If you have been following along with my summer posts, you know that I have undergone several steps in the process of taking preventative measures to reduce my breast and ovarian cancer risks.
I found out I was a BRCA 2 carrier after my second child was born and took nearly the last decade to discover as much as possible related to my gene predispositions. With the time it took me to finally be happy with the research available to me and then making surgery plans with my doctors, you’d think I was prepared for this next one-a double mastectomy with reconstruction.
Ha! Nope! Not really!
I am mentally prepared. I feel strong in mind and clear headed that these choices I’ve made are what is necessary. And I know that my surgical team is the best I could ever ask for. We feel confident that they will do outstanding work with great results.
However, as I started to actually think about being “prepared” I realized that I don’t know as much about this next step as I thought I did. My husband and I have a great understanding of the “what” and the “how” of what’s to come, but we don’t really have a good handle on the aftermath of it all. Everybody’s experiences are different and reading different women’s journeys are both helpful and frightening at the same time.
So, this morning I started to think of everything I didn’t know. My head was spinning. Here is just a tiny sampling of my inner-worries…Will I be able to raise my arms? Will I be able to get dressed? How will I wash my hair? Will I want to sleep in my bed or in a recliner? Will my drains be able to stay hidden? How can I keep my kids calm? How will I get up the stairs? Ugghhh, the car ride will be bumpy…how do I get home comfortably? When will I want to see people? How long will it take until I feel better? Who is going to keep my house clean? Will Jeff remember to register for the kid’s classes? Will he pay the bills? When will I be able to get back to work and my volunteer responsibilities?
The inner-dialogue kept going until I had to shut it off. You see, this panic-stricken inner voice was not mine. It was not the voice that I used when talking to my kids or friends and family about what’s coming. And really, a lot of my concerns surround the function of my house and the people in it…not even me! So, it was no use to talk to myself like that.
Plus, I have vowed to myself to go into this with a positive attitude and so far, I have been able to keep it. And I think that might be why I haven’t had a total freak-out or panic attack about the fact that my boobs are turning into “foobs” (fake boobs) tomorrow. But, the combination of that inner-voice paired with the reality of surgery being tomorrow… set me up for a mini-freak out… in an unsuspecting place.
The Walgreens Photo Department.
Why Walgreens you ask? I am not sure, but I do know one thing. The woman behind the photo counter was the reason why it was in her department.
I will summarize.
I needed to run a few errands. One of them was to print my kids school pictures in order to send them in a card for my grandparent’s 70th wedding anniversary. Yes… 70 years!! (Sidenote: do you know that celebrating 70 years of marriage is so rare that there isn’t a card available for it!) Well, I went to print the pictures and brought in the copyright notice, but then found out I needed to supply a photocopy of the copyright. It was in that moment that I just lost it. The sheer thought of having to leave to go make a copy before getting the pictures that I needed in order to send my grandparents card threw me into a panic. I just didn’t know how I was going to get that done and still make time to have fun with my kids on our last day together before surgery.
I just started crying.
Thankfully, the woman that was working there came right to me and kindly asked me what was wrong and if I was going to be okay. I did tell her that I was having surgery the next day and just a little stressed from it all. Without hesitation, she told me God was going to watch over me and make sure that I was alright. She then went on to tell me that she herself was a cancer survivor and had just returned to work after suffering a heart attack a week ago! Let me repeat… a week ago!! Something in the way she spoke and the care in her eyes helped to calm me down. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment. Yes, it was embarrassing, but I don’t even care. I know that I was meant to hear her story and that God spoke to me through her. And after that moment, all of my worries, fears, and doubts literally went away.
I left Walgreens and hopped back in the car and my mom and my three kids went about the rest of our day. We ran another errand, I made that copy, and we went to their favorite lunch spot- The Choo Choo in the next town over. It is the quirkiest and best place to grab a cheeseburger delivered on a model train! They have the best angel food cupcakes and I normally say no when my kids ask for them, but you know what…today I said yes. It was fun to be the yes mom instead of the no mom for a change. The five of us enjoyed our cupcakes and left with full bellies and smiles on our faces.
The moral of my long story (thanks for hanging in there with me) is that being unprepared is actually being prepared. There is no way that I can be prepared for all of the “what if’s” about to come my families way. However, I can be prepared in knowing that I am not expected to have all the answers and that we will figure this out as we go along. I am also prepared with the best community army to check in on me, bring me meals, and supply my kids with endless fun. I am so appreciative of each and every one of you. My family and I couldn’t navigate this journey without you.
TRUST your journey. Whatever road you are traveling, know that you’ve got the keys and hands on the steering wheel. It’s just road bumps that you have to drive over. LISTEN to your inner-voice, but realize when it’s too panicked to make sound choices…then hit mute! And remember that most struggles are just TEMPORARY. This moment will pass in my life and in yours. Thank goodness I will be able to look back at this day and laugh at myself. Having a positive attitude and being able to laugh has continued to save me through this whole process.
I know it was okay for me to panic today and that such a small trigger made it happen, but I am so glad that it was 1) away from my kids 2)in a place that promotes wellness and 3) with the right employee at the right time.
There are no happy accidents~
**I am not a doctor and my decision to proceed with major surgery took years to decide. Please don’t take my story as recommendations for yourself. If you are a BRCA Carrier please reach out to your physician today to make a plan.
If you think you could be a BRCA Carrier, talk with your doctor. For more information, check out the non-profit organization- Bright Pink.**
You can also check out my other writings on Full Time Mom.