Getting Festive, Nervous and Downright Crazy

I don’t want to write, not while I’m feeling sad. Usually I share bits and pieces of my story when I’m excited about my decision, when I’m feeling particularly empowered and elated about lopping off my breasts to prevent cancer. I mean, who wouldn’t be, if it meant finally putting your anxiety and fear to rest?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic that in 21 days I’ll never have to worry about this disease again, at least not as much. During the first three hours of my mastectomy, my lifetime risk will go from around 90% to approximately 1-3%. That’s pretty cool! But right now I’m not feeling so peachy about the whole thing. Actually, I’m kinda scared.

I’m desperate for distractions, anything to get my mind of what’s to come. Well, when I scheduled my surgery for January, I somehow forgot that the holidays are right beforehand. Now I’m realizing that Jesus could not have been born at a better time. Thank God for that baby!

So this year I’m all about Christmas. I chopped down a Christmas tree for the first time, decorated my home with Christmas lights, bought logs for the fireplace, prepared over 100 holiday cookies for friends and family, and mailed out holiday cards to loved ones across the country. As for gifts, I’ve decided to make most of them this year. I’ve spent countless hours conceptualizing and constructing everything from jewelry to scrapbooks in my bedroom. Basically, if there’s a way to get into the Christmas spirit, I’ve done it.

Getting Festive

Still my mind lingers, despite my festive efforts. I feel like I’m preparing for the greatest final exam of my life. I’ve studied the material over and over again. In fact, I started studying 8 months before the exam, so I’ve mulled over everything I need to know countless times. I could recite the study guide, outlines and color-coded flashcards like the back of my hand. Now there’s nothing more I can do but wait for exam day to come.

With 21 days to twiddle my thumbs, I start to second guess my confidence in the material. Did I study hard enough? Should I have even taken this class?? People warned me it was too hard, but others who passed said it was totally worth it. So I nervously skim over all the flash cards, constantly quizzing myself until the very last minute, when I’m told to put everything down. It’s show time. Adrenalin is pumping and the minutes fly by as I cram into a few hours what I spent ages preparing for. But before I know it, I’ll reach the last page in the blue book, my hand aching from filling every line with what I know, and it will all be over. Then I can breathe a sigh of relief and feel nothing but sweet euphoric bliss.

That means I’m currently in the “freak out, second guess everything I’ve studied” phase right before the test. I definitely took the right class, and I’m determined to take this exam, even if I don’t do as well as I’d like. The thought of re-taking everything pains me more than these last few days of angst and anticipation.

In the meantime, I think about my boobs night and day, despite the holidays and cute baby Jesus. Every single minute detail and question is passing rapidly through my aching head. What will it feel like to never feel my breasts again? Will I feel like less of a woman when my milk ducts are gone and I can never breastfeed? But I’m 23 years old and I can do anything I put my mind to! I guess that’ll change in a few days. Now when I’m on my way to work in the morning, every woman I see on the bus or the metro I find myself thinking about her milk ducts. How creepy is that!

Even when I change in the gym locker room, I start to wonder if women will notice my fake breasts when I’m back from recovery. As I pull my sports bra over my head, I want to stand up on the bench and shout for all the women to take a good long look at my bare breasts, because their days are numbered. It’s as if they’re up for the guillotine, and everyone in the locker room should stop and stare as the poor boob victims wearily approach their fate. Geez, my friends always thought I was crazy but unflinchingly optimistic. Now I’m just bona fide nuts and the biggest Debbie downer there ever was. I mean, who thinks about their boobs marching up to a guillotine in the middle of a locker room during gym peak hours?

I’m even haunted by my boob ordeal in my sleep. For instance, I’ve dreamed on several occasions that my long blond hair disappears. Suddenly it’s up to my shoulders (or, heaven forbid, even shorter). I’m devastated because I worked so hard to grow out my hair and I only wanted a trim! My long hair is a sign of my femininity, just like my breasts, and I don’t want it to go away. These dreams are so real that I wake up and grab for my long, wavy locks, convinced that they’re gone for good.

I want my thoughts and my dreams back. I’m tired of thinking about this all the time. It’s gotten to the point where I almost hate my breasts, and I want nothing more than for them to go away. I long for the relief and peace of mind that follows surgery for so many women. All I want for Christmas is for someone to knock me out, take my boobs, and put my weary mind to rest.

