Today, a full 2 years after I wrote this, I am finally releasing it. Y’all the aftermath is real. And it continues:
I always expected to just "snap back" after the cancer was out of my body. I expected to just jump up, put my pearls on and PUSH THROUGH. My mind and my heart and my will are CLEARLY stronger than my body.
I decided that 3 workdays off (5 total days including a weekend) was "enough" recoup time for a double mastectomy, and 2 workdays off for reconstruction would be just fine. Working keeps my mind off of the mess that cancer left me with.
This is where I get on my "WHERE IS THE AFTER CARE!?!" Soapbox... I am trying to just get back to normal with my job, grow my hair back, lose the treatment weight, plan a wedding, coach fitness classes.... NO BIGGIE, RIGHT!?!?! But, I have never, in my life, felt so fatigued or depressed. (maybe DURING chemo), but you have support systems during chemo. And when the cancer and chemo don't kill you - and you SURVIVE - you are locked out of the house without a key. Not even a packet or handout that says, "Call here for help getting your life back..." And without fail, at least a hundred times, you will hear, "Welcome to your "new normal". Hey... guess what... I don't want this "New normal"!!! Then you get called ungrateful or made to feel guilty because you should "just be thankful you are alive."
I seriously had to contact two agencies just to know WHERE TO GO to get bras after mastectomy and reconstruction. Picture this: I have incisions from sternum to armpit and I am an emotional wreck (from all of the meds to kill my estrogen and lack of sleep), so I am SOBBING in a blood-stained surgical bra with no idea where to go. I messaged my friend at Remember Betty (God bless her for dealing with my crazy emotions), and she referred me to a sister organization A World of Pink in New York that helped me get into bras that fit, as well as breast forms. But y'all... these two organizations aren't local... they aren't even in my state!
Chemo, Surgery, Radiation, Hormone Therapy - all of them WRECK YOUR BODY and it takes a huge toll on your mind. It isn't a "push through" type of deal anymore. Like I need ACTUAL SUPPORT and DIRECTION.. and the oncologist sends you to your PCP and the PCP sends you back to the Oncologist - and everyone says, "Diet and Exercise - this is your new normal". I don't know the answer - if I did, I wouldn't be crying on the daily. I do know needs though... and I think the following things should just be standard for after-care: Individual and family therapy, Nutrition programs, Modified exercise programs, support groups, resources for medical supplies like bras or mastectomy clothes.
Just because cancer has been removed, doesn’t mean you are “healed” and can snap back just because the cancer is gone. It is a very long road.