My Mood Leading Up to Surgery
I wanted to be really honest about the specific fears and feelings I've been having in this process, because BOY has there been a range. If I had sat down to write this post a week ago, it would have been frantic and probably pretty painful to read. (Especially painful for me to read later on!) I think I am in a pretty peaceful, restful place as I head into surgery and that is a huge relief. But WOWOWOWOW, peaceful is not how I'd describe the experience as a whole.
There have been some elements of this "journey" that I've chosen to keep private -- I want to share, but I am also not trying to be a reality show. It's important for me to keep some things to myself and my family. Sharing any of it has been really vulnerable. But I've connected with so many wonderful women who are going through this, have been through this, have a friend or family member who has been affected by cancer... I also feel like, why share that a surgery is occurring and then totally close off?
So in that spirit, here's some honesty: I have been terrified to my core and pretty angry the entire way. From filling out the contact form on the surgeon's website, to the first appointment... my hands have been shaky and I've been a little pissed off.
First, the anger: I discovered early on that after I'd have any appointment, whether a consultation or a cancer screening, I would get in the car and be super agitated. Like enraged, annoyed, irritated at the world. It would take all day, and I'd be poked and prodded and asked questions. And I prefer to be left alone, all of the time. A surgery of this scale does not afford the luxury of being left alone. Tim would ask me what I wanted for dinner and I would be rude; frustrated at having to answer yet another question. And then I would be furious with myself for being rude to the nicest husband in the world. I started setting aside time for myself after each appointment so that I could relax and be at ease. (Occasionally that meant just stewing on the sofa, but eventually I'd get to the other side.) In hindsight, I think it was the fear I was facing emerging in a different way. Instead of being openly fearful or afraid, the emotion would manifest in a more aggressive, fighter-esque way.
So the fear. You guys, WTF. There was about a week where I just didn't sleep. If I did finally doze off, I would wake up in a cold sweat, mentally going over a list of all the things I was terrified of. I keep a journal by my bed and on one particularly insane night (let's call it what it was, during a panic attack in which I stopped breathing entirely), I scribbled down all of the thoughts racing through my head. They ranged from big: "What if I wake up on the operating table?" to idiotic: "What if the surgery goes really really long and Tim gets a parking ticket?" I have spent hours on this LOOP, going through every worst-case-scenario moment. (More gems include: "What if the big earthquake happens while I am under anesthesia and everyone dies?" "What if my body rejects the implants?" "I couldn't handle the minor irritation of a breast biopsy, how on god's green earth will I manage this pain?" "What if, since I shared this with the public, people just look at my chest when they see me?" "What if I do all of this and then just get a different kind of cancer?")
I started meditating (using the Calm app) and not-so-shokcingly, that helped to ease things. I also allowed myself to just feel everything, every single moment of panic and fear and confusion and doubt. I would just ride the waves of whatever emotions would emerge. I also got into a major fitness mode, I think because I was afraid of my physical restraints after the surgery. So during one of my pilates classes, I felt so strong, like I hadn't felt that strong in a workout class probably ever. Something mentally clicked into place that my body is strong and powerful and I am so capable, and the fear lessened a little bit then as well.
Finally, in the most Los Angeles turn of events, I went to a float tank. If you're not familiar, it's essentially a sensory deprivation tank and you just float in this really salty water in a pitch black room. It's supposed to encourage meditation and relaxation. The first 20-30 minutes, I was incredibly restless and uncomfortable. My mind was racing and I kept trying to implement the tools I'd learned in my meditations. I was trying to stay perfectly still and "feel my breath" but it just wasn't working; I was so uncomfortable. So I started stretching and moving around a little bit, easing the tension in my hips and shoulders. And then out of nowhere, I was so stupidly, overwhelmingly, all-encompassingly filled with so much gratitude.
Instead of checking off the list of fears I had previously been obsessing over, I was building this list of all the reasons I have to be so grateful for how this experience is happening. It felt funny in a way, like what on earth do I have to be scared of? What is my problem?? But it was really emotional and moving. I realized how lucky I am to be CHOOSING to do this surgery NOW instead of being forced to do it later. I felt gratitude that I live in Los Angeles was able to see some of the top breast surgeons in the country. I was overwhelmed with how lucky I feel that I have family who is able (and willing) to come take care of me during the next few weeks. I thought of all my friends, who have endured FaceTime calls and middle of the night texts and talked me off a lot of ledges. And I just couldn't even deal with how thankful I was for Tim. He has been my steady hand through all of this, and our love will only be that much stronger on the other side. I just floated in this dark, weird, salty tank of gratitude.
It was so strange to experience this attitude shift from "why me" to "how am I so lucky?" But man, I'm really glad that shift happened. If you don't know me, you probably are thinking "duh" to all of the above. But it's the honesty I was talking about. Though I am lucky to not have cancer, I still was dealt a shitty gene that explicitly told me I was going to get it someday. I am so fortunate to choose to do this surgery on my terms, and at the same time, I cannot fault myself for being enraged that it exists in the first place. Like I said, you gotta feel everything when you feel it.
So this is the last post I'll write before the surgery, and who even knows when I'll be writing next. I am not allowed to lift things over 6 lbs for 6 weeks, and how much does a laptop weigh? I know Roxanne my cat weighs 11 lbs so that is some tragic BS. I will try to update Instagram when I'm able but just know: I am in the best mental place I could be going into this, and that's all I can ask for. I am going to assume there are no more lingering panic attacks, and just sit in this moment of calm, trust, and gratitude. I have a great playlist of all my favorite songs to listen to before (and hopefully after). I have some really soft robes and blankets and pajamas. And I have an incredible support system. So I guess, and I am so grateful I can say this, I feel good.
Thank all of you for supporting me along the way -- the comments and DMs and emails have been such a pillar of hope for me and I am really thankful. I plan to read, and re-read, and re-read all of them again while I'm trapped in that hospital bed.
Talk to you guys soon,