My friend Kristy has reassured me that it gets much better. She already battled breast cancer at 24 years old and had a partial mastectomy, now she’s planning to finish the job on January 31st with a partial prophylactic mastectomy on the other side. The other night I called her to catch up and vent. When I started to moan and groan, she immediately interrupted and said, “Claudia, I promise you that missing your boobs is not nearly as bad as thinking about missing your boobs.” As funny as this sounds, it makes total sense to me. If these days leading up to surgery are the worst of it, then I can totally do this! It’s just a matter of getting to the “other side”, as women often describe it. How I wish I were there now.

So I’m trying to think positive thoughts and embrace the fleeting moments I have left with my milk ducts. Christmas is such a blessing, in more ways than one. But I’m also incredibly grateful for my boyfriend. That’s right, a really attractive and intelligent man actually wanted to date me and support me through all of this.

Before meeting my boyfriend, I assumed no guy would ever voluntarily sign up for this. I figured I’d be going through this crazy boob ordeal on my own. After all, men must think that this girl’s got the cancer gene mutation, is about to remove her boobs, and is literally going crazy in the process, yeeeeah right. But he proved me wrong! This guy really cares about me, everything aside, and actually wants to support me through this experience. He’s amazing in every way. How did I ever get so lucky?

So over these next 21 days I’ll look to my friends, family and boyfriend for more distractions, especially once the holidays finally pass. One can only listen to so much Christmas music before throwing a conniption. Hopefully January 11th will come before I know it.

If anything, I’m in desperate need of a new bra. I’m anxious to finally know my new cup size so I can make that much-needed purchase. I even pass by Victoria’s Secret everyday on my way to the gym. Talk about torture. But soon enough I’ll be on the “other side”. And once I turn the last page of my exam and hand in the blue book, I think I’ll treat myself to that new bra at last. Can’t wait for this final to be over!

9 Responses to “Getting Festive, Nervous and Downright Crazy”

  1. December 22, 2010 at 4:35 am

    The lead up to the surgery really is the worst of it. Know that you are not alone, and all of us women who have had the surgery were in your shoes at one point. Know that you are making the right choice. Sure you wont be able to breast feed, but what good is breast feeding a child if you develop breast cancer and may not be alive for them. I am 25, and the way I looked at it was my future children can be fed with formula, my breast milk can be replaced with something else…my life cannot. Also, sensation does return…not to the extent it was…but it does return in time.
    Try to keep your mind busy, it will be here before you know it! As soon as you know it you will be waking up from surgery and it will be over, you will officially be on the otherside! :)
    I wish you all the best, and a very Merry Christmas!
    Megan

  2. December 22, 2010 at 5:06 am

    Claudia, how brave to voice your deepest fears surrounding your upcoming surgery! It is so normal to second guess and begin to mourn the losses you may have post-op (sensation, milk ducts); however, I think your friend is right: thinking about what you may lose is worse than the reality. You will be surprised how well you will adapt to your new breasts. And the peace of mind will be, as they say…priceless! Hang in there, keep up the wonderful Christmas spirit that you have cultivated and remember, as you did in your blog, that you have lots of family and friends that love you and will want nothing more to do than support you. Me being one of them! With lots of love and wishes for a very Happy Holiday for you and your family…Karen

    • December 22, 2010 at 2:08 pm

      Thank you so much, Karen!! I can’t wait to see you! You have no idea how much comfort it brings knowing that you’ll be with me that first week after surgery! There’s no way I could thank you enough! Even though I’ll be high as a kite, I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with you :) Have a wonderful, wonderful holiday season!!

  3. December 22, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Hi Sweet Claudia!
    Wow! I can’t believe it is almost here for you and I am so proud of you that you have made this public and are paving the way for young women in this world including my daughter, who is only 20 and just got her positive diagnosis. She so reminds me of you, someone who takes the bull by the horns and takes care of things! A woman that is in control of her life, and you are the boss of your body and you are in no way EVER going to let Cancer be the Boss of your body!
    Since I met you at the conference last year 9 people in my family have come up positive and last week my cousin in her 30’s had a double mastectomy and the DIEP surgery and although it was a long surgery, the relief in her face AFTER surgery and the tears we had together AFTER surgery was priceless! Less than 1%!!!! So, anytime you are feeling blue, just think ~ Less than 1%~ put stickys all over your house that say that!
    I am so very proud of you and I look forward to your blogging thru this incredibily BRAVE experience, you are my hero Claudia!
    Love,
    Debbie from California
    2 time Survivor

  4. December 29, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    As usual, I loved your blog! I’m having the same feelings as you too. I have this paranoia that something will be found in the tests leading up to the surgery or during the surgery itself. I do think I will be extremely relieved after the surgery is over and far behind me. I know that we are both making the right decision, because we are getting some extra insurance that we’ll be around much longer for our loved ones, future husbands, and children!

