A breast cancer survivor shares her experiences with the BRCA gene.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Putting Myself Together Again

Now that I'm five months out from two massive surgeries involving lots of moving parts, I'm feeling the after-effects these days. Somehow I went into surgery fairly young (okay, middle-aged) and came out of OR 30 years later.

I'm sore, stiff and achey all over. If you're a Baby Boomer, you might remember the Samsonite commercial from years ago. It showed a gorilla throwing around a piece of Samsonite luggage in his cage, demonstrating that it was impossible to break open. I suspect that's what the surgeons did to me. I think they also beat me with a wrench...kind of like I've seen mechanics do when they're peering under the hood of a car. At least it feels that way.

And, with all the slicing and dicing of my muscles, my posture now resembles one of the early stages of man you see on the evolution chart.

Then, there's my fragile emotions. I thought I was handling everything just fine --facing the fact that I'm a BRCA gene carrier, undergoing the knife, discovering I had fallopian tube cancer growing inside me. My emotions have been pretty even keel. That is, until something goes awry.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, I received a call at work from a friend's father. She had not shown up for her flight, which had left over 2 hours earlier. She didn't answer her cell phone and no one could reach her. This was highly unlike her, especially since she was speaking at a major conference. I'll skip all the details, but her parent's concern became my panic, as I spent the following hour trying to track down every place she could be. The only thought that came to me during that time was that she was in a wreck on the side of the road, and I'd be going to her funeral that weekend.

Her father called two hours later, saying she had been booked on an earlier flight than expected and was all right. I hung up the phone. And burst out crying.

I react like that whenever anything out-of-the-norm happens--I envision death and destruction and devastation. In other words, I'm not the way I used to be. Physically, or emotionally. So, this is my time to put the pieces of my life back together. That's what you do after surgery.

Physically, I'm doing water aerobics classes and pilades to stretch my body. I'm taking Vitamins B, C & D. I drink cod liver oil each morning. My diet and lifestyle habits have always been Jack LaLanne-approved, but I've stepped it up. I'm paying even more attention to nutrition, as I now consume mostly dried beans, nuts, seeds, grains, vegetables and fruit, and minimize meat & dairy. I eat as much fish as Flipper, and try to buy organic and fresh food whenever I can. I exam each package label like Sherlock Holmes, looking for the dual villains of hydrogenated soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup. And, I continue to drink the same amount of water that travels over Niagra Falls daily.

As for my nerves, I'm spending time processing my thoughts with friends, taking long walks in nature, journaling, connecting to others, praying. I know it will take time for me to reclaim my former life in which my body moves more freely and my mind responds in a calm and collected manner.

But, then again, that may be expecting too much. After all, as a poster child for type-A personality, I've never responded in a calm and collected manner my entire life.

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