September 23, 2014
I’m having a minor surgical procedure next week to improve upon my already fake foobs, just a little nip and tuck. Sadly, that means more scars.
I had lunch last week with a friend of mine, who is also a breast cancer survivor, and we talked about all the dumb stuff people say, the things that really bothered us and the things we could just laugh about.
We talked about our scars. She mentioned how when she is undressed she looks like the bride of frankenstein with all of her scars from various surgeries since her journey started 2 years ago. Our scars tell a story.
Somewhere on my right foob, is 2 tiny scars from biopsies. I have a scar under my right arm from where they took additional lymph nodes, longer and bigger scars under both arms from a different surgery that included when I got my nipples. Oh, yeah, scars from the nipples too. There are scars surrounding each foob from my mastectomy surgery. A scar from where I got my port for chemo, and then when it was taken out. Oh and let’s not forget the 4 scars on my tummy from having to have my ovaries removed so they wouldn’t be allowed to make any more hormones, cause, well, that would be very dangerous for me considering my cancer was 100% estrogen fed.
I don’t think about my scars daily, I guess I’m used to them. I don’t “see” them unless I happen to stand in front of a mirror when I’m getting dressed, I don’t examine them, I prefer to not think about the physical scars, no one is going to see them anyway.
It’s the emotional scars that bother me the most, the ones you can’t see, the ones that haunt me the most.
The hormone suppressor that I’m on has various side effects, but the one that bothers me the most is the bone pain that has settled in the bottom of my right foot. It’s on the ball of my foot and goes into my toes. Forget wearing closed toe shoes, that really aggravates the pain, but it’s a daily reminder of what my body is going through. I don’t need to see my physical scars to reminded that I HAD cancer, I have that freaking pain in my foot to remind me.
Then I have the glorious reminder of my eye lashes still breaking off every few months. What the hell is that all about? I mean come on! I finished chemo 14 months ago, why are they still breaking? I’m taking Biotin daily to help with hair growth. Yet, another reminder.
Last week, one of my friends from my support group announced that her cancer had returned. This hit me hard. HARD. I can’t explain why, it just did. For a few hours, I didn’t know what would come first, the tears or the vomit. The tears ended up coming AFTER the fear took over. Fear of a recurrence is something that I live with, I know it is a VERY REAL possibility for me since the cancer was in my lymph nodes and it freaking scares me – honestly freaks me out. I feel like I’m walking through a haunted house sometimes, just waiting for someone to jump out at me and say “The Cancer is Back”. Yea, I know, I know, it may NEVER come back, and I pray that it never does, but I’m human, and I’m not perfect, I still have that fear. If it can happen to a friend, it can happen to me, right? Anyway, after I talked with my friend, Tanyecia, I started thinking more and more about the spot in my foot. What if it really isn’t a side effect of the hormone suppressor. What if it’s really bone cancer in my foot? What if I have a tumor on the bone and that’s what makes it hurt? Oh, the imagination can do a number on the brain of a cancer survivor. I emailed my nurse from my oncologist and was very open and told her that I needed to be talked off the crazy train I was on, that the way I was feeling right that moment, I wanted to walk into an ER and demand a pet scan and not leave until I had one, I need that reassurance that I still am classified as “no evidence of disease” (NED). I told her all about the pain in my foot, ALL ABOUT IT. I found myself withdrawing until my phone rang and it was Josie (nurse). She very calmly asked me detailed questions regarding the foot pain, I knew what she was doing! She was assessing my “symptoms” over the phone, and talking me off the crazy train (Doesn’t Ozzy Osbourne have a song called Crazy Train?). Josie explained to me why insurance most likely wouldn’t pay for a pet scan and how my blood work will tell the best story about what is going on in my body at any given time, including my bones, my lab work has been near perfect through out this “journey” and has not waved any red flags (ok I’m taking steps off the train entrance). While talking to Josie, I started crying, my fear started surfacing, then I think Josie really understood where this was all coming from. She, again, talked about my perfect lab work, but that if I wanted to change my appt with Dr. O and come in earlier, she would get me in, to just let her know. My panic attack was starting to ease and I was now standing, wobbly, on the train station platform, receiving a virtual hug from my nurse. Emotional Scar brought to you by cancer.
I can’t imagine the crazy stories oncologist and their nurses hear on a regular basis. They must be super saints to deal with all of our off the wall emotions, cause, let’s face it, we are all over the place on any given day.
