Melissa’s Rap: A couple of weeks ago, I had a Bilateral Skin-Sparing Mastectomy. Leading up to the surgery, I was in a sort of prep mode. It helped me take my mind of what was to come (to a certain extent) and helped me to feel more prepared for the known of what was to come, as well as the unknown.
Why do we wait to deep clean things? It always feel so good to get it done. It usually happens when somebody is coming over or you are throwing a get together of some sort. Or when you are moving and need to clean the place to hand it over to the owners or the new tenants. Or in my case, when I choose to endure a difficult surgery in the hopes of preventing a more difficult experience in the future. I don’t know why we wait, but all I could think was…why did I not start this sooner?
I definitely overdid it in those two days before the surgery. I had taken two days off to prepare. For my recent lumpectomy, I’d worked up until the day before and I wasn’t ready. I didn’t feel “ready” this time either, even with two days to prepare. But, can you ever truly be ready for such an experience? I am skeptical. I was as ready as I could be, I think.
I had no doubts that this was what I was supposed to do, and my surgeon confirmed that I made the right choice when she came out of my surgery to speak with my mother, but I was unusually emotional this time. I couldn’t remember being emotional like this before one of my many other surgeries. I couldn’t stop worrying about my kids. I couldn’t stop thinking about the impact of them losing their mother at such a young age. When I came out of anesthesia, I was relieved and grateful to have survived it, and overwhelmed with a sense of renewal and determination.
When I am faced with trying situations, I tend to get into business mode – preparing for what is to come. This was no exception. I took two days off prior to the surgery to help get my house in order, fridge stocked, meals pre-cooked, and so on. I overdid it and went to bed exhausted the night before. I do not recommend this, for the record. It is more beneficial to be rested than have floors swept and yogurt in your fridge, but it’s how I deal and that’s ok.
Despite packing a tremendous amount of to-do’s into those last two days, I decided I needed to get out for a few hours. I didn’t know how the recovery would go and I knew it would help to take my mind off things – even preparations – for a bit. My bestie and I met for drinks and dinner and it was the best thing I could have done. As I hugged her good-bye, I told her that if I died on the table, she had been the best friend I’d ever had and I loved her. Her response got me through the next 24 hours: “You are not going to die on the table. I’ll see you Sunday.” Those last four powerful words deeply resonated with me on impact. We had made plans for her to visit that Sunday and her quick and confident response grounded me. I would be OK and life would go on.
This experience has been life-challenging and I feel stronger and more prepared for whatever life throws my way, because of it. The support of family and friends, some I haven’t seen or talked to in years, has been cathartic and humbling. Speaking with a friend a week after surgery, I explained how awake I feel. It is challenging to explain, but I feel more comfortable in my own skin, more confident and more inspired by the day.
I have used my recovery time wisely, delving into long-lost passions I have let slip away – like doing art, writing and catching up on reading. I’ve also binge-watched one too many TV shows, but that can be therapeutic too – getting lost in a story that keeps your mind off the fact that you just cut off a part of your anatomy. In just a short time, I feel like I have traveled miles in my journey to be true to myself, to honor what is important to me. It is crazy that it takes such trying circumstances to reach this state, but it just does for most people, clearly myself included.
I have spent a lot of time considering where I am in life, in my career, and I am inspired
to make the best of the time I have left. Medical challenges are and will continue to be a part of my journey and I vow to embrace them rather than battle through them. I can’t wait to see what life has in store for me and what I can accomplish with this newfound passion. I feel fearless and grounded and full of life. Life is challenging and unpredictable, but, my eyes are open, my heart is full and I have my feet firmly planted on the ground…
See you Sunday.
Have you had a mastectomy or another life-altering experience? I would love to hear your story. Please comment below or message me here or at firstname.lastname@example.org.