Two weeks after I arrived home from breast cancer surgery, which included a complete mastectomy and immediate FLAP reconstruction using fat from my belly ( a tummy tuck), I received a phone call from the oncologist’s office with a date to begin chemotherapy. EVERYTHING- every appointment, every procedure, every surgery-seemed like a whirlwind from the moment I was diagnosed. Now, after not having totally caught my breath, I am being told that I must begin chemotherapy in the next two weeks.
“Oh my God! How am I going to do this?” I asked myself after hanging up the phone with the oncologist’s office. As I pondered what was in store for me over the course of the upcoming weeks, I began to feel as if I was drowning in a sea of panic and fear. “I have not even healed from surgery yet. I CAN’T even raise my arm. I CAN’T walk without discomfort. I CAN’T even sleep in my bed yet, and they want me to start chemotherapy in two weeks? There is NO WAY I will be ready.”
After talking to God about my fears, I decided to discuss the matter with my husband also. Although we do not always see eye to eye on things, I have always held my husband’s opinion in high esteem. Not only is he a smart man, but he is a man of great wisdom. After talking and discussing what we thought my options could be, I decided to speak directly with the oncologist to discuss my concerns, and to request that chemotherapy be delayed in order to give my body more time to heal from surgery.
Uncertain of the effects that chemotherapy would have on my body, I was afraid. In addition to being fearful of chemotherapy, I was nervous about “standing up” to the oncologist regarding what I felt would be the best plan for me. One lesson that I have learned from going through this cancer journey, is that you-the patient-must be honest with your doctors and discuss with them any concerns or fears that you have regarding your treatment. I continue by saying with all sincerity, if by chance your medical care providers do not allow you this opportunity, or do not welcome questions or two-way conversations with you, it may be time for you to consider seeking a provider who will.
For awhile, I felt like I had been on a roller coaster ride without a harness. The doctors did a wonderful job with providing me and my husband detailed information regarding every procedure that I would undergo. However, because of the momentum at which everything was happening, I could not help feeling at times, that I had lost control and that all of the treatment decisions were somehow being made for me. I did not feel a part of what was going on. It felt like I was in a dream and that I was a character in the dream, and not myself.
I was grateful for the conversation that I had with the oncologist. We talked in-depth about my concerns and worries. He took my anxieties into consideration, and informed me that he could delay chemotherapy for an additional two weeks, allowing my body more time to heal. Boy did I feel like a weight had been lifted! I also felt proud of myself. It was then that I felt present. I felt like I had showed up for the battle. I was present and alert. I was equipped for battle. I had my sword of the spirit, which is the word of God and I had my voice. I was ready.
Not only was I prepared for battle, I was prepared to embrace my “new” body. The emotional struggle that I had regarding accepting the scars and disfigurement from breast surgery, was fading. I decided that I was not going to allow this to depress me. I was not going to be ashamed of the cards that I had been dealt. One day after showering, I decided to stand naked before the mirror. Initially, this was difficult to do because of the swelling that was still present on my left reconstructed breast and around my belly. I made myself stay there in front of the mirror. I coerced myself to look at the image before me. I sheepishly touched the scars. With tears streaming down my face, I told God, “I SHALL NEVER FORGET.” In faith, I believed and trusted that God was going to bring me through cancer. I was convicted that the scars would always be reminders of God’s grace and healing mercies toward me.
From that day forward, my whole outlook on the breast cancer experience changed. I felt renewed. I felt resolved. I began doing my arm exercises, and taking walks around my backyard. Over the course of the extra weeks that I had been given by the oncologist to heal, I worked tirelessly to regain full range of motion in my arm. Within this time frame, I was able to lay flat, thus returning to sleep in my bed with my husband!
It is amazing what a shift in attitude and thought can do for your mental and physical well-being. There is a scripture in the Holy Bible that says,”For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7. There is another scripture that reads, “Then he [Jesus] touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you…” Matthew 9:29. As I have stated in previous posts, it is paramount that we take control of our thinking and the way we view life’s situations and circumstances. It is imperative that we seek to keep our emotions in check, especially when GOING THROUGH a crisis. Let us remember that GOING THROUGH simply means that there is AN OTHER SIDE.
“The ultimate act of bravery does not take place on a battlefield. It takes place in your heart, when you have the courage to honor your character, your intellect, your inclinations and yes, your soul.” ~Anna Quindlen
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Until next time, Ciao♥