One of the things I get to do is massage my right foob daily due to the radiation to keep the area loose. Every few days, the area around the implant will be sore, and guess where my mind goes – oh no, the cancer has returned! Can I feel anything, oh wait, what’s that? oh, it’s the “pocket” where my implant sits and what I’m feeling is the ridge of my chest wall, or is it? So, I hold off on my daily massage for a couple of days, wait for the soreness to go away, and repeat the process. FEAR. Isn’t this fun. Thanks for the emotional reminder cancer, yet, another scar that no one but me can see.
Every new pain gets my attention, every.single.one. I rub the area, trying to figure out if I can feel anything. I avoid typing in my symptoms in a google search bar. I know first hand how emotionally harmful that can be – do NOT google. Let me repeat DO NOT GOOGLE. If you do, be prepared for the emotional scars to open WIDE and all the ugliness to come spewing out, it won’t be pretty.
When I first learned my mammogram was bad (almost 2 years ago, so hard to believe), I dealt with what felt like a shit storm of emotions. I shut down, I was so over the top scared, yet, very much pissed off at how the matter was being handled by someone in my family. Being as mad as I was truly helped me keep my focus on that issue instead of what was about to smack me in the face with a 2×4. The reality of that time frame brings about it’s own emotional scars, that relationship is doomed, I don’t think it will ever be repaired. I know what I need in order for it to heal, but the other party has no idea and I’m not going to put it out there, they need to come to that conclusion on their own. Emotional scarring at it’s best.
I went through counseling at the end of spring, beginning of summer to help me figure out what I had been feeling in regards to all the cancer stuff. We talked about my anger (and yes, I have had some hefty anger), we talked about my lack of desire to pick up my camera (it’s been almost 2 years since I did), we talked about my new grandson and how I was feeling about being a grandma, my counselor drilled into my head that I didn’t need to let my experience with cancer take away my joy. After one of my sessions, I was driving home and it hit me – what I was feeling was FEAR, hot, red, flaming, burning brightly, FEAR! What if I picked my camera up again and started rebuilding my business and BAM cancer returns to take it all away from me again? What if I don’t live long enough to see Andrew grow up? WHAT IF??????? FEAR!!!! I have been feeling fear this entire time. Emotional scars.
Telling me to not worry about it is like telling a camel he can’t drink the water after a 7 day trek in the desert. I know from speaking with other survivors that the fear will get better, and never truly goes away, I’m more than ready to get to the other side of fear so I feel like I can truly regain control over ALL aspects of my life, without the daily reminders of cancer…….like dry eye, messed up vision, the pain in my foot, the multitude of pills I now take.
Emotional Scars are just as real as the physical scars. Even though I look “fine” from the outside, my hair has grown back in, rather curly, I have hair. I’m no longer flat chested, I have some decent looking foobs. You can look at me and never know that I walked through the fire of breast cancer, but I have emotional scars that run deep. When I see posts by others about how deodorant causes cancer, or how drug companies purposely withhold a cure because of the money they are making, or that mammograms really don’t do that much for detecting breast cancer (um, HELLO, I’m still here because of a mammogram), or this causes cancer, or that causes cancer, you get the idea. It really angers me, why? Because not all of it is true. Deodorant does NOT cause breast cancer. If it did, then why don’t more men get breast cancer? They use deodorant and they also have boobs! I can’t believe that my oncologist would spend as much time researching breast cancer as she does if there was truly a cure and the drug companies are holding back so they could make more money. My oncologist is very well known in the breast cancer community. I did extensive research on her when I knew I needed a medical oncologist, she is a highly sought after speaker, researcher, doctor, etc. No one will ever be able to convince me that drug companies are keeping a cure under their money belt, nope, won’t do it. There would have to be some type of test that determines there is a rogue cell out there that is going to throw a party in the body and invite other cells to attend until they form a tumor. Shouldn’t they be able to do that AT BIRTH????? When I see, or hear, these type of statements, my anger scar splits open. I’m learning to control that one more and more as the days go forward. I know the talks I have with my oncologist, I know what she has found from her research (and trust me, I DID ask about deodorant), I know what happens in the exam room, I know what she’s looking for in my lab work, I have educated myself and wish others would too.
Anyway, when you look at me and see that physically, I look fine, I show no outer signs of breast cancer, just remember this………..
Emotional Scars are harder to treat than physical scars, but they exist just the same.