I found a tumor in my left breast on Halloween. It turned out to be cancer — THE diagnosis that every woman fears (well, I guess cancer is a scary for whoever it is and where ever it is–didn’t mean to be insensitive). I had two treatment opinions — made the right choice of a mastectomy with a low chance of having chemotherapy; however, I also had to be screened for the genetic mutation for breast cancer. Surgery was scheduled for December (during school’s break) for the left side where the tumor sat, making fun of me and the life I’ve made for myself. The day of the surgery, though, my doctor called me over to a quiet hallway to tell me that the mutation came back positive — I’d need both breasts removed, and need to have my ovaries removed sometime soon as well (which is really weird because I’m not a girly-girl too much — you’d think I’d have known if I had too much estrogen! 😉   >

So, it’s been almost a month since surgery. I’m still recuperating, trying to get my range of motion back in my arms, and learn how to use my upper body again (you never know all the things that your boobies do for you until you don’t have them —that might be a later post). At the time of the surgery, I was also seen by a plastic surgeon who prepped me for reconstructive surgery, so along with some remaining numbness where lymph nodes were removed, now I feel like I have extra petite rubber bands pulling my chest together. On Friday, I get my first fill of saline into the expanders, and am supposed to be able to return to work the next Monday. I’m wondering though.

My slice isn’t about my diagnosis or treatment or recuperation, though. I needed to write about the things I’m thankful for these last few weeks — So here’s my love-letter:

A Love Letter in 13 Stanzas

1) Dear Kevin: Thank you for not crying and leaving me. Thank you for emptying the drains. Thank you for worrying about the insurance. Thank you for understanding my “safe word” – turtle — meant I couldn’t get up. Thank you for giving me the marriage that my uncle gave my aunt — the Forever kind.

2) Dear Paula: Thank you for not panicking. Thank you for going with me to the doctor and asking questions that I didn’t think about. Thank you for entertaining Lily and consoling Jake. Thank you for scrambled eggs, and coffee with whipped creme (did you just say “whipped creme” like Stewie on Family Guy?? haha). Thank you for washing clothes, and making me laugh, and taking care of me even when you weren’t physically here. And thanks for the advice on my new boobage size, but “B” is too small –haha….

3) Dear Jake: Thank you for holding me when I told you I about this diagnosis. Thank you for texting and calling every 15 minutes when I was in the doctor’s office. Thank you for coming home with me rather than stay at college by yourself for 5 days before your last exam. Thank you for entertaining Lily, and letting the dogs out, and trying to get me to read the Steve Jobs’ biography (I promise I’ll get to it). Thank you for your hugs and periodic only-because-you’re-my-mom kisses.  Thank you for just being here (oh, and the Blu-Ray Star Wars marathon!).

4) Dear Lily: Thanks for hugging my arm when I had to tell you about my surgery. Thanks for letting Jake console you for a few minutes, but then bringing a pillow to me and crawling up in my lap. Thanks for saying “I love you even with no boobies, Mommy.” Thanks for drawing pictures and writing stories and sitting with me on the couch. Thanks for telling me it’s time to walk around the yard.

5) Dear Mama: Thanks for making sure to get Lily from school each day and asking if there’s anything I need.

6) Dear Donna: Thanks for being my secret-keeper for so long — and NOT getting me a creepy sympathy card! haha…Also, thanks for saving me from Somer’s pregnancy crying spell that almost drove me crazy!! 😉

7) Dear Somer: Thanks for your letter the day before my surgery. It’s in my daybook (writer’s notebook) so I can keep it forever. Thanks for finally quitting that crappy crying when I said to!

8 ) Dear Lindsey: Thanks for coming to sit with me for while and just chat. Thanks for the book (that I haven’ read yet, but started last night). Thanks for sending me sarcastic-I-can’t-believe-we-work-with-morons texts!

9) Dear T-Bone: Thanks for letting me have my sister for a while. I know ya’ll have a “thang” but she has to love me more — I mean, you stole my Nook, for crying out loud! haha…Thanks for not making it easy to feel too sorry for myself.

10) Dear Staff of WLHS: Thanks for your support, but more importantly for respecting my privacy. I didn’t tell many people (see 4!), but I know a lot of people were worried about my absences. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and just being the best people on earth (And especially Emily for the food and taking care of  my pay check!).

11) Dear Jackie: Thank you for being the BEST substitute in the ENTIRE world. Thanks for being able to decipher what I “really” want the kids to do and what is fluff. Thank you for making it easier to recuperate — I know you can handle things with the students. Thank you for your support and for laughing with me about trivial things (like my missing boobages!).

12) Dear Staff of Wake Forest Baptist Hospital: Thank you for your focus on my health. Thank you for checking on me and knowing the best course of action and delivering news as gently as possible. Thank you for answering all my questions. Thank you for letting me cry when I called and not making fun of me. Thank you for knowing I wasn’t ready to come home after one day, but insisting that I stay and let you take care of me a little longer. Thank you for getting all the cancer out of my breast.

13) Last, but NOT least, Dear Tammy: Without you, I’m not sure what my life would be like right now. Thank you for your advice to get a second opinion. Thank you for talking to me, but not in a gossipy way. Thank you for sharing your experience, even though it must have been so hard to relive that time in your life. Thank you for telling me to take charge of my treatment, and remember that doctors are just people, not Gods. Thank you for letting me cry when I needed to and be logical when that was what I needed to do. Thanks for telling me what to expect during and after surgery. Thanks for checking on me. Thanks for being my friend. (Oh, thanks for letting me check out so many library books…I hope I can find them all!)

Love,

Stephanie

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