Today, a lifelong friend reached out to me to share her woes. Her husband has been diagnosed with cancer and the outlook is unsettling. There was strength and humility in her voice. There was searching – for reassurance – and to vent. I think she needed to connect with someone who had run the race. She’s been forced to the bewildering starting line, and she’s shaking.
Over the past week, I’ve been helping another dear friend recover from surgery – the decision to explant (remove the implants.) She’s reconnecting with her twenty-something self, now thirty-some years later. I spent time with her in the hospital, managed her drains and helped her organize and understand her medications. Mostly, I kept her company. We got outside for short walks and reconnected on our old stories and all of our new adventures.
I explanted too. Implants didn’t work for me. I tried. My body rejected them. Then I did, too. I had lots of surgeries to get to where I am now. Braless. Boob-less. Mostly flat. I have bright red incision lines, one year later. The skin is a little bumpy and uneven. My arms are tight. I stretch against a wall several times a day. I get shooting pain when I scratch my back, all along and down my right side. It takes my breath away.
I showed one friend my stretches. I gave the other one super high-level thoughts on managing the starting line. It’s overwhelming, no matter where you are or how you got there, and surely there are no two paths the same. With this posted, I wanted to share a few things that have helped me along the way. Certainly, there are numerous other related solutions, but these are the ones that helped me, personally, and I refer to them regularly, even now.
Facebook has made the world a smaller place, especially if you have a particular interest or need. I am a member of private groups related to my drug regime (Tamoxifin, Aromatase Inhibitors), surgery sequence, my decision to go “flat” and my specific diagnosis – triple positive (ER, PR, HER2). It’s both a forum and a support group, and I use those connections daily in my recovery.
Sharing my journey in a blog format helped me reach many people in a single message. It allowed those interested in my recovery to watch from afar and get a first hand account of my treatment. Today, it’s a resource I share with friends of friends who are newly diagnosed – in hopes that it sheds some light – and humor – on the next stages of their own journey. You can read my blog at: Paintitpintandchew.com. Feel free to share it with anyone it may help!
My girlfriends put a Mealtrain.com schedule together for my family during my surgery recoveries and my chemo treatment. We had a cooler on the front porch, so I didn’t have to interact with folks if I wasn’t feeling up to it, and we were able to specify the foods my kids would (and wouldn’t) eat to get the most impact out of it. It was one less thing to think about and that really helped.
The Gracie Foundation provides care packages. It’s a non-profit organization which donates pretty little packages to women currently undergoing chemo/radiation treatments. You can nominate anyone in treatment and they will send a care package free-of-charge.
The American Red Cross provides free wigs and makeup application classes. For me, it was offered through my cancer treatment center at my hospital and also at the neighborhood wellness center where I went for more holistic treatment.
I was given “Cancer Fighting Kitchen” shortly after being diagnosed. I’ve lent it out since then nearly a dozen times (an unfortunate reality). Lots of helpful recipes and items to have on-hand during both chemo and radiation treatment.
“How Not to Die,” by Dr. Michael Greger is a guide to living a plant-based lifestyle and the science behind the benefits in treating your body more kindly, no matter what disease you face.
Our local Wellness House in Hinsdale was a life-saver for me. I learned how to manage my reaction to chemo, Mindfulness meditation to recover from it, and mental health support for myself and my children when our minds got the better of us.
Truly, the most most beