welcome to 2012

On January 1st it was 7 months since my lumpectomy a/k/a partial mastectomy.  The hot flashes kick my ass late at night sometimes, and I have to say Tamoxifen is also messing with my moods.  I don’t like the messing with my moods part because I am tired from waking up with hot flashes in the middle of the night, and some days everything is a little too magnified.

This time last year I was bruising myself on self-breast exams worrying about my lump growing.  As you all may or may not know, it took until Good Friday last year to get a needle biopsy because although everyone knew the lump was there, it wasn’t showing as anything unusual on the mammograms for months.

I resisted the urge to write another post on you know, the only woman to have breast cancer in this country, E! News correspondent Giuliana Rancic.   I think T.V. wonder woman was a fool to go back to work barely two weeks after a massive surgery – which is what a double mastectomy is. 

Giuliana Rancic in my humble opinion is setting a bad example, and she is someone who COULD afford the time off. I was given no time off after my surgery or during 7 weeks of radiation – the time I took I had to make up – and I pay my own health benefits too. I would have loved the luxury of time off.   Truthfully I was amazed how long it took to recover from a partial-mastectomy/lumpectomy and radiation.   Women need all the support that they can get during breast cancer and people right or wrong look at celebrities as examples so some woman out there is going to want to take more time to heal and you watch someone else will say “whatddaya mean you need more time? that Giuliana chick on TV didn’t need it.”

Ultimately, Giuliana Rancic‘s decisions are her business, but as a public or pop culture figure, I think she has a higher responsibility.  And rushing after any breast cancer surgery I think having been through it  even on my scale is foolish on her part.  We’re not all shrinking violets on this bus, but anyway, that is just my opinion.  I also hope for her sake her choice NOT to do radiation at a minimum doesn’t come back to haunt her. You can always adopt a baby, or if you are a well to do celebrity, you also probably could have the option of harvesting eggs to have a child.   I would not have rolled the dice with my life just so I could say I was able to produce a child out of my womb. But then again, I have lived for years with the reality that I could not bear my own children – just one of those things, nothing to do with breast cancer.

So, I read today on a Facebook page for survivors I belong to that a high intake of starchy foods/carbs increases breast cancer recurrence.   I also discovered from the lovelies that breast cancer survivors benefit from meditation:

The researchers……found that breast cancer survivors’ health improved after they learned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which incorporates meditation, yoga, and physical awareness.

“Post diagnosis, breast cancer patients often feel like they have no control over their lives,” Armer said. “Knowing that they can control something — such as meditation — and that it will improve their health gives them hope that life will be normal again.”

Yes indeed.  Can we talk about the change of control?  It’s a big deal.  I still have moments where I feel completely overwhelmed by all that has happened.  Of course, when I have those moments it can freak people out, so to be honest I try to have these moments in private as in no one is around.  A lot of people  still expect me to be some kind of wonder woman 24/7, but I have to tell you I am not made that way.   And I am warning all of you now, that if I have these moments, you might not understand them unless you have had breast cancer and that will just have to do.  This all might sound quite selfish, but I am discovering I need the little luxuries of being able to let my hair down completely.

New Year’s Eve we were with dear friends and it was a perfect mix of kids and adults.  I was so happy, and then somewhere around 9 p.m. it hit me all that I had been through in the past year, and year preceding breast cancer.  It completely overwhelmed me and was glad I had the excuse of a wicked hot flash so I could go outside by myself for a couple of minutes and get my act together.  Seriously, it was like zero to sixty of emotional realization.  When I was in the midst of dealing with breast cancer as in surgery and treatment I kept on moving.  I think in retrospect, I was almost scared to slow down.  I did not want to lose my courage (or momentum), as it were.  But then there I was on New Year’s Eve looking at the loving faces around me, and it just hit me.  I am o.k., trust me.  I was just temporarily overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all.

2012 will be another year of change for me as my sweet man and I go about the process of combining households together.  I discovered yesterday that I still have a couple of frissons of worry every now and again thanks to the ex factor.  Why?  Because the ex asked me to commit my life to his and then took off.  And refused to ever talk about it.  I never had a conversation with him again except to tell him Labor Day 2010 that I had to put his dog to sleep (she had gotten dumped too, you see). 

I put my own period on the end of that sentence and was truly grateful to God that I had never in the end married him, but once someone does something like that to you, well, it leaves a little residue.  Add to that the year of living dangerously with breast cancer, and well, there are just moments.  Fortunately for me I now have the love of a truly good man.  He is very patient with me when even I with my big mouth can’t get crap out of my mouth to articulate what the busy brain is fretting about.

