This past summer started out like many others. Gardening, time out on the lake, early morning studio time to escape the heat...
This is a sketch I did after discovering the lump and before my first doctors visit to determine what it was.
It was quickly confirmed as lobular cancer and a whole new level of decision making became a reality. These are life altering choices I never thought I would have to make. As I googled madly to learn more about what I had in store for me, (Something my doctor told me to stop doing multiple times) I was profoundly shocked at just how many women are affected by breast cancer (1 in 8) and realized just how uneducated I really was about what to look for. Sure, I had done self exams in the shower, but that was it. (That's how I found the lump by the way.)
I began to make plans for treatment and make better life choices. I changed my diet. I cut out sugar, alcohol, processed foods and went vegan. I danced as much as I could because it makes me happy. These were things I could control while I sat waiting for results to determine if I would need radiation, chemo, a lumpectomy or mastectomy. I wanted to be doing something to affect the outcome in a positive way. I went to more doctors appointments than I have gone to in my entire life and my husband was right by my side.
After getting the results back, the decision was made to have a lumpectomy. After the surgery I was banned from going out on the lake and restricted from some physical activity for 3-4 weeks. Recovery went well and I was soon dancing again!
This is me in the studio with my troupe Tula Tribe, dancing for the first time after the lumpectomy. Yes, I was smiling! Dancing makes me do that.
It was determined that the lumpectomy was not enough and I would have to undergo a mastectomy after all. Still, I did not know if I would have to do chemo, but we proceeded with plans. That information would be confirmed after the surgery. I met with a plastic surgeon to discuss reconstruction. (So many options! ) I am blessed to live in a part of the country where I could have the mastectomy and reconstruction surgery at the same time. Surgery was scheduled and I started making plans how to handle work and life while I recovered for 4-6 weeks.
As I worked on these little cardinals a customer had ordered before the September surgery date, I was reminded of a past order. Actually multiple orders. I remembered how a gal purchased one of my cardinal pin for a dear friend to wear at work on days she didn't want to talk about her cancer. If she was wearing it, her co-workers would know, she just needed to not talk about it.
Another customer purchased my ginkgo earrings to celebrate completing chemo and wanted something to make her feel beautiful.
(Copper with caribbean breeze and blackberry wine patina)
I had been deeply touched, humbled and honored that people would choose my work in such times to make them feel just a little bit better. Now, going through cancer, these memories took on a whole new meaning to me.
I went into surgery September 18 with well wishes, thoughts and prayers from so many people and my husband by my side. The surgery was successful and I came out of a fog unable to read the screen on my phone. my vision was blurry from the nausea patch they had given to me for the side affects of the anesthasia and pain meds. I was told I could have blurry vision for a while or remove it and deal with the nausea. I chose to wear my husbands readers.
Life is not always pretty, but it is real! Waking up after surgery is as real as it gets. Here I am in the hospital recovering. My husband lent me his readers so I could see. :)
A funny little story about googling and why my doctor told me not to do it..... My friend wondered out loud how much my boobs had weighed. I told her I wasn't sure if they cut them off and threw them on a scale or not, but they sure didn't tell me! Then of course, I googled..... "How much do DD breast weigh?" Well this is what I found.
"For many women, this has been a burdensome trend. A pair of D-cup breasts weighs between 15 and 23 pounds—the equivalent of carrying around two small turkeys." DiscoverMagazine.com
WHAAAAAT?!!!!, I only lost about 5 lbs after the swelling went down. I told my doctor that I had a "google" for her and told her about the turkeys. She thought the image of a couple small turkeys on your chest was hillarious. So did my friend as she is also well endowed. Gobble, gobble! (The tittle made me giggle as any chesty gal can relate to that statement. Especially while jogging!)
Everyday I get stronger and take the time to be grateful for that. I am blessed that I do not have to go through chemo. The cancer didn't spread to the lymph nodes and I am dancing again! I have now lost almost 30lbs with all the healthy choices I have made (And some from going from a DD to nothing for a while I am sure...) and my body has changed so much. I realized that this second chance at life and changes to my body are an opportunity to reinvent myself. A chance to express on the outside who I am on the inside.
Here I combined a stretchy tunic top ( I love that print!) , rich plum pashmina scarf and used my now flat chest to display this hand-forged bronze patina stingray statement necklace.
All in all, I survived! I am a warrior, an artist, a dancer, a strong woman. My takeaway from all this is.... Don't wait to live the life you want. Enjoy the journey. Laugh a lot. Spend time with family and friend. Follow my passions and do what makes me smile. Be creative every day. And most of all thank you to everyone who has supported me through all of this!