Boobless in Seattle

Tuesday is the day–double mastectomy followed by 4 months of chemo and probably 6 months of reconstruction. I have been reeling from this second shocking diagnosis that was first noticed mid-December and then confirmed January 2nd. Since then it has been once again a whirlwind of doctor appointments and tough decision-making. There have been tears and disbelief, and once again the rallying of my dear friends and family. So I apologize that I haven’t written a blog post in a couple of months. I haven’t known what to say. Cancer is back? Here we go again?

Apparently I have been incredibly unlucky and have had what the doctors have likened to “lightning striking twice”. Not only did I have a rare form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma called Mantle Cell which I have successfully eliminated from my body this past year, but they think I also had at the same time the more unusual Triple Negative type of Breast Cancer. They think it probably got knocked back with the Mantle Cell chemo but not eliminated. And then when I had the stem cell transplant and started over with a brand new immune system, the breast cancer cells got an opportunity to establish themselves again when my guard was down. It’s all speculation but the end result is that I have a new battle ahead of me and this time it involves surgery, more chemo and reconstruction.

People may be surprised that I am going the chemo route again after already putting my body through the harshest chemo possible for the Mantle Cell. Why don’t I go a more natural holistic route this time? Why not Turkey Tail mushrooms, or Cannabis oil, or one of the many other herbs known to kill cancer? Or why not from the Eastern tradition, get to the root of the psychological underpinnings of the situation and figure out why I’m getting cancer and do the spiritual work to eliminate it from my body? Well, I am actually doing all of that too! But I am not going to risk not seeing my children grow up and forgo a method that has been scientifically proven to kill my particular kind of cancer. And yes, I am also taking a ton of herbs and supplements and doing the spiritual soul searching to hopefully get rid of cancer in my body for good. To each his own and my own is “all of it”.

So the boobs are coming off on Tuesday. I have found to my surprise that I’m not particularly emotional about this prospect. I don’t have a lot of my identity attached to my breasts and although I’d rather not cut into my body for any reason, if this will remove the cancer and diminish the odds of getting it again, I’ll do it. To be honest, I have more identity attached to my hair which will once again be falling out with this new chemo. The hair loss is only temporary though and just requires patience. I’m not great at patience. My hair is finally long enough to look like an intentionally short haircut and I’ll be sad to see it go. I’ll be sad to see my breasts go too but for some reason, I’m surprisingly okay with it.

Maybe it’s because I find myself grateful that I have already had the opportunity to breast feed my kids. My breasts did a super job of that amazing task and I’m very grateful that I did not get this diagnosis before I had kids like many women do. I am also grateful that there is a clear treatment plan for this kind of cancer and that it is quite successful. I am grateful that I have good health insurance that hasn’t denied me anything including the $4,000 full panel genetic test to see if I am genetically predisposed to this or other cancers. I am supremely grateful for my wonderful family and friends who have once again come to my side in person and on social media to share their breast cancer stories, offer support and guidance as I navigate these new waters.

I just celebrated the one year anniversary of my stem cell transplant on January 28th. Now I’ll have another remission date to celebrate sometime this summer. Yay for more opportunities to celebrate! Yay for life and yay for family and friends! Let love rule.

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