I did not know what to call this blog post - this is just the catch all the repository if you will of feeling not quite 100% and having the health of a family member take precedence and managing the affects of that.
So my dad had to go in and get open heart surgery last week. I had accompanied him to an appointment in late August where it was found that he had a mitral valve leak and that his heart was not beating normally (afib). He is stubborn and did not even want me in the room when the cardiologist explained the need for a quick surgery that would need to be done via open heart - so the chest opened instead of the most often preferred laproscopic incision.
My dad was a single dad before it was cool. He had help though - my grandparents lived with us and made it functional so he could work sometimes 80 hours per week up until my early 20's. At that point, his body had become full of pain from degenerative disc disease and he retired on a medical note.
He only had one surgery before this open heart rodeo and as typical man-fashion he was just so mad about having to be put under, so nervous about having to deal with recovery and just constantly saying, "Thank God it's not cancer!" To which I, of course, would say, "Really??? Really? Did you just say that - so cancer is only ok for me to have?"
Through the years, I have been in one way or another a mother figure to my dad, a co-parent with my dad, a daughter who always listened to my dad and a daughter who at times tried to avoid him. He can be overpowering. He wants to fix everything. He does not understand that some things cannot be fixed.
He is strong and stounad - there are times where I have to tell him things over and over again before he recognizes that he has put himself in the path of pain instead of avoiding it. He considers my brothers to still be young children, despite the fact that they are 38 and 34. He is someone I am used to talking to every day - in fact, despite the fact that he and my mom split up when I was 12 years old they almost always call me within a few moments of each other or at the same time. For a stretch in my twenties, sometimes they were the only phone calls I got.
As he lays in the ICU unit at Mount Sinai now at day 4 post surgery on what should have been at most a 1.5 day stay in ICU, I am just hoping he will get better. I am scared. I had faith that he would make it through this surgery but now I am not so sure.
The doctors tell us he is stable but he is not awake yet - and when he is awake he is not really cognizant of what is going on.
Here I stand, less than a year post breast cancer diagnosis and I am dealing with the need to be a caregiver. I am the health care proxy, I am the power of attorney, I am also a mom with 2 young children, one boob and medical appointments for myself to manage along with finding a job and doing the things I need to do to stay calm, well and functional.
I know I will have the strength to do it - because I will not give myself any other option.
I have been out and proud for some time (well, since July) and I am floored by the amount of people on my blog, reading about my breast cancer plot twist and reaching out to me and sharing how my story has helped them with their story. It is humbling, it is awesome and it helps me feel that I am doing some good out of bad. I am big about that - I want to take this crappy thing and make it into something more.
I know the lessons I am learning and the things I am doing about helping those behind me on this never ending (seeming) cancer trian and I also have an idea ofhow I want to move forward but it is still not an ideal situation to have been diagnosed at breast cancer at 39 years old.
During my treatment, when I was bald and tired and just doing all I could to keep putting one foot in front of the other and one sticky note down at a time on my chemo wall I deactivated my Facebook account.
I already was no longer blogging on my business website (I had stopped that in August 2016 when I was hired for a full time teaching gig) and I was not really using Twitter or Instagram (and definitely not Instagram - why would I want to document myself at my “ugliest” - do not worry, I see the beauty in those photos now and have been sharing them so jokes on you Cancer, I do not care anymore!).
Why did I close out Facebook? Truthfully, it was so hard seeing people go about their regular lives. Nothing was “regular” about my life. To be totally honest, my life really has never been about being “regular”, though. I have always been unapologetically ME - weird, an oddball, the person that can make you laugh until you cry but then will kind of shut down and do something awkward that just shows how bad I am at being social and “on” all of the time.
I was very inward focused from about 2005 - I had my marriage and then my children to consume me. I did not look at me anymore as a person - I was just a mom and focused on doing all I could to keep my little family afloat over some very choppy waters in the ship that is not my story to tell.
Watching Facebook posts, which we all know are curated to show the “best” but still just looking at people having regular sh*t to worry about, going about their lives with hair and eyebrows was too painful for me. Also painful was the ShoeBox App on my phone - I could not look at the memories of photos taken on that day in the past because for most of those days I was just trying to survive.