Now I also want to touch on one other thing I am discovering – that like it or not breast cancer has left body self-image issues.   I am now a 1 6/8 boobed woman.  It doesn’t bother me every day, and doesn’t bother me enough to do some kind of breast reconstruction, but some days I am super self-conscious about looking uneven. 

We live in a society where the media and fashion industries are body obsessed and what you see on T.V. is rarely a real woman, but someone so augmented and tweaked that I doubt even some of them can find their true selves.  So for 2012, I will do my best to be as healthy as possible, but I am not going to beat myself up for not having a perfect body. 

I am alive, and I am not unattractive, so there we have it.  (This is of course is why I am still all for a breast cancer as art project).  What I said in June a couple of weeks after my surgery was:

I have this whole idea, and I am sure it has been done only I can’t find it yet .  Examples of a project  – a self-portrait project even that focuses on the positives – i.e. simply being alive.  Yes, you have to pay homage to the changes in your body…I am trying to hit each new thing head on.   It’s this weird “if I can look at it I can deal with it thing.”

Anyway, just a thought.  A kind of my body, myself for breast cancer patients and survivors.   You could build some fabulous openings and gallery openings around this.  I envision this whole big thing say during a breast cancer awareness week, month, whatever.

Enough of today’s flowing stream of consciousness.  Happy 2012 everyone!  And a special shout out in part to  the lovelies on Beyond The Pink Moon – this group was started by author Nicki Boscia Durlester and bears the same name as her autobiography. The other special shout out goes to my Driving Miss Daisy ladies.

Today’s quote is for the inner scribe alive in all of us:

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

— Gustave Flaubert

Until we blog again, have a good day all!!!

About carla

Writer, blogger, photographer, breast cancer survivor. I write about whatever strikes my fancy as I meander through life.
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7 Responses to welcome to 2012

  1. Thanks for posting on the Beyond the Pink Moon page. What a great post. I admire your candor. I don’t blame you one bit for feeling over-whelmed from time to time over the magnitude of it all. It would be surprising if you weren’t. Continue telling your truth. We need lots more of that. And for the record, I agree with you about Giuliana Rancic. Of course, she has a right to make whatever decisions she wishes, but she is setting an example whether she wants to be or not, and with that comes extra responsibility in my view. Happy New Year to you too!

  2. I fully understand how certain things can hit you when you least expect it. During treatment we have to keep focused on just getting to that next goal to keep going. After it’s over and you relax enough to let your mind consider the whole picture, it becomes overwhelming.

    I agree too on the Giuliana Rancic thing. Maybe she felt like she had to prove she was strong, but it does set a standard for everyone else. It would be nice if those in the lime light would voice that it’s okay to take care of yourself and to say that cancer and cancer treatment stinks. But that’s just my opinion on it.

    Happy new year. Hope you have a blessed 2012.

  3. Maureen says:

    I thought I would bounce back in short order and did to some extent. It is after the battle that you reflect on how you handled the war. While I believe Giuliania had a goal in mind and was determined to meet it she seemed a bit undone by the surgery as one might imagine on national TV. My friends say someday I will follow my own advice, take care of yourself. Happy New Year!

  4. First of all, are those photographs of my beloved home state of Pennsylvania? Not only are you my paisan, we hail from the same part of the world. Kindred spirits ‘r us! Carla, you can write! You speak your truth, you tell it like it is and you exude authenticity. I know I will always be able to trust what you say.

    I, however, prefer to remain in a judgment free zone. I convalesced for a good ten days after my bilateral mastectomy, some of them with the covers pulled over my head, but then I got back into the land of the living and it felt great to clear the cobwebs. Could I have returned to work? Possibly, but I’m a big believer in the six week rule after major surgery. Just seems like the prudent thing to do. I was fortunate to be able to take off as much time as I needed. Everyone’s timeline, however, for healing is different. I learned a long time ago not to have expectations from other people, particularly celebrities. I don’t know them or Guiliana Rancic from Adam. I cannot imagine that an employer or anyone with a brain in their head would be influenced by her decision to return to work so quickly after her surgery. I tell you, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t in this world. As a fellow survivor I wish her well and a long, active life filled with many blessings. I wish the same for all of my fellow survivors.

    As for the high intake of starchy food…what’s up with that? How are earth are we Italians supposed to cut back on pasta? Meditation, however, has been a godsend for my stress ball ways. You should give it a try. It provides a vehicle for letting go of all that control that none of us have.

    Lastly, I am thrilled to have you as one of the “Lovelies” in Beyond the Pink Moon. I have a feeling we will have many lively discussions. I look forward to them and getting to know you. Thank you so much for the shout out. Wishing you a fabulous New Year! You ARE alive and you ARE beautiful! And did I mention…..you can write!

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