Love Your Body: (Almost) Seven Weeks Post Mastectomy

I have been slack with my posts but have no fear, it’s because I have been busy! Yes, I have been leaving the house, socializing and even exercising. Check me out!

It’s been almost a month since my speed bump post and trust me, there have been many more tough days but, overall, I am steadily improving, mentally and physically.

Monday, July 4 we returned from a relaxing weekend at the beach and I was just in a funk. I felt emotional, angry at my body for betraying me and sick to death of these damn tissue expanders. Why is it so impossible to be comfortable with these things?! Poor Luke, he held me and talked me through it - all three times I broke down crying. Together we agreed that if I started to exercise it would probably lift my spirits and remind me that my body is still my body - and that I am in control of it again!

It has really been working. We did a few short, 30-minute walks around the neighborhood before work. The days we walked, I felt so much better than the days we didn’t. Then this weekend, I ventured out on my own!

On Saturday, I tied up my Nikes, plugged in my headphones and set off on a walk. I had a specific route in mind - it was about half of my “long power walk” route. I don’t know about you but I have all these little mental routes depending upon my mood, my body and the time I have. Anyway, I climbed the steep hill out of my neighborhood and felt like the queen of the world when I reached the top (and my heart was like WTF are we doing?!). As I hit the level sidewalk of the main road I thought, “I am going to jog.” So I did - I think it was only about 20 yards but, whatever, it didn’t hurt like hell! I walked a bit and did it again and as I jogged along eyeing the telephone pole ahead (my stopping point) I thought, “eff it” and opened up to a full sprint when I was almost there. Aside from desperately sucking wind, it felt AWESOME. After that I walked most of the rest of the way.

As I neared the turnaround point of my route, Melissa Etheridge’s “I Run for Life” started blaring through my headphones. This song played during the Survivor Celebration at the Komen walk and I had a really hard time keeping it together - it was the first time I had heard it. It’s an incredible song coupled with the fact that the woman singing it is a breast cancer survivor too. Hearing it, as my muscles were firing, my mind was sharp and my body was crushing it, really motivated me. I didn’t turn back toward home. In that instant I knew that I was doing my “long power walk” route - every last step of it.

I started jogging again with tears running down my face. It was such a moment for me as her voice kept blaring into my ears. “I run for hope, I run to feel…” I didn’t care that I was starting to feel sore from Thursday’s expansion. I was running to FEEL. I felt so alive.

Well the emotions and lack of stamina created a lump in my throat that brought me to a sudden stop on the sidewalk. I (carefully) raised my hands to my head, clasped them and let the air flow in while I collected myself. As my tears cleared and I got my bearings, I realized that I was standing in front of Raleigh Radiology. The building where I had my mammogram in March. Cue the tears again…

The rest of my walk was incredible. I just started to think about how far I have come since that day. Sure, I am uncomfortable as hell, but I don’t even have cancer anymore. How crazy is that?! I am out for a walk, by myself! I am drenched in sweat and pushing my body - and it’s allowing itself to be pushed.

It’s been really hard to love my body these days. As I said, some days I feel like it betrayed me. It’s hard to look in the mirror and see the scars. To see these expanders that provide uneven, solid, rock-like lumps on your chest. To have the chunky, lumpy, achy spots near my armpits that are swelling. For the drain incisions to ping and fire with random pain. But I am healing and I am healing really well. I would like to not have gained so much weight through all this and for my pants not to be so hard to button but I am healthy and getting healthier and THAT is what really matters. 

As I kept walking, past the hospital where I had my MRI and three surgeries, I thought about how proud I am that my body was primed to fight. I promised myself to continue this commitment to health and to focus on getting back into shape and being the healthiest version of me. I was never perfect and I never will be perfect. I have a raging sugar addiction, I don’t love to work out (I actually kind of hate it), and I LOVE greasy cheeseburgers (and many, many other less-than-healthy foods). That being said, I do most things in moderation and place a high value on my overall health. Because of that, I was ready for this. I was poised to catch it early and my body was ready to answer the call.  

I know, and always did, that cancer looooovees white sugar. Will I give it up? Probably never fully but now is a good time to cut back on it a bit. Exercising legitimately makes me a happier person - so does being able to easily button my pants - so I am committing to making that a habit.

As I continued the last leg of my walk, past my surgeon’s office (I know, I am SO going to miss this inspiring route when we move next month), Dierks Bentley twanged into my ears with “Riser.” It was a good reminder that, “I'm a riser...I'm a get off of the ground, don't run and hider.” Mind over matter. I am stronger for rising to this challenge and that makes me very proud. I love my body and I am going to treat it incredibly well so that it continues to return the favor and rises with me.

What about you? Is your body primed to rise with you? We only get one shot at this life and one body to do it in - I aim to kick ass and take names. I hope you’ll join me.