I just recently reactivated Facebook again and for a selfish reason. I want to raise money for my Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and/or go about making people walk with me. It is also to do more about keeping myself social and “out there”. I learned with breast cancer that the people who surprised me the most were not those who walked away but those who went above and beyond, those who stayed by my side and just in being there, made my life more “normal”. Here is to the normalcy - let us all recognize what we have when we have it and appreciate it every day.
Please consider donating to my walk at http://main.acsevents.org/goto/LisaNielsen or even better join up and walk with me, I am around and looking forward to being awkwardly hilarious for many, many years to come…
As a breast cancer soon to be survivor, I can tell you that I personally cannot handle when someone calls me "brave" or an "inspiration". I do not feel I was brave because I did not ask to get breast cancer and if given the choice between getting it or not getting it, I would gladly have opted out. Obviously, this was not an option.
I also do not feel like an inspiration though I have been lucky enough to connect with women who are in earlier parts of this process and maybe just maybe I have helped them a tiny bit and that makes me feel so happy.
Instead of those terms, I have decided that I would like to be called "tough". Tough is walking in to your own mastectomy walking-in-to-your-own-mastectomy.html, tough is working full time during 8 rounds of chemotherapy and tough is being a mom (in general - all moms are tough) and doing it with the diagnosis over your head. Oh and tough is probably in my mind because as a child of the 1980's I grew up to "Hangin' Tough" by NKOTB... (duh!)
I have found ways to manage, in the time between. I meditate, I exercise and I live each moment of each day to the best of my ability. Lately, that ability continues to improve and it is how I have found myself ready for my own next step when-god-closes-a-door-he-opens-a-window.html.
A big part of my healing process has been this blog, this unmasking of myself as one of the 1 in 8 women afflicted with this disease. When I got "sick", it was the best I have ever felt in my life. I was running around at warp speed, working full time and juggling all of the various roles and tasks that are in any mom, wife, daughter, sister, employee's life. I was doing it with aplomb - in fact, I could not believe people had complained about "having it all" I had finally found my own way to "have it all".
And then, it all came crashing down and each ball dropped and slid away as the focus became singularly and only ME, myself and I. I went from putting everyone else's needs first to having no ability to do anything about any one else's needs. I demanded help, people demanded to help me - it was a good mix.
I was lucky - so lucky to have been diagnosed. I am not kidding when I tell you I had no symptoms, no lumps, no family history and if not for my screening mammography, I would not be here today.
My children are tougher than tough - they have watched me wilt away, losing each hair on my head (and the rest of my body) and they saw their once vibrant do it all mama reduced to a puddle on the recliner and mainly in my bed. But they also saw me get up every day and go to work. They saw me put that wig on, straighten it and smile on the way.
I kept smiling and smiling to the point that I think most who knew the real story and what I was going through thought I was nuts. There were no chemo rooms as fun as mine. I was out there, loud and proud to most everyone who had no choice but to know - like my chemo nurses, my oncologist, all of Sloan, workmates and family and close friends.
But if I did not know you know you then I hid, I sat back and watched you thinking if you had any idea how go@damn lucky you were to not be bald, to not have cancer, to not deal with the uncertainty that is now a daily part of my and every other cancer patient's life.
Do not pity me though, I found more strength in baring myself to the world in showing my scars and my struggles I have found a new more vibrant toughness that is out and open for everyone to see. My children see it, my husband who has been unwavering in his support sees it and to all of you, I hope you see it, too.
My name is Lisa, I have one boob and I am the toughest broad I know.
Many years ago, as a child, I was told stories of a priest in Italy who had the stigmata and the gift of discernment and bilocation. Those are all big words for a little girl but I knew what they meant - I loved to read, after all.
My dad worked in Brooklyn and knew a priest who knew Padre Pio - the name was funny to me as a kid. I would see photos of him and be told amazing things but as far as I knew, he was someone only me and my family knew about. There was no internet then, ladies and gentlemen.
When I grew up, I was given the opportunity to study in Italy. I moved there in 1998 and in May 1999, when I was traveling for a class I had to take in London, that man, Padre Pio started his journey to sainthood.
Ironically enough, while I was living in Italy at that time is when I recognized that I had my own faith not just the “act” of going to mass with my family to avoid being grounded or yelled at for not being a good girl.
So there I was in and around Europe when Padre Pio was on his way to Sainthood and I do have a necklace with Padre Pio’s image on it and it says “Roma” on the back. I do not remember purchasing it but then again there is a lot I do not remember post-chemotherapy.