  5. January 1, 2011 at 12:22 am

    You are beautiful and your breasts will be beautiful but Then every time you look at them they will be a reminder of how far you have come and you will be stronger for it. I love my new breasts and I smile knowing that I beat the odds and I know that you will too. Keep your head up. Everything is going to be ok.

  6. January 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Claudia,

    I felt the same. Except I did a very good job of ignoring all of those feelings. For me, I sort of blacked out the whole event that was coming. I burried it where it couldnt bother me. Then all of a sudden, I woke up the morning of my surgery. I was like a robot. I got up, walked in the shower, no expression, no feelings, got dressed and got in the car and stared out the window the whole way to the hospital. I checked in and sat down. Then they called my name. Thats when it hit me. My boyfriend walked me in, and they were forced to knock me out right then and there. I was too upset. Thinking back now, I think I was more scared of going under. After 9 hours of surgery, I remember seeing my boyfriend, my mom, my dad, and my step mom all at the end of the hall that I was being wheeled down on the hospital bed. I waved and smiled….high as a kite obviously lol. It was over. The whole anxiety leading up to the event was over, the boobs were gone..that was that. Nothing more to it. Now I just had to get some nice ones back! Unfortunetely, I ran into some rare complications, but all was resolved and my expansion started over and went very well. During that time, I did go for hypno-therapy and counceling. Through that, I learned that I had never given any time to admit to myself what was going on, even though I was pumped and wanted them off and wanted to be a normal woman with boobs that wouldnt kill me, I didnt take time to process what was actually going to happen. So once I realized that, it was a new world. Then in June, I finally got my implants. I will tell you one thing, it felt strange compared to the basketball like feeling of expanders. Scars fade, theyre not so bad. And bathingsuits cover them! I was a very self consious person before surgery and after. At 23, what girl isnt full of themselves I guess lol. But, after going through surgery and expansion….I dont think anyone could tell me I didnt look great. I am going back in for another surgery on the 19th. Upgrading these girls…! Because of my prior complications, my right side was basically ticked off, and the implant did not settle into the pocket, so it is a bit higher than the left. So that is being corrected, and instead of a lift, I am going to go bigger. I had originally wanted bigger and was somewhat upset when I woke up and they seemed small. But, that was because of the swelling. When it went down, I became happy with them. But bigger never was a bad thing right??! Good luck, you will do absolutely fine! I have confidence you will. Call me if you need to, you have the number. Oh yea, and I wanted to tell you, I am going to be interviewed for my first story in a local newspaper and I am going to be a patient advocate for Myriad! Wondering if you are interested? Another bit of advice, if you are not out of work already….have your doctor take you out a week or two early…I did…and she was happy to do so…mental health time.

    • January 4, 2011 at 9:27 pm

      Thank you soooo much for all your beautiful, honest, inspiring comments!! I’ll for sure be in touch once everything is over with – I cannot WAIT for that moment to come!! I’ll be praying for you and sending you lots of positive thoughts for your upgrade surgery :) Thank you again for sharing, it helps so much to know we’re not alone!!

  7. January 7, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Dear Claudia,

    I have been following your blog for a few months. I share your anticipation and angst at this moment about your upcoming surgery. Mine is scheduled for the 24th of Jan. Hate to admit it, but I am getting cold feet. Deep in my heart, I know this surgery is the right move for me, my long term health, and my family. But…. if I sit and think too much about it, my emotions take over, and I get a little carried away with fear.

    Know that on Tuesday, my thoughts will be with you. I will be putting lots of positive thoughts out into the universe, and I will picture you health, happy, and full of life.

    Take Care, and know that you going public with your story has touched so many… many more than you will ever know.

    Hang in there Girl!!

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