It was time for my monthly injection of a medication that is injected as a pellet under the skin every four weeks. As I am being weighed, my youngest stops in the kitchen area and grabs himself a Coke and some crackers for a snack. You would think he has maybe been here a time or two.
I am one week post-op for the second of four surgeries that will complete my reconstruction. My biggest issue is pain associated with bruising. As I showed some of the people at the hospital my bruised area, I told them that cancer was more than pink ribbons.
I ended up sharing my journey through reconstruction with four of the receptionists who have checked me in for the last year and a half of treatments. I talked about the options, the decisions, the surgeries, the healing, the emotional toil, the financial cost…I think I stood there for 20 minutes explaining that other side of cancer.
They thanked me for sharing my journey so openly with them from day one. They thanked me. These women who have my paperwork ready and waiting for me every appointment. These women who do their job so well that I never was left waiting in the waiting room back when I looked like death…on a stick. They thanked me.
I am humbled when people express the desire for me to share my story. I have never been one for pink ribbons…today I was wearing a black t-shirt with a pink ribbon and stylized writing that says, “Fight like a girl” which I always thought was a stupid tag line.
Until I had to fight like a girl…
I have undergone five surgical procedures in two years. Pink ribbons cannot undo the damage the surgeries have done.
When people ask me why I bother to have reconstruction or why I choose to only remove one breast, making me feel like I should have made this easier on them by choosing a simpler path; pink ribbons do not protect my feelings.
Radiation to reduce my risk of recurrence or spread (beyond the spread during chemo) means I have an increased risk for future lung and heart issues. Pink ribbons will not help me breath freely if that happens.
I have at least two more surgeries to complete my reconstruction. Pink ribbons will not pay the out-of-pocket costs associated with travel for these procedures.
When I ended up spending six hours in the PACU after my most recent surgery because the only medication that controlled my pain made me nearly stop breathing, pink ribbons were of no help.
When I had to spend the night in the hospital because by the time the pain was manageable the pharmacy was closed so I would not be able to get prescriptions for pain medication, pink ribbons did not check up on me.
When I cannot cuddle my child whose love language is physical touch because the bruising hurts so bad the smallest brush against it makes me cry, pink ribbons will not hold my son.
When I chose to not take pain medication because I am a very involved parent and dulling my pain opens up the possibility of my overdoing it…because I’m doing it for my boys…pink ribbons do not dull the pain.
When I have to take it easy because I am not taking the pain medications and letting my body heal, pink ribbons will not throw a football with my sons.
When I have confidence issues looking for a new job because honestly, who wants somebody that will have ongoing appointments that will cost a day or more from work every three months, pink ribbons will not hold my hand when I speak to potential employers.
Thank God that the comfort that my family and community bring to me through all of this. God uses those He calls to serve each other.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
My friends rallied around myself and the kids. They supported us emotionally, spiritually, and financially.
As I have heard often through the reconstruction process, there is so much more to breast cancer that people just don’t realize. They don’t realize that when chemo and the outward signs of treatment begin to fade, it is still just the very beginning.
My chemotherapy only lasted five months. I had two full months of appointments and tests before I began chemotherapy. I have had three surgeries since completing chemo and will have at least two more. The side effects of the medications I have to take for the next ten years rival those of chemotherapy but in different ways.
From now on remember, it is not just pink ribbons and bald heads. It is lost wages, lost time with family and friends, loss of confidence, loss of independence…pink ribbons will not cover those needs but you certainly can.