Since then, I have been busy balancing work and family life with a focus on instilling my faith in my children. We pray every night and I have been taking them to church alone since they were both babies. This has entailed holding my daughter the whole hour as she napped during mass and chasing my son as a baby as he danced during mass.
A few years ago, I had a strange dream. I was in an apartment building in NYC and when I walked into the apartment, who was sitting there but Padre Pio. I was so excited to meet him - I said, “Padre, it is an honor to meet you, I am Lisa...” and he interrupted me and said, “You do not need to tell me who you are - I know you already very well.” And I said, “Excuse me, Padre, but how is this possible? I have never met you - this is our first meeting.” Then, in my dream, Padre Pio showed me a piece of paper and on the paper was the handwriting of my father - handwriting I know so well and I said, “That is my father’s handwriting!” To which Padre exclaimed, “Yes, he is my friend - he has prayed to me about you many times and I know you through your father!”
It was so realistic and I felt I truly did meet him. It is interesting because at many times in my life I have felt that certain saints or angels were looking out for me …but this time, I just knew it to be true. Padre Pio was known to appear in dreams and to share messages to those he called his “spiritual children” and I like to think I am one.
It is my belief that Padre Pio helped me through this entire process of diagnosis to treatment to becoming a survivor. So much so that right after my chemotherapy ended and before I began my radiation, I went to the National Center for Padre Pio in Pennsylvania and was able to pray with one of the gloves Padre Pio wore to cover his stigmata.
When I found out that some of his relics would be in New York City at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, I knew I had to be there. Of course, as anyone who lives or works in New York City can tell you, when something is going on at a major landmark like St Pat’s, there are going to be tons of crowds. A week before the relics would arrive, I checked out the St Pat’s website and saw that there was going to be a private reception to view and pray with the relics and that there were tickets available for $100. I was thinking of how I could work this into my budget when my dad decided to get the tickets for my husband’s birthday so the 3 of us could go.
It was an amazing night - when I got there, I was able to spend time with the relics - there were no crowds and ultimately I was able to go through to see the relics 5 or 6 times before we headed home. I was able to bless some prayer cards, too, with the relics.
If you are not Catholic, you might have no idea what I am talking about but suffice it to say it was an emotional and amazing evening. I am including some pictures below- these relics are going on an 11 state tour and were only here in NYC for a few days so I am lucky I got to see them up close and personal.
In getting back to the business of living as I started talking about in my last blog post integrative-medicine-clinical-trials.html, the next step is to find a job. I alluded to my experiences at my last full time job in my open letter to myself an-open-letter-to-me.html and I truly do not believe in being the disgruntled former employee type - even on the internet. Suffice it to say, I was not meant to be where I was and all of the negative energy that could be expanded on that is better used as positive energy to heal and pick myself up off of the floor.
And now the question is -- what do I want to do? I am applying to jobs across the board right now. I am a weird person who has had multiple careers (some concurrently) - I have been an executive, educator and entrepreneur. I am not sure any of those fit right now.
I know I love to write and I am happy to share that I am working on my fictionalized story about a single mom with one breast trying to get lucky in life (oh and with this I signed up to be a part of the Visible Ink program at Memorial Sloan Kettering and was paired with an amazing mentor named Samantha). I love to read and obviously I live to write BUT I have never been able to crack fiction writing. Ever.
Becoming a best selling author is probably NOT going to happen so the question is where do I go from here? I have spent the last 9+ months focusing on survival and although I am trying to just live in the moment there are times where I wonder and worry what the future holds for me health-wise. It is not really something I can fully control so I want it to be something I do not have as much time to think about.
The summer was restful and restorative and for that, I am so thankful. Now, the fall is here, the kids are in school and though I am a little busy every day with fitness, blogging and looking for my next step (oh and cleaning the house, laundry and all that jazz) those things are not really enough for me to hang my hat on PLUS there are those pesky bills piling up and though I have spoken about my budget in the past (managing-life-stresses.html) we definitely cannot keep up on one income.
All of this has made me think about hearing my grandparents say, "When God closes a door, He opens a window." I am wondering what the window will be and if I will know when it is opened. I am looking and open for a new opportunity and I do know that sharing my health story can be a negative to finding that next step BUT it is a part of me and something I do not want to stop doing. In fact, I do not think I could stop doing it. I have mentioned in speaking to friends that it is like word vomit - something hits me and I want to share it and it just spills out into the blog post.
