AND to show any female that hasn’t had the pleasure of turning her boob into a pancake, these pictures are for you.  😊

I received my results within 24 hours and while they were okay, they were different than what I had a year ago.  The opening sentence on the report was “No definitive evidence of malignancy with development of a few, relatively scattered macrocalcifications, considered probably benign in nature.  Suggest following up with another scan in 6 months.”  ~ On one hand, this is encouraging news and I am grateful for a test that states I don’t need to follow up for another 6 months.  One the other hand, since I had a Breast MRI 6 months ago and these calcifications were not there, it proves to me that changes can occur quickly and reminds me that I need to stay vigilant with my tests and treatment plan.  With an 87% chance of developing Breast Cancer in the next 23 years, I find I keep reassuring myself that a Double Mastectomy makes total sense and is a viable option to keep off a treatment course and places me on a healthier road.    

Unfortunately, believing in my heart that I am making the right decision for me doesn’t keep the panic at bay when I lay my head down at night.  My head spins with the inevitable future of losing both breasts and the cold hard fact that I will never be the girl I was 2 months ago.  I know once all of this is behind me, I will figure out a way to look toward a brighter future filled with promise and better health.   Until then, I imagine I will continue to toss and turn and agitate my husband by watching the Food Network until the wee hours of the morning. 

While I sit in my home waiting for brighter days, I will be keeping my fingers crossed and  will continue to wish on every Animal Crossing Shooting Star that in 9 days’ time, Jim and I find ourselves on a plane headed to Aruba for our annual time on their beautiful shores.  I have been isolating since October and other than visits with my mom and sister (both recovered from COVID-19), I have not seen or visited anyone unmasked since then.  Anyone going to the Island must have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival.  They have strict restrictions in place and I desperately hope a large dose of sun, sea and sand recharges my batteries so I can return to the states ready to tackle the future.  If you wouldn’t mind throwing some positive vibes into the universe for us, I would greatly appreciate it.  If you’re the jealous type, I beg you to please keep your ill wishes to yourself.  I have enough on my plate at the current moment and have had my fair share of malooches cast my way the past few years.  I am sure in time you will find another reason to throw silent shade my way, but for now, hold off….please and thank you. 

I’m not sure when I will post next, so…..until next time….thanks for tuning into my unfolding story.   Although 2021 has not started off exactly the way I hoped, I continue to believe there is good in this world and within the hearts of others.  May things settle down soon so we can see it all a little more clearly.

Today’s Song comes from the Musical ~ Hamilton

I have to say this song is instrumental in me starting this Blog in the first place.  The line “who lives, who dies, who tells your story” played on a constant loop in my head for days after I first saw Hamilton on the Disney Channel.  It propelled me to really contemplate what was going on in this chapter of my life and somehow gave me the courage to move forward with telling it through my own words.    

I will end today with two questions…..

Who knows your story?  Time has a way a sneaking away from us and your story is important.  Please share the important highlights with your loved ones.

Which lady in your life are you going to follow up with to ensure they have had a Mammogram within the last 12 months? 

Take Care of Yourself and the ones you love.

Peace,

G

8 thoughts on “Shields Up

  1. Loved your blog this time I am jealous we have been hashing over and over goi g to Jamaica in April we all need some sun and sand have a wonderful time so glad u r recuperating best of luck in 2021

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  2. Yay, I got signed up for email notifications!!! Thank you!!
    Yes, I am jealous, but so happy you will be able to participate in your annual fun trip! No shade to throw, just positive vibes and well wishes for your journey!!

    Like

    1. Thanks, girl!!! So glad you will be able to stay in touch. Thank you for being part of my support team!!! ❤️❤️❤️

      Like

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