If You Want the Rainbow

When I was six my mom, who by now you should all know is amazing, planned a backwards birthday party where we did everything backwards. Clothes? Everything had to be worn backwards. She even printed out our names in reverse and pinned them on our fronts (Anig, here!). Games? All performed backwards from walking with eggs on spoons around a course to tossing clothespins in a jar over our heads. Birthday Cupcakes? Unfrosted so the role of host and guest was reversed.

I’ve celebrated 27 birthday’s since then. I’ve celebrated new jobs, the birth of my nephew, and my acceptance into Grad school. I’ve cheered countless new firsts and thankful new lasts. I’ve celebrated my families successes and that of my friends. I’ve cried at weddings where the love of those I care about is tangible and celebrated when people I love stand up for themselves in little ways. I celebrate my students’ accomplishments, no matter how small, and treat myself when just making in through the day is worthy of celebration.

Today, April 20th, 2018 not only do I get to celebrate the marriage of a wonderful friend, but also my one month anniversary since my double mastectomy with reconstruction. One month of being cancer free! Seriously, can we all just let out one big collective breath of relief?!

To be honest, this milestone is bitter sweet for a handful of reasons. Well, two handfuls to be exact (Ba dum chh!). Celebrating the removal of my breasts feels kind of backwards. It reminds me of when someone posts something bad that happens to them on Instagram or Facebook (broken car window,  pet death, etc.) flat out without identifying the silver lining (i.e. nothing stolen, long happy life, etc.) and I don’t know if I’m supposed to “like” it or not. I don’t “like” the bad thing but I want to show my support.

I was also supposed to officiate my wonderful friends wedding today, an honor I didn’t take lightly, but one I had to decline when I learned of my diagnosis and was unable to commit myself fully to that amazing responsibility. I owe you Karla and will pay my due with an impromptu emotional speech and probable (mobility-impaired) interpretive dance at your reception (just kidding…or am I?).

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

-Dolly Parton

But as weird as it may feel, and although I still want to close my eyes some days and wish this all away, I want to celebrate with you. So here are a few of the things, no matter how big or small, the last 30 days has given me to celebrate:

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First selfie on day one: clear margins, clear lymph nodes, questionable selfie skills. I remember them telling me my lymph nodes were clear when I first woke up and my response was something along the lines of, “well that’s good.” No, drugged up Gina, that is freaking AMAZING! I was so busy processing what had just happened to my body that it took me a day or two to really process what clear lymph nodes meant. Having clear lymph nodes, in a way, was more important than the success of the mastectomy.

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This delicious, hot, wonderful first cup of real coffee I had in two weeks. Before surgery I stopped drinking caffeine to avoid giving myself a migraine in the event that I couldn’t have coffee before and immediately after my surgery. It worked. No migraines while at the hospital, thank goodness!

These awkward pictures of me with some of the wonderful flowers that decorated my hotel room. Plus the many more I received, plus the ones sent to my house, plus gift baskets and cards and well wishes and donations that made me feel so overwhelmed with love and support I burst into ugly tears on multiple occasions.

My family, my family, my family. I will always include them in every post because this wasn’t just something I went through. #teamgrosso

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A friend like Alyssa who not only spent one of the hospital nights with me, watched terrible tv on my iPad, and got me to order Thai food when the hospital food was too awful, but also “let” me hold her hand, much to her excitement, and was there for my parents through the entire experience. She was our person. Our rock. She’ll get her own blog post soon.

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This blanket, along with a handmade apron for my drains, and the other wonderful items donated by breast cancer survivors in the San Diego community. The emotions were high as I realized I was now one of them.

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Brushing my teeth for the first time. Look at that sheer euphoria on my face. Heaven.

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Getting my hair washed for the first time. Even though I was shoved into a garbage bag and sitting on a stool in a tub, that was the best shampoo of my life. Please note my mom’s attempts to make me more stylish with a ruffled edge, perfect bow, and checkered dish towel! This was just one of her amazing designs. Once there was fringe.

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Going on walks around the neighborhood. It felt amazing to get fresh air and move my body. One foot in front of the other!

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First time driving again! Slow and steady, and with a pillow keeping the seatbelt off my chest, but it felt great to be in control again. My mom did a great job driving in San Diego, but she’s more of a Paradise driver if you know what I mean…

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Pharmaceuticals which let’s face it serve a very important purpose, least of all aiding in the elusive first post-surgery bowel movement. For anyone who knows what I’m talking about, can I get a hallelujah!? TMI, you say? I’ll just say I hope you never have to go through it because that part was almost worse than the surgery. Almost.

These are just a few of the small milestones I want to celebrate and that I hold onto as I continue to wait (and wait…and wait…and agonize…and wait) for the test results to determine if I will need chemo. There are so many more wins, especially once you start looking for them.

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