Today marks 85 five days since mastectomy-day. Oh how much has happened. There has been pain, joy, life and loss in these weeks… but how grateful I am for all of it. Thank you to those who have been a part of this journey - from reading this blog from afar to intimately walking alongside of me. I am overwhelmed by your support.
I guess I last left off at week three, now I’m at week twelve. Three weeks in they began expanding my expanders. Every week I started going in for “adjustments”… what this really meant was that the doctors would fill my chest with saline to gradually stretch my muscles to create a cavity. I can really only best describe this as a balloon being inflated - but it was literally happening in my chest. Within four weeks I started to look less like a boy and more like a girl, if you catch my drift. Dr.B confirmed that all the tissue she removed was cancer free. I now have a close to non-existent chance of getting breast cancer before age 30.. whereas before surgery my body was a ticking time bomb with an 85% chance of indefinitely getting it.
The first “filling” didn’t hurt at all - it was only 60cc’s. Once I had my first filling and realized it would be “easier than expected”… I did what any girl would do…I committed to anything and everything you can imagine. Running dance rehearsals, DANCING in dance rehearsals, full weekends of kid’s specials, Gateway student conference, a night of worship and last but not least our annual VBS on crack dubbed Wacky Week. My doctor agreed to let me dance, I might have underplayed how much my arms would be moving - but nevertheless, he signed off on my form to give HR. This summer I participated in not one, but two Wacky Week’s consisting of 2,000+ kids total. Tyler plays a huge part in the planning of this event, and for the past two years he has been one of the speakers! I headed up a lot of dance elements for the event - something I used to dream about with Tyler. I also put together dances for our church’s first ever student conference, where we were able to dance ALONGSIDE the worship team. If you know me, you know my heart is for representing dance in church WELL. And here I was, four weeks into recovery…doing ministry alongside Tyler in the capacity we used to only dream about. This past year I’ve barely danced - strictly taught, but this summer I danced more than I had in years. God is incredibly humorous. For months I had been battling with what my place was and what my gift of dance would be purposed for. Begging God to show me, to give me opportunity. And then he handed it all to me three weeks after this incredibly intense surgery.
Of course there were ups and downs… one day I was dancing at a video shoot and the next I was in bed for two days straight. My body basically shut down after some of these events and I had to cancel on a lot of people after an adjustment or two. I learned a hard lesson about over committing, and how rest exists for a reason. With or without this surgery I struggle with resting, but when your body demands it… their is no choice in the matter. I struggled with the fact I was capable somedays and others I was far from it - I worried about what people would think and what they would expect. I learned about my own boundaries in a horribly painful way. Sometimes when you feel like you can do something - it doesn’t always mean you should. Imagine that :) I was explaining this to someone the other day… it’s not that anything hurts to do (at least not anymore) it just takes SO much more out of me to do things. I’m out of breath easier, I’m out of energy faster, and I don’t sleep as well. Other than those things, the last eight weeks haven’t been that hard physically.
People are always shocked when I tell them I feel fine, and that I’ve been dancing and going to the gym since week four. I have no other explanation other than this unbounded grace God has given to Tyler and I. The physical part isn’t painful, it’s just flat out weird. Getting used to the changes has been an interesting process. My moods seriously changed from super positive to super upset within the hour. Of course this is normal. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I broke down crying my eyes out the first time I took a shower, but I’d also be lying if I told you this effected my life in a negative way. Tyler and I had to walk through a really crazy thing while only being married for two months. Our marriage culture had to adapt… and I had to speed up getting over any kind of fear of vulnerability. Here I was, helpless some days… their was no room for pride. The fact that this experience has gone so well, is because of Tyler. He treated me like a patient somedays but other days he treated me like I hadn’t had a surgery at all, which is sometimes all I ever wanted. If you know Tyler, you know he is the most hilarious, selfless, and hard working man in the world. I love him more than ever now.
On my most painful days I would read about the Christina Applegate’s, Hoda Kotb’s and Angelina Jolie’s of the world. These are my peers now, ya know… other preventative double mastectomy pals :)
One of them said ” A funny thing happened as my body started to heal — my mind did as well.”
How true this is to me. So many things that seemed SO big to me, are now incredibly small. Including the opinions of others. The fact that to some I look faithless - “I don’t believe God could’ve healed me” or “I was too drastic.” On the contrary friends, my faith has increased through this process. I’ve also overcome the fear of just outright letting people into my world. From not being afraid to show my scars, to expressing how much pain I really was in… I dove into the art of exposing. Having to explain myself will soon come to an end, along with the conversations about scars and pain - and the fact I even walked through this will soon be a distant memory. But what an incredible time. This coming week I will pass a milestone in the reconstructive process, my final surgery. They’ll finally take out these rock solid expanders and replace them with something more permanent and natural. I’ll have some minor procedures for the following months, but after this it’ll be done. I’m frightened by this surgery a bit, because THIS IS IT. When I wake up it won’t be temporary anymore, it will be permanent. So you might see me dancing in a week, or you might hear that I’m back in bed for a few days. I guess we’ll just have to roll with the punches. :)
To stand brave, to stand healed. I hope this finds you well, I know I am.