Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Breast Cancer Sucks




It's been eight months since I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and had the mastectomy  (removal of my right breast).

I've kept count of each month as it passes by.

Do I celebrate the year mark?
Or do I just keep counting.
Thirteen months, fourteen months, fifteen months and so on.

Yesterday was my second Skype consult with my oncologist in Victoria. I had lots of questions for her.

The most important to me was:

"Is it normal for my chest bone above the incision to still be so sensitive?"

She told me that yes, it is quite common for women to suffer from chest bone sensitivity for months or possibly longer after a mastectomy. The surgeon removed my breast along with the tumour. He went through flesh, muscles etc. My pectoral muscles were affected. It will take time and exercise to heal them.

My chest is now concave on the right side. I had envisioned being flat chested but not concave. Being concave also affects how the pectoral muscles move and how they recover.

Being concave also affects my posture. I have to be aware that I sit and stand straight to keep from slumping in on the right side. If I slump my back muscles ache and I don't breathe deeply. The physiotherapist tells me my pectoral muscles will shrink and become tighter if I slump. I can feel it happening when I've been sitting around too much and not moving my arms enough.

So many people think that breast cancer is one of the easy cancers to get. I'm here to tell you that NO CANCER IS EASY. It's not just the knowledge that I had cancer but the treatments, the side effects, the pain, the surgery, the continued doctor's appointments, the fear and stress associated with those appointments, the continuous exercises, lifestyle changes, the reminder of cancer every time I look at my chest in the mirror or in the shower and the effort it takes to "be strong, look forward to the future, get on with life".

Now I can get on with my day feeling good that I spoke out and hopefully I'll have great news about no pain above my chest bones. Thanks for listening. xo


Styrofoam and acrylic on braille paper Carole Reid Copyrighted 2017 

18 comments:

  1. It is easy for those who've not suffered the loss of a breast, and the other trials associated with cancer to think that, once surgery is successfully complete, the crisis is over. It's ongoing, and relentless. Rest assured that many understand what you are going through, and commiserate. Keep on hanging in there, and doing your 'art therapy'....love your work.

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    1. Hi Jo. I am very thankful for the support I have from other women who have been through this ahead of me. Thanks for your kind words.

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  2. Hi Carole,
    I hate that you are are going through this, I hate that cancer took your breast and that it has caused you so much pain and grief.
    Every time I read about your journey I am grateful that you are will to share the experience without glossing over the specifics. Your candor means a lot to many of us.
    Love and hugs.
    Kat

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    1. Thanks, Kat, I know.
      Being open and honest I think helps educate others and is good for me.
      xo C

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  3. Thank you, once again, for sharing the reality. I never imagined a breastless chest would be concave. Nor the effect on the pectoral muscles.

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    1. Being concave wasn't mentioned when I spoke with the surgeon about the mastectomy. I was quite surprised by it. Thanks for your supportive words, Lorrie.

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  4. mhmmm... of course it continues, and this is the part that is less visible even than a missing breast; all the hard work of convalescence, behind the scenes. i'm so, so happy for you that you are this, this brave and have the obvious courage to go on, and accept and adapt. and it's so, so personal.
    X
    n♥

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    1. Thank you, Nadine. As I've said before, some days I feel brave and even strong. Other days just exhausted and emotional. Thank goodness those sad days are far and few between. xo

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  5. Dear Carole,
    in Germany we have the chance when women turn 50y to have a free mammography. Last Friday I have mine. It was really surprising for me, in what kind of fear I fall!
    Last year in January my dear friend had breast cancer. She had one surgery where her ill breast was removed and filled in a breast implant. After months, thank God she survived!, she still has the feeling of imbalance. Another friend was in the same situation five years ago and it grows on her.
    Have you ponder about this option, I wonder?

    I admire your special way of fight for life, Carole! Your art is powerful as your are! Keep it up, please.

    Love,
    Ariane

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    1. Hi Ariane,
      We also have free mammograms here in Canada. The tumour didn't show up in the mammogram but there was a lump that could be felt so the technician got me in to have an ultrasound done while I was at the hospital. A biopsy followed immediately after the radiologist read the scan. It all happened at super sonic speed!

      I have considered the reconstruction surgery but decided that I didn't want to do that. If I was younger I might have considered but why put my body through more surgeries that take far longer to recover from at 61.

      Thanks for you kind words. Hope all is well in your castle. xo



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  6. Thank you so much for your bravery and sharing. I wish I could do something to help, and yes I too wish it was 'Cancer Free World Day' My thoughts and hugs are sent your way.

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    1. Thanks, Kim. I feel it's important to share what I'm going through to help inform people of what they might experience themselves. Knowing you are not the only one going through all this wretched cancer stuff helps overcome the feelings of being alone. xo

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  7. Hi Carole, wow, thanks for sharing how your breast cancer has shaped your body and your outlook. I know you are a strong woman - yet, in you lives an ideal, the vision of how a woman "should look" - the pressure is intense, society needs a reality check on this one.

    I think expressing yourself through your art is the real therapy - keep those creations coming.

    What is it at times like these that causes the tongue to get tied? Saying stay strong, be strong, you can handle it, and a host of other "positive" sayings seems so superficial to me. I'd like you to know you should be true to the moments of anger, frustration, fear, and doubt - make them your friends, then, they have very little pull and power.

    Cyber hugs and smiles are being sent your way, Jenny xxoo

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    1. Thank you, Jenny. Your words help. Making art has helped. Time will help. Friends near and across the Strait are great encouragers. xo xo

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  8. I haven't been reading blogs for quite a long time Carole, so didn't know you were ill. I am really sorry to hear that and send you my heartfelt wishes for your recovery. I am impressed with your way of sharing your experience and feelings through your art and words and think this will help anyone who reads your blog.
    Sarah x

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    1. Thank you, Sarah.
      I hope you are well. xo

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  9. Carole,

    I haven't been blogging much since January 26th when I had a triple bypass operation on my heart. Each day since has been a gift and like you with your cancer my chest will never be quite the same for the incision but there is more. Neither will my spirit, the depth of my thanks and the great awakening to six chapters closed and a new one under authorship that has been my experience since my seven days in hospital. Home never looked so good. Sunshine never illuminated so well and stars never twinkled so brightly in night sky. I have a journey ahead of me, have no idea how long it will last and no longer preoccupy my mind with this question. So many possibilities seem within reach. Carole - I know you understand the true depth and great gift of infinity in each breath. Very best wishes and prayers to you on your journey!

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    1. Oh my gosh, Mark, how our lives have changed these past months. Yes, I understand. Life is more precious by the breath, hour, day, months and years. The question of how long do I have seems to have vanished in my mind as well. The focus is on living each day with joy and creativity. My prayers and very best wishes to you as well, Mark. Take care. Rejoice. Let's keep in touch. xo

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