Sneaky Little Bugger

The thing about breast cancer is it can be a real sneaky little bugger. When I chose to have a double mastectomy it was for many reasons but mainly the peace of mind it brought me to know that I had removed basically as much of the tissue as possible where a recurrence of cancer could happen. After they dissected the tissue in my “cancer free” right breast and found more cancer that hadn’t show up on any of the imaging, we celebrated that I had made the right choice (if that is even possible). That decision was a source of comfort through the recovery process and the reconstruction surgery knowing it was all worth it. I got to live cancer free for 20 months. March 2018-November 2019.

My one year Cancerversary celebration
My One-Year Cancerversary

Following my first biopsy I always felt a little bump under the tiny biopsy scar. I didn’t think anything of it believing it was scar tissue. As my expanders were inflated and my entire chest grew and changed and settled into that new body I though little of it. And when the expanders were replaced by the permanent implants and I again healed and changed and settled into yet another new body I still didn’t think anything of it. I even bought real bras again and was feeling pretty ok with my new tatas.

First real bra with my implants. No underwire, no shame

I started really working out again in June of 2019. It took more than one year from my double mastectomy to get over my fear of going. I didn’t want to go to my beloved Orangetheroy anymore as the thought of having to modify my workouts I used to (not so humbly) dominate was too much for my pride. Groupon helped me try new gyms and although repeatedly having to share my new very much hated limits was terrible finding Liber8Fit was like walking into my gym home. I remember leaving after that first workout and being so incredibly disappointed that I hadn’t found them sooner.

In Liber8Fit I found two coaches who provide a gym with a strong community, female driven with an openness and acceptance I had never felt at a gym.

I actually talk to people which I had never done at a gym except for when I would go with my sister or friends. I get excited to see my gym friends. We have inside jokes. We scoff-laugh at our coach’s demonstration of each complicated exercise where she looks like an olympian literally every damn time. We breathe in ridiculous manners together during yoga and smile each time our yoga coach fumbles her words in the sweetest way. With Liber8Fit I built up to working out 5 times a day and after a few months I felt stronger than ever. Stronger than before breast cancer even.

Gym member of the month. #humblebrag

But during one particular workout my chest muscles hurt from some pull-ups (Note: I use the term “up” loosely as I mostly just hung there). I went home and immediately felt my breasts. Righty seemed ok. Lefty though, the main culprit, the one I blame for all of this, the one with that little biopsy scar bump thing, felt different. That little biopsy scar bump had moved just ever so slightly to the right. I immediately had Jesse feel and he noticed it too. We also noticed a second, deeper lump next to it. That one felt like it might be hard plastic? Maybe scarring around my implant? Something artificial? I contacted my oncologist after Jesse’s urging and he told me to monitor them and let him know if they grew or changed in any way. We had a yearly appointment in a month or so anyways so I would see him them. I didn’t push it because I’d already gone in for “lumps” I felt in my armpits that after an ultrasound turned out to be nothing.

Constantly feeling paranoid is exhausting and embarrassing.

I didn’t want to be that cancer patient. So I trusted and I waited while i obsessively felt and massaged and gauged the lumps. I even took a video to compare any changes to.

Sometime months later, Jesse asked my when my next appointments were. I brushed him off saying, “not until a year after my last surgery.” Jesse gently reminded me my surgery was September 2018. It was October 2019. I had forgotten to schedule my oncologist and plastic surgeon appointments! Luckily my team got me in quickly and my plastic surgeon was first. Everything with that check up was fine. My implants are nice and squishy. My scars are bigger than he would like but I’m ok with those battle wounds.

Then I sheepishly told him about the two lumps, that were probably nothing, that I didn’t really think he needed to do anything for but just you know in case it’s important or whatever I wanted to tell you they were there.

Without hesitation Dr. C offered a biopsy. I asked him if he was sure. Apologized for being that cancer patient. He looked at me, no bullshit and that’s why he’s my type of doctor, and told me “You had breast cancer. You can have anything biopsied. I would do it now but its too deep.”

And that’s when it all started again, so fast my oncologist didn’t even get a chance to feel the new lumps before the biopsy was scheduled.

Ultrasound 10/31.

Biopsies 11/14.

And a second Cancer diagnosis 11/18.

Appointments. Appointments. Appointments.

Savi Scout placed 12/13 (Google it).

Lumpectomy scheduled 12/20.

How did I feel this time? Pissed. Angry. Guilty.

Like the whole short end of the stick thing was actually just me standing there on that short end, waving my hands for help and apologizing profusely with tears streaming down my face.

I officially had a lumpectomy post double mastectomy. The cancers from what they could tell were connected by a small thread so instead of two separate tumors they more closely resembled a barbell. Or for some reason my mind keeps picturing a Skip-It from when I was a kid that had a big part for your foot on one end connected by a cord of flexible plastic to a counter ball on the other end. That was inside me. That had grown to around 1.5 cm each, about the size of cheerios. One of them had extended into the skin so they cut a large circle of that out. You can’t really tell except the scar looks like the tissue was pulled tighter in order to join it together.

After this surgery, I didn’t feel much pain (one perk of having minimal remaining breast tissue) just a little woozy from the anesthesia. This time around none of my doctors seemed to have as much urgency as the first diagnosis and went to my post-op with my oncologist two weeks after surgery feeling annoyed I had to have another appointment.

I honestly thought I was done. Again.

I told my mom and Jesse not to come with me. It would be a pointless appointment anyway. Just my oncologist checking-in on how I was healing. Probably radiation was to be expected. I was more annoyed with having to go daily for that than anything else. I cracked jokes with Dr. H for being so behind schedule (as always) and that 2020 was gonna be a great year because I cut all that cancer out of me so it was out of the way. I sat there alone as he told me things had changed. That 2020 would probably be the hardest year. That because my cancer had come back it changed the game. It changed the odds and the statistics and the game plan we had agreed on before. Chemotherapy was no longer our waiting weapon on the sidelines. Chemo was now going to be our star player because the fear of the cancer returning anywhere else that we can’t so easily go in and cut away is too high of a risk now.

Chemo 2020. I don’t love the sound of that.

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