Fifty seven Septembers ago, my mom was born. A beautiful, playful, fiery spirit, she began captivating everyone around her. Lover of bicycles and frozen yogurt, laughing loud and roughhousing with the pets, late night walks for dream-sharing and gossip-swapping, she is by far the most entertaining, loving woman I know. With a fulfilling life as a first grade teacher, planning to retire in the next 5 or so years, she had it all planned out — until “the phone call.” I remember it well. It was a day that changed our lives.
But today is the end of that cancer journey and the beginning of the next chapter of her life, where she vows to focus more on her health and happiness than stressful things. Not only is today her birthday, but it’s her final breast reconstruction surgery after her double mastectomy last December. Her “steel plates,” as she calls them (expanders), and port-a-cath will be surgically removed and replaced with soft implants. After today, she will have no more port flushes, no more surgeries, no more reminders of cancer. She’ll be able to sleep better because her expanders won’t cut into her every time she moves at night, or during workouts, or any time she moves her arms.
With these boobs come her new identity. She’s back in action, with vengeance. She has a new lease on life, enough energy to outlast other women her age at the gym, and now she’s talking about ways she wants to donate her time and energy to “give back.”
In the waiting room one last time, I reflect on the journey. Two years and four days ago, just before her fifty fifth birthday, we got the news. The birthday plans were cancelled, to immediately drive her down where I lived in Los Angeles to get multiple opinions from different oncologists. After a year of chemo and radiation, she was declared cancer-free. I hosted a “wig-out” party, which combined her fifty sixth birthday celebration, being done with treatment and, wigs. Coincidentally, not a month later, two more lumps of a different type of breast cancer were found in her other breast. A mastectomy and five years of estrogen-blocking pills was prescribed to remove the cancer, and prevent it from returning.
For those of you reading this who are the family members of cancer patients, you will go through this as much as they will, if you do it right. Most of the time you won’t know what to say when they’re crying or scared, because you’re scared too. Resist the reaction to try to fix everything. Make a habit of just sitting with them while they’re in pain or going through treatment. There is no fear like that of being alone when going through something like this. Whether they know how to express it or not, they want your company.
So to welcome Breast Cancer Awareness month, I’d like to release my latest card, designed just for women who’ve had or are about to have breast reconstruction. Always with a great sense of humor, I imagine my mom acting out the scene in this card when she’s older. Click on the photo to see it.
If a woman you know is going to have a mastectomy or breast reconstruction, give her this card. And don’t forget to keep her company as she recovers. Since she won’t be able to lift more than 5 pounds for a few weeks, offer to do dog and child care, cleaning, cooking, and of course, movie nights! She’ll never forget it.
To speedy recoveries and perky boobs!
Are you interested in sharing your cancer story? Let’s get started! lumpycards.com/share-your-cancer-story