Road to Recovery

My road to recovery, and my battle against cancer started one year ago today. At this time last year, I was recovering from a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. When I woke up from my five hour surgery, I was surrounded by my husband, my parents, and my dear friend Katie. Katie, a nurse at the same hospital, pulled some strings to get me a large, private room at the end of a quiet hall so I could rest peacefully through the night.

Here’s a brief excerpt from my book, The Journey of My Jugs.

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Waking up from surgery was a blur. I remember opening my eyes to find my family sitting in a large private hospital room at the end of a hallway. The surgery lasted five hours, two more hours than they planned. While my plastic surgeon was finishing his handiwork, the pathology report came back from the lab with devastating news. There were trace amounts of cancer found in three lymph nodes. The lab insisted on removing more lymph nodes so they could be tested.

As I looked around my room, I reminded my mom of the three magic questions I wanted her to answer when I woke up from surgery. Was I alive or dead? Did they go straight to implants or did they use expanders? Did they find cancer in the lymph nodes? I was alive, and they were able to go straight to implants instead of having to go through the pain of expanders. (Expanders are temporary fluid sacks filled weekly so the skin can stretch slowly. Apparently, I had ample skin leftover to stuff and sew.) I was so happy to hear this news, but she had saved the worst news for last. The cancer was found in my lymph nodes. They removed several nodes; the surgeon wasn’t able to guess how many were taken. The news crushed my spirit for a moment. I couldn’t find any tears to go along with the disappointment, so I smiled and reminded myself to be grateful for another day on this planet. I am sure the anesthesia helped bring a smile to my face as well.

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Thank you for stopping by and reading a part of my journey.

Nicole

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Breast Cancer Diagnosis: A Wave of Sadness

When I was diagnosed at age 42 with stage 3 breast cancer, I knew I wanted to write a book about the journey. I knew the writing process would be cathartic for me, and I wanted the end result to inspire others tackling breast cancer or adversity of any kind.

One in eight women will develop an invasive form of breast cancer in their lifetime, so another goal I have for this book is to bring more awareness to younger women. It’s so important to do your monthly breast exams and to make that appointment for your first mammogram when you turn 40.

Many of you may have followed me on my CaringBridge site for the weeks following my diagnosis. I mused about my double mastectomy, the strength and courage I was given from family and friends, shaving my head, and a few other milestones.

The next few paragraphs are from my first journal entries, moments after I received the dreaded breast cancer diagnosis.

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There was still no fighting the tears and the ugly cry that had taken over me, so I called my husband Adlai, and I heard those famous words, we’ll get through this together. Another wave of sadness hit me. One deeper than anything I have ever felt. I haven’t been giving our relationship the time it deserved; instead I have been working full-time and picking up freelance writing jobs to grow my byline. My weekends were filled with writing assignments while my week nights were filled with teaching fitness classes or preparing for 5k and 10k races. I made my husband entertain himself. I felt like a terrible wife. Now, I was a terrible wife with cancer and a pity party was already in progress.

What would I say on my deathbed? I would tell him to find someone else, to remember me, but find someone else to love. I would tell him to find someone who will share a hunting experience with him, someone who loves to ride in boats that go really fast, someone who is a better wife than me.

I sobbed the entire way home. I felt like there was no hope for a new life after cancer even though my doctor was positive about my prognosis. My doctor drank from the glass that was half full, while I was drinking pulp at the bottom of a glass.

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I hope you enjoyed this passage from The Journey of My Jugs. Be on the lookout for future posts that include more excerpts from my book. If you want to read more, please check out my CaringBridge site for longer passages.