If you lost your job during your breast cancer plot twist, what did you wind up doing next? Have you changed careers and/or started new positions as a cancer (soon to be) survivor? I have the opportunity to walk into someplace and work without having the twice a month chemotherapy treatments that made me the walking dead. I have the chance to prove myself and show that i am more than just a diagnosis. I just wonder who will take the chance on me and if I am truly ready to take the chance on them? I have been burnt before and I will not make that change me - I am ready to be open for the opportunity to be more than just "cancer" Lisa.
This is what I think about in the time between....
Busy times lately trying to get about the business of being a (hoping to be) survivor. It has not yet been a year since my diagnosis and as with everything else, time really does heal all wounds. There are times that I forget about what I have been through (until I look in the mirror).
This was always the goal, to get through it and then to put it in the rear view mirror and get back to the business of living but it does not always work that way. No matter what, cancer is a part of my story, a part of my plot and it is something I have to watch and actively attempt to keep from coming back - or at least, that is how I feel. This feeling is a big part of why I am blogging, too, to keep sharing my thoughts and experiences for others and even just to keep my family and friends informed of this big thing called life with cancer. The main thing behind sharing my story, warts and all, for those who are in this world with me dealing with this disease. I have heard from women in Ireland, Australia and right next door in Brooklyn who have all said they felt the same way and/or that they understood what I am writing about and that is so damn powerful and empowering.
My focus is, of course, to be cancer free and I guess "cured". I was told that breast cancer that is Stage 0-3 is curable; stage 4 is not. I want to be cured but I also know that really it is not something I can control. I understand that cancer is a wily bitch of a disease. I know that I can be no evidence of disease as I was post surgery but still have things going on that I do not know about. The human body is a mystery, even our own bodies.
I am now so open about my experiences with the disease that I am building a community of people who are also dealing with their cancer plot twists and I am no longer hiding from the facts that cancer does, at times, kill. I am learning of people who have done everything "right" and still did not get to be a survivor. I am doing all I can to not fall into that category but I do know it also takes miracles, faith and luck. Yes, luck.
Most people are walking around with the potential of cancer in their bodies but not everyone gets cancer. I wrote about this in my review of the AntiCancer book --> learning-about-the-beast-breast-cancer-anti-cancer-book-review.html. So for those of us who do get cancer, it is like entering an alternate universe where your doctors have to hurt you to heal you and the question, "Am I ok now?" is most often answered with a "Well, for right now, we do not see any evidence of disease BUT..."
To help with this "but", I am doing the PALLAS worldwide clinical trial (more here lets-get-clinical-clinical.html). As I have written before, this drug is FDA approved for Stage 4 breast cancer - it turns off the proteins that drive cancer and comes with a whole slew of potential side effects, such as low blood counts. I take the drug for 21 days a month; 7 days off and then the next cycle begins. My body and blood counts have been in the words of my oncologist, "Perfect." on the trial. Some folks need to get the equivalent of the Neulasta shot we did post chemo to increase our blood counts. I did not need that shot so yeah! At this point, I am at day 15 of the drug and my counts are probably going up again now (they did seem low at my last blood work on 9/12 but oncologist said "perfect" so that is what I will accept as truth).
To help with the other BUTT (that of my weight and fitness plans), I will also share about my visit with the integrative medicine doctor at Sloan Dr Deng-
I also have written about changing my eating and exercise habits to help get fit. Breast cancer loves fat cells, I am learning. Many people have asked me about my "clean" eating and I wanted to share about it along with the alternative medicine doctor's appointment I had at Sloan.
Once I finished treatment, I stopped eating meat, dairy and processed foods. I added in more vegetables, lean protein with fish and chicken (all antibiotic free and organic) and I added in soy milk and soy yogurt. I learned from Dr Deng that I should avoid soy in large quantities as it also has hormones. I can have a soy yogurt but not add in extra soy milk with it.
With these dietary changes I also experienced an increase in grocery costs. Holy moly it is expensive to eat "well". Also, I was not seeing a change in my weight with the small amount of foods I was eating. I would have a smoothie in the morning, wheat pasta and fish for lunch and a salad for dinner with nuts during the day for snacks and a soy yogurt. That was it. Along with that, I was doing about an hour of cardio a day almost 5 miles total of movement per day. And with that, I was stuck at a 22 pound weight loss and no more. Really those 22 pounds were a fight but once I lost it, the scale was not moving anymore.
