One breast and two lymph nodes lighter…


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! 😀


9 thoughts on “One breast and two lymph nodes lighter…

  1. Gina, I’ve been thinking about you so much more this week. Each day i wonder how you are feeling with your recovery from surgery on Wednesday. You are such a strong and determined woman with an amazing attitude about this very unplanned and unexpected journey started six months ago.
    I love reading your posts. While they sometimes take me back to my own breast cancer journey, they more often inspire me to remember to be grateful for each and every day I am given – you’ve given me that gift as I read it loud and clear in your posts. Thank you for sharing Gina Love you. Bev M.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gina, many more prayers were being shot to heaven on Wednesday, than the usual. I’m so happy you got through the surgery, and you’re feeling well enough to write on your blog. Your last four paragraphs were particularly touching, and brought a couple of extra tears to my eyes. These lessons are things that most people learn, but are things that snap into focus very quickly for people with cancer. It made me happy to see you without your headwraps, not that you you may have been totally comfortable, but that it’s time we stop hiding from, and “protecting” people because it makes “them” feel better. Kudos to you, my friend, and blessings galore!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So happy to hear you are cancer free and feeling well. Gives me hope. I got so inspired by you that I’m thinking I might go bold and beautiful myself. It is now about 3 weeks since my lumpcetomy and I will start treatments soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Be strong! I will tell you what someone told me when I started treatments- someday sooner than you know it, you will be looking back at this as an aberrant blip in your life. At the time I couldn’t conceive of that- I felt it would always loom over me and follow me everywhere, but already I can feel a distance between me and the misery that came with chemo.
    My advice: stay hydrated, take the anti-nausea meds religiously for those first 3-4 days (at least when taking the A&C drugs- they are very nauseating for most people), eat bland and light snacks/meals at a time, sleep, and again- stay hydrated- this is the single most important thing- being dehydrated can make you more nauseous, dizzy, make constipation worse, etc. If you need to- flavor your water so you can drink it- I had to do this sometimes. Other times I had to have it plain. (The chemo dehydrates you, so do the pain meds- they will make you constipated and miserable).
    Lastly, let your hair go. I had mine cut very short (.25 inch) – I waited until it was already falling out- but I suggest you do it about a week after your first chemo at the latest. By Day 13-14, your scalp will begin to get very sore- like a sunburn almost. Your hair will begin to fall out around that time (hint- it starts in places others won’t see and it’s quite uncomfortable 😦 ) A few hairs at a time, then handfuls 😦 I would go into my back yard each day and comb it and run my hands through it to get as much out as I could – that sort of controlled the fall out somewhat. I had sparse hairs that hung around all the way through, but my head was very bald. I sort of wish I had shaved it clean once it fell out, becausee anytime I wore a head covering for more than a little while, my scalp pain would return- I believe it was due to the hairs that were left. What I liked was the hair that stayed at my “sideburns”- it was very very short, but it peeked out underneath my head covering and made me feel a little better. But I should have fully shaved the rest – the pain was unbearable at times, esp at work when I felt like I should keep my head covered all the time. That was why I finally quit wearing anything. Like I said in my blog, people stare anyway. It will come to you at some point- there are much more important things to think about than not having hair for a while.
    ❤ ❤ ❤ You can do this! Hang in there! Good luck!


  5. Oh, and stay active- as much as you can tolerate. I walked a lot. First few days after chemo- I only walked about 50 feet. Then I would take longer and longer walks until I was up to a mile or two- usually the last few days before my next treatment. Then of course the recovery would start all over again. It makes a big difference- every little bit you do. Once I was on Taxol only (assuming that they do separate A&C treatments from Taxol treatments- it all depends on your doctor)- I had terrible joint pain for about 5 days but then as it eased up I had a good week of feeling decent enough for bike rides and hiking before my next treatment. My treatments were every 2 weeks (8 treatments total, 16 weeks) – 4 were A&C then 4 were Taxol. Everyone has slightly different reactions and side effects, but keep your head up- and take advantage of the days that you do feel good. And remember it is temporary!


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