The first time I felt the pain it was last summer. It was under my right implant, and from my armpit a bit down my side. The pain lasted a few days and then eased itself into a chronic state of discomfort. I went from almost 4 years of barely noticing, and sometimes forgetting the silicone implants that had replaced the breasts in their earliest stages of cancer in March of 2012 to thinking about them all the time.
Now I knew the right one was there. And it was bothering me. For physical, and deeply psychological reasons. It was getting in my head. Messing with my focus.
I went to see my plastic surgeon in November of last year. I adored her. I wanted her to make it better. Her words were reassuring to a point. The implant was intact. There was some minor movement. I should get it taken care of but it wasn’t an emergency.
Then there was the bombshell. She was no longer accepting my health insurance. I definitely cried right there in the office. She cried too as she apologized, handed me the name of the doctor I needed to see and scurried out of the office. I still adore her. But, I’m sure I’ll never see her again.
So, faced with the reality that I needed to start over, on a journey I wanted to forget ever happened, I did the logical thing. Nothing.
I lived in a state of denial for months. And slowly I started to restrict the activities I would do with my right arm. Certain basic tasks would make it bothersome. Fitness-wise, push ups, planks, weight lifting, and even the elliptical were out. I no longer trusted my own body weight on that arm.
One day in December I mustered up the courage to call the office of the new doctor. It took a lot. I trembled. I had my calendar set up for January and February. I was ready to schedule that consult.
I heard nothing past that. After I was told the earliest appointment I could get for a consult was late March. I hung up the phone and did what I do when excessively frustrated. I cried.
When I saw my breast surgeon for our annual check up in February, she noticed the subtle problem. She asked who was looking at it. She also proclaimed it, ‘not urgent.’ I told her about my experience trying to get an appointment with apparently the only plastic surgeon that does breasts and takes my insurance left at this hospital. She vowed to have her scheduler help me get in.
I met with the scheduler.
I never heard from her again.
March came and went. Life was busy. Meghan was in and out of surgery, Pop had been so sick, Grandma was struggling, we had the fundraiser…I found a reason not to call every single day.
Then I really wanted to work out my arms again. Walking was getting boring. I mustered up the courage in April to call.
I had to take it. I cried again. I tend to cry most in my life when I am frustrated.
I brought Mom with me to this appointment. I never need another pair of ears. I did this day. I was a wreck.
The doctor was wonderful. Kind. Sensitive. Funny. Everything I feared he would not be. I exhaled. He said it was again, not an emergency. But, he saw my issue, understood my discomfort and agreed at my convenience he’d try to fix it. He ordered one test for a sensitive spot under my arm, and asked me to try some physical therapy when I could.
I talked it out with my mom. I talked it out with my husband. After waiting almost a year, I was ready to get it done and stop favoring my dominant arm.
I called to make the appointment for the test. Except it had to be done in the hospital. And it needed insurance pre-authorization. And I tried for one solid week to get in touch with this doctor’s office staff. Three Emails, 2 phone messages and several canceled appointments, I finally got a human.
I got them moving quickly, and they got the insurance authorization immediately. I scheduled the test, and it was fine.
Then I called to schedule the surgery. I was thinking I could still make August. I was wrong.
What about September?
I took out the calendar once again. We have 4 days off in October… No luck there. No, he doesn’t work December the week I’m off. And in February we have the fundraiser…
Looks like once I calm down I’ll schedule for Spring 2017.
When the time came to have the double mastectomy I opted for the quickest route. I was out of the hospital with reconstruction complete in 28 hours. I wanted this done. I was so incredibly fortunate not to need treatment. I was grateful. More energy to focus where it mattered.
Except once cancer has lived inside of you there is this uneasy feeling that can not be explained. There is this knowledge that somewhere in your body those cells did what they were not supposed to. There is this feeling that you were violated and betrayed by your own body, from the inside out. It damages trust deeply. It’s hard not to trust your body. It can really mess with your mind. So understandably, I was interested in functioning without that thought process. I had become adept at ignoring my scars and “nipple-free” implants.
Until I started to feel them. Every damn day.
This is minor. This can be fixed. And it will be. Just not in a time-table anywhere close to my liking.
I picked up the free weights again today. Really light. In my chair. What’s the worst that happens? Really? If it becomes an emergency they have to move faster.
Otherwise, I’ll balance that full-time job, that beautiful, active 8th grader, and a boatload of afterschool activities. I’ll try to get out of my own head.
But, no matter how vigilant, or how confident… thoughts of the potential renegade cell, lurking like a thief in the night never quite go away.