Well, you can’t really tell from the photo with all the lumpy bandages and big shirt, but my left breast is now gone, along with two lymph nodes. The nodes tested negative for cancer, but they are being further tested just to make certain.
My hair is coming back pretty thickly as well. Brown now, rather than the baby fine blonde fuzzies that first started to come in. I call it my Sluggo hair. (anyone else old enough to remember that?) I still have about 10 or so hairs that are longer – the ones that survived chemo. Tim said I should trim them, but they were the faithful ones that stuck with me when no others would, so I hate the idea of cutting them now 😀
It’s funny, God is generally kind with us, giving us time to get used to the changes that happen to our bodies. Even as fast as our babies grow up, the change is gradual enough to those of us who see them every day, that it is not that shocking.
Person A today = Person A yesterday + one day’s worth of gradual changes
But when you go through cancer, it is not a kind, slow change. You go from one day being normal Gina to next day being Gina with a deadly disease. It starts with the mental change first. You go from thinking about what fun trips you might take this summer to wondering how many more summers you might live to see.
You start chemo looking normal and two weeks later all your hair falls out. I look in the mirror now and I don’t see any of the same me that was there a few months ago. The good part is – I don’t have any of the same worries when I look in the mirror. I don’t look at the wrinkles that have gradually worn into my face and think bad things like I used to. I am grateful that God has allowed me to live this long. Because I realize some people don’t even make it this far. I don’t look at my plain hairless features and worry what people might think when they see me. I am glad to see color in my cheeks again and even my half eyebrows are a good sight. 🙂
When I see in the mirror that I am overweight, I commit myself to losing some of that extra weight. Not because I care about how I look anymore – I have definitely learned what is important in life, and what I see in the mirror is not important. But losing weight seems more vital now because I know that being overweight gives you a higher risk of cancer. Now that is something that matters to me.
Those of you who see me regularly will notice I no longer wear any sort of head covering. I wore something on my head for a long time because I didn’t want people to stare at me or to be shocked. But you know, I’ve found they stare anyway. My mostly missing eyebrows and eyelashes along with a hat or bandana on my head – it’s that universal sign of cancer. And the thing I think now is, maybe they should look. Maybe I’ll remind them of someone they know who fought this same fight, or even remind them of their own struggle. Maybe I’ll remind them to be grateful for what they have. Or to not be so worried about their own appearance.
Changes come to us all. Some is gradual, like the slow aging of your body that leaves you eventually with wrinkles and saggy skin. And some comes quickly, like the sudden removal of a part of your body to remove cancer. It’s weird to look down and see a flat spot where a few days ago there was a breast. For the most part, others won’t notice that it’s gone. But I do think about it. How will I feel once I’ve finally recovered from the pain and healed enough to “go back to normal”? What is my new normal? What I’ve learned is that I know I’ll get used to it, just like I have with everything else.
I can now call myself cancer-free. It almost feels taboo to say that, like I might jinx myself. I’ve wanted to say it for what seems like forever, but in reality it has only been a little over 6 months. But now, after months of chemo and sickness, and finally a mastectomy, my body is cancer-free. Here’s to staying that way! 😀