Breast cancer: the "gift" that keeps on giving. Whether it's treatment side effects, surgical scars, or the emotional roller coaster without end - the fear comes and then goes and then comes 'round again. I can't say that I've had a day where I haven't thought about it - not yet. It would be nice to not think about it but I doubt that day will ever come, and perhaps that is as much a blessing as a curse.
For now, it mostly is there in the back of my mind and comes into the forefront when I have a nasty hot flash or when my arm swells and feels gunky from the lymphedema. The flashes had begun to really slow down until I was on vacation in the hot and humid Florida sun and enjoying a refreshing beverage each night (wine, beer or margarita) and before getting half way through a single drink I was breaking out into an intense wave of heat and sweat reminiscent of the early days of surgically-induced menopause (read: BRUTAL). So there it is - alcohol is a major trigger for my hot flashes. It's a good thing I don't drink much or often. The high heat and humidity also aggravate the lymphedema which really stinks since it also makes it unbearable to wear the compression sleeve that should help manage the amount of swelling in the arm. I end up tearing it off for some fresh air relief. It was so hot all summer here in the Santa Clarita Valley of southern California that I hardly wore the sleeve at all and now my arm is a bit puffier than it should be so I'll need to get some of that intense therapy that requires it be bandaged up for 24 hours for a 2 week period. I'll wait till the weather is cooler though - it's still in the upper 80s here believe it or not. I welcome the cooler weather, not the round the clock bandaging.
If it's not my own physiological reactions relating to treatment side effects and surgeries, there are reminders all around like things I can't do anymore - no more spa days since I can't go in a hot tub, sauna or steam room (aggravates lymphedema), and I learned this past week that I can't do the challenging spinning exercise classes since I can't put pressure on my arm/hand such as when the class is instructed to do stands or "jumps" or lean-ins that require a firm grasp and leaning with the arms and hands on the handle bars. I'm not terribly sad about these lifestyle changes most of the time but as they arise they serve as reminders - reminders that at times are unwelcome moments of frustration but praise God that most of the time they are reminders of what I've overcome and that I'm still here, living life!
The blessing of the fear that pervades my consciousness is that it serves to remind me to cherish every moment, to live life to the fullest, to not sweat the small stuff. Even though I've been on this crazy ride, I seem to still need reminders often so I guess that's why I'm showered with them!
The fear of recurrence is the worst of all though. I try not to think about it but this week it took center stage as I returned to the UCLA Revlon Breast Center for a follow-up appointment and was faced with my surgical oncologist's different opinion from my medical oncologist's feeling about something I can feel in my left breast (which of course is mostly made up of belly fat at this point but I guess that tiny bit of breast tissue that's left behind after mastectomy still presents a risk). I wanted her opinion but my heart sank when she quickly determined "it needs to come out". Um, what? Yup, whatever it is that we can feel needs to be biopsied and removed and biopsied again because the booby masher and ultrasound tests I endured shortly after hearing those words were "inconclusive". Shoot. Crap. Boo! Trick or treat?! Blech!
Dear Lord, I submit to you my life for Your will. I lay my worry and fear at Your feet and trust in You. Please guide the physicians and nurses minds and hands to ensure accurate and clear results and provide for my safety and comfort while in their care. Please grant me acceptance and peace with whatever the outcome may be. But Lord, please let it be benign. Amen.