When I met with Dr Deng we discussed a bunch of stuff around terrain, herbs, supplements, diet and lowering my risk of recurrence. He was happy I knew as much as I did from my research so he did not have to cover basics. When he examined me, he said right away that I have to work on my waist line. My waist line has always been an issue - I look perpetually pregnant if I am being honest and I looked this way even before I even actually was ever pregnant.
He suggested that I drop just 10 more pounds. Ha. 10 more pounds when 22 was so hard to lose?? It seems impossible. For the longest time, I have been making smoothies in the mornings for breakfast with kale, spinach, orange, banana, strawberries and mixed berries with water and having that WITH a carb like a whole wheat bagel and/or whole grain english muffin. Dr Deng suggested I expand on these smoothies by doing the 10 day smoothie challenge using the book by JJ Smith. I got the book yesterday and began the cleanse last night.
Why? 1) I am vain and would love to weigh close to what I weighed in high school - who wouldn't? 2) I am nothing but in love with a challenge - oh breast cancer and 2 kids and working - let's do it! So now I am going to attempt to do the smoothie challenge but with a few modifications. I will be eating food at lunch time. I cannot get over not chewing. With the smoothie plan you can have nuts, fruit and veggies in small portion sizes but I am also going to include lunch.
So today, I had my smoothie mentioned above along with a handful of almonds. At lunch time, I had an apple. Then I had a 1/2 whole wheat pita wrap with chicken salad. I had a handful of nuts and now I am having my dinner, which is another smoothie.
I have no clue if this will help or not but I am looking forward to working on abs - on finding abs first and then actually having them. Anything I can do to keep my risk as low as possible is what I will do and along with that, I will try not to get too obsessive because at the end of the day, I am not in control. I am praying and hoping I will be cured but it is not truly all in my hands - only part of it.
What are you trying to do post breast cancer to regain a sense of control? I will let you know if I can maintain this smoothie challenge...
16 years ago today I woke up like every other morning but it was not like every other morning.
I had been traveling and arrived home from Europe on the evening of September 10 2001. I had a charmed life with travel and having lived in Europe during my MBA program going there on my own was no big deal for me at all. My last visit had been in February 2000 and I was missing my home away from home so I did a 6 day visit - 3 in Rome, 3 in London to catch up with my best friends.
It was a great trip and I had tons of new clothes and shoes to show for it in addition to some unrequited love angst - I mean, what 20-something does not love unrequited love angst?
I got back to my home Tuesday night around 10pm and passed out. By 8am I was on the X1 heading to my company's orientation for new employees. Though I had been hired to work downtown at Standard & Poor's 55 Water Street offices in January 2001, the employee orientation was held that warm, clear Wednesday at the midtown offices of the parent company.
That day, I was excited to be wearing some new purchases from Rome - some fancy 1940's styled leather high heels with the ankle strap. This was why I took the bus to avoid walking too much in the new shoes.
While on the express bus, coming out of the tunnel the bus driver mentioned that a prop plane had hit the World Trade Center. It made no sense but seemed like a small accident. I arrived at the building and I was one of the only ones who knew about the prop plane issue so I was telling people the news as we got ready for the even to begin.
Shortly after our event began, everything stopped and the big screens that were used for the presentation were turned to the news and we all stood dumbfounded watching the second plane hit the towers and realizing that we were in big trouble.
There were employees there from all over the world and nary a working cell phone among any of us. There was a phone in the building that I was able to use and I chose to call my dad, who was in Texas visiting friends. He was equally dumbfounded and as I explained to him that I was in New York City and did not know what to do for the first time in my life he didn't know what to do either and told me as much like (paraphrasing here), "hello I'm in Texas I can't help you at all". At 24 years old, that was the first time I had heard that from my dad. Ever.
Whilst in a group of employees from Canada, Britain and beyond, I was able to get through on my cell phone to my mom in Staten Island who had recently quit her job in midtown and was home. I hastily collected a bunch of those nearest to me home phone numbers and tasked my mom with calling families to let them know their loved ones were okay.
Something to think about is that those who had traveled to this event, their families had no clue if they were close to the towers or not - in fact my closest friends in Europe did not know either and were frantic to find me.
My mom spent a few hours making calls and calming people down, explaining the loved one they called about were with her daughter in midtown, far away from the towers. At this point, the orientation event was cancelled and we were all set out to destinations unknown as the building was closing.
I had on a nifty name tag which I wore the entire day telling everyone my name and title. I was interviewed on NY1 on the scene and to this day my interview is included when they air the anniversary footage of the day. I have never seen it and honestly, I do not want to ever see it.
I wound up with my two colleagues from Standard & Poor's and we began to walk. I always stop at this point in telling my story to assure everyone listening that I was one of the "lucky" ones, that I did not lose anyone I knew well enough to qualify as "grieving" that I had only to escape NYC in too high heels and that compared to others, my story was nothing.
Now, I am not so sure if I was one of the "lucky" ones or if my close proximity to downtown NYC and working there every day during 9/11 and beyond is perhaps one of the factors in my breast cancer diagnosis.
At the time I was fighting to get downtown or home anyway I could, my husband (who I had not met yet) was rushing out of downtown Brooklyn where he had a court date for his post as a cop to head straight for the towers with his new command the 9th Precinct.
He was there for the day and for months and months afterwards doing 12+hour tours and being in some ways scarred emotionally in addition to physically. We met in December of 2001, when everything was still so confusing and I went from never wanting to get married to moving in together and getting married within what seemed like short order.
I knew he was a part of the WTC Health and Wellness program and I even helped him sign up for it. Some small part of me always expected the worst to hit him and to come from nowhere whether it be cancer or who knows what. He has never been able to smell since that day and the weeks and weeks afterwards done at the site "Ground Zero" as it was called. However, he has been lucky aside from some severe breathing issues, COPD and other weird things he has mercifully not been hit with the C word.
The person hit with the C word was me. The last person who ever expected to get cancer and the irony or ironies when I recently applied for the World Trade Center health program for ME after having helped my first-responder husband do it years ago.
I made it home that long ago September day but like everyone else, I was no longer the same. I got home to tons of messages and emails from friends and family looking for me which was nice as I had been incommunicado for the entire journey home. We had no smart phones, no built in news source in our hands - we walked around and were taken care of and taking care of others just to try to get through the day. We had no idea if something was going to be next or if it was "over".
Now for most of us, it is never "over" - those who were impacted, those who watched it from far away, those who were trapped and lost their lives (God rest their souls) we can never just get over it. And now, a lot of people are getting sick and the sickness could be traced back to the tragedy of that day.
I still want to consider myself "lucky" though - I will be a survivor and I do not truly care how I got this disease just that I can survive and be here to see my kids grow up and to live my life until my true time to go - not to be taken early because of this stupid disease.
For months after 9/11, we sat in our building at 55 Water Street on the 42nd floor and we could smell the burning. We could see the smoke out of the windows facing towards the towers, where the towers used to be. Out my windows by where my department sat, we could see the water and every plane that went by no matter the meeting, no matter the conversation, we would stop and track the plane with our eyes just to be sure it was not coming near our building.
My whole world changed on November 29, 2016. I was diagnosed with cancer and had no idea how the hell that had happened. My mom was crying wishing it was her instead of me. My children did not know yet. My husband was in shock. My dad was just absolutely floored and my brothers were on the floor with him.
I had been running a semi-successful business called The Next Step www.thenextstep1234.com and just accepted my first full time teaching gig - if there could be worse timing for cancer, I did not know if it was possible. I mean a diagnosis of cancer always sucks but getting it during your first full time job in several years is less than ideal.
During my testing, surgery, chemotherapy and even some of my radiation, I spent a lot of time "hiding" - I would not leave the house without a head scarf on or a hat - it had to be a wig of some sort only.
I would not allow people to corner me to talk about it because I did not have anything to share (in my opinion). This is rare because I spend a lot of time talking and sharing in general. I have made an income on my thoughts and opinions on all things professional and collegiate and now here I was speechless. Cancer had robbed my voice. I was hiding and I did not know how else to be.
I looked in the mirror and did not recognize myself. I was bald and missing a boob. For some time, I was swollen and disfigured on the right side of my chest. My mastectomy was to the bone of my chest wall - there is no meat to stop the feeling of bone grating pain when my children want to lean their heads on my right chest.
My focus shifted from inwards to outwards seemingly over night but it was a long drawn out silence. I kept a personal journal during the process of diagnosis to surgery to recovery to treatments. Slowly I started keeping my journal on this blog in June and then finally in July, I went public and matched my name and my alter ego at The Next Step to this site.
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