April Showers, Bring May Flowers

5-12-2021

It has been almost six weeks since surgery and I wanted to take this opportunity to check in.  Penny, Clover, and I seem to be adjusting fairly well to each other.  They have not revolted, and I have not tortured them too often with ill fitted bras.  I am confident that in time, we will learn to co-exist in harmony and perhaps one day, I will make it through an entire 24-hour span without being reminded of their falsehood. 

As I move out of the shadows of the daunting past 16 months and into the light of a new reality, I find myself reflecting a lot on what has transpired, who has been by my side every step of the way, where I found inspiration and how I am going to navigate what feels like a new world outside my window.  In a way, I feel like a perennial plant emerging from a long winter underground, peeking up through the soil, reaching for the sun and preparing to bloom once more.  This particular analogy could stem from the fact that, thanks to my son’s newfound hobby of botany and a never-ending stream of below freezing temperatures at night, my house currently resembles a greenhouse.  Whatever the reason, I like the analogy, so I’m leaving it. 

The past few weeks have passed by fairly quickly with no major setbacks.  All restrictions were lifted at the end of week 3 and I have been able to navigate re-entry into the world on my own terms.  For the first time in a very, very long time, I am looking forward to a future where Covid finds a place in the backseat and the constant fear of Breast Cancer forming becomes a fading memory. 

For those of you who have been following all along, here are a few things worth noting about recovery thus far:

  • Improvement continues daily.
  • I continue to feel like I have sunburn around the perimeter of each breast, but it now feels more like a mild burn instead of a moderate one.
  • I have eliminated quite a few pillows from the bed and can comfortably sleep on my side. 
  • I have been able to pretend that I am “back to work.”  In reality, I have sat at the Front Desk at the YWCA, answered a few phone calls, and have enjoyed the company of my boss, co-workers and YWCA members, many of whom I now consider friends.
  • I have been able to focus some time and energy into Tallulah’s Diner Book 2!  I am VERY EXCITED about this and am grateful to be able to give the book some long overdue attention.
  • Another enormous victory has been being able to travel to see my family and being able to pick up my niece!!! 
  • I have been able to resume the role of housekeeper and managed a proper dusting and a half proper vacuuming yesterday.
  • I jumped back on the Spin Bike the other day for the first time since November.  It was a nice, easy, and short ride, but a ride, nonetheless. 
Not sure why I’m scowling. Maybe it’s because of ALL THOSE GRAYS!!!
  • I went shopping solo today for the first time in months!
    • Pushing the shopping cart was a little challenging, especially as it got heavier, but I managed.
  • I have been walking routinely, but Jim and I tackled the very steep hill by our house today.  I did not make it to the top but will keep trying.
  • I have been allowed to re-enter the kitchen.  This means, I will once again share in meal preparations and dishes. (Maybe I should reconsider and milk recovery a little while longer.)
  • I have outgrown the need for an afternoon nap.  However, all of the above activities wear the twins and I out.  Our current bedtime has extended from 7:30 to 8:00pm.  Fingers crossed that we will be able to make it til dark by Memorial Day. 

All joking aside, I could not be more pleased with my progress.  At times, I find myself wishing I were further ahead, but remind myself it hasn’t even been six full weeks yet. 

For those of you who are currently navigating your way through BRCA decisions and procedures, please remember, you will get through it and you are not alone.  If you are lucky enough to make it through everything without any complications, be kind to yourself and never belittle what you have been through.  These surgeries are tough and will forever have a lasting impact and influence over your life.  If you are anything like me, there will be a distinct line in your personal trajectory of life ~ Life before you knew you carried the BRCA mutation and life after.  ~  Making both a happy and healthy existence will take time and a conscience effort to continually make smart choices when it comes to health and wellbeing.  However, I believe life after knowing can be as beautiful as before (maybe even more so, because it heightens appreciation for the things you once took for granted.)

My experience thus far does not include any major complications and I refuse to pretend I understand what it’s like to conquer and endure some of the harsh obstacles others are currently facing (or have faced in the past).   What I can say is……I am extremely appreciative of EVERY story I have encountered.  The women who shared their ups and downs were instrumental to me and I wish I could thank each and every one personally.  They will never know how much their insight and experiences helped to prepare me for every doctor’s appointment, lab test, surgery, and recovery.  Their examples of strength kept me from drowning in the Sea of Anxiety and their perseverance and celebrations of Survivorship AND Previvorship calmed my racing heart during too many sleepless nights to count and brought me immense comfort during the quiet times when I felt very alone.   As the world continues its non-stop rotation, I hope I can be half as influential to someone else as so many have been to me. 

Even though the worst is behind me, I know I will carry this mutation with me for the rest of my life. I will need to reach out to a GI doctor in the near future and start having routine colonoscopies.  I will need to be more vigilant with sunscreen and keep my yearly appointments with my Dermatologist.  I will forever have to remind my son of the importance of making good choices when it comes to his own health and encourage him to start his own routine appointments regimen. 

I am painfully aware of the fact that it is only the first chapter of My Life with a BRCA1 Mutation that is coming to a close.  I am cautiously optimistic that the remaining chapters will be less intense and am hopeful they will be focused more on education and awareness.  I have a couple of interesting things in mind, but you will have to keep tuning in to see if they bloom into their own beautiful flowers. 

In keeping with today’s theme, I am choosing the following 2 songs. 

1. Wildflowers by Dolly Parton. 

I don’t believe we ever stop learning and growing and think Dolly would agree.

and 2. Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations. 

This song makes me think of my dad.  And although he is no longer physically here, I know he is just beyond this realm, cheering me on. 

As always, thanks for taking the time to read my post.  Good vibes headed out to all for a fabulous May filled with sunshine, longer days, and warmer nights.  If you haven’t done so in a while, go and buy yourself some flowers! 

Peace,

Gina

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