Christine is an Orthodox Christian, a wife, a mother of three little children, a daughter, a friend, and a sworn enemy of cancer. In February 2013, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 triple negative breast cancer. Within a few days, she began an online journal for her friends and family, to share news, stay connected, and process what was happening to even the smallest details of her life. We are bringing this journal to The Sounding so that we can all walk along with Christine, and so that each of you has a chance to meet the special, brave, funny woman who is taking this journey. We all have something in common with her.
Wow! What a trip the past few months have been. Much to my surprise, I was able to reenter our life without being completely traumatized. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little traumatized by this whole ordeal (I think it would be a little concerning if I wasn’t), but the past few months of not going to chemo, feeling stronger bit by bit, healing from surgery, driving kids to school, snuggling our youngest, grocery shopping, growing hair…it’s been really nice to be able to disappear a bit into normalcy.
That bald head was such a tell! It’s so nice not to lead with tragedy when I enter the room. People who meet me now have no idea what I just went through. It is such a stunning change, mostly wonderful. Occasionally challenging. I’m not as quick or strong with my arms as I was. I feel a lot like Wesley at the end of “The Princess Bride.” All propped up on the bed, looking perfectly well but actually unable to move, defeating Prince Humperdink with his mind. I look great, but I keep getting heavy doors in my face because it’s tough to reach out and catch it from the next person- or the next person hasn’t held the door open for me at all. People, t’is the season, ok? Just hold the door open for the person behind you. Do it for me, pretty please?
Also, it is so interesting parenting a two-year-old when lifting them up kicking and screaming is completely out of the question. I’m doing a lot of sweet talking, reasoning, bargaining…everything I can think of to get her to do what I want her to do without her realizing that I have no physical power to make her do what I want her to do. I’m so screwed if she realizes that!
Medically, medically, medically….I got through all the fills [stages in reconstruction]. It was not the best time, but really, it wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be. Let’s just say, it turns out I am tough as nails (surprise!), and it’s all done now.
I had my first check up with the oncologist. Medically, it went great. Emotionally it was a total train wreck. It was just so hard to walk back into the cancer hospital. I was really soaking up that being normal thing and having to check back in with the oncologist was a cold splash of water. Really cold.
She wants to see me every three months for the next three years. I wrote way back in the beginning about how triple negative breast cancer has a high rate of recurrence in the first three years after treatment and how I imagined it would feel like three years of flying through turbulent air, hoping there are no big bumps. Indeed, the checkups are important but hard to face and I am of course hoping for no bumps along the way. Three years of checkups feels like a lot, but I’ve got Aaron and my best friends promising to be by my side for each and every one. To build me up before I go in and put me back together once it’s done.
Aaron is the best with data, and he keeps telling me that for women like me who were triple negative and have had a complete response to chemo, the rate of recurrence is actually very low. In fact, they have a 97% 7-year survival rate. We have every reason to hope for and expect a long healthy future. So I’ll keep repeating the statistics in my head and put on my brave face and see the oncologist every three months. It’s rough, but it’s still a lot better than being in treatment.
The big news- I’m having surgery on Wednesday to finish reconstruction and get my port out!!! As much as anyone can be excited for surgery, I’m kind of excited for surgery! The tissue expanders are uncomfortable, the port has been in for about 9 months…I’m just ready. Ready to not have weird things in my body, ready to see what the implants will feel like, ready to accept my new body and ready to take this big step away from cancer world.
When all this went down last February, the list of things I had to do was so long and so frightening. There were so many question marks and so much uncertainty. Getting to this day, finishing reconstruction seemed like a dream. I’m excited it is here. I’m beyond grateful that I’m writing about reconstruction and not anything more serious. I am humbled by the love and friendship all of you have shown our family this year. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Please know we are so thankful for each of you, and please, keep us in your hearts and minds this Wednesday as we face this next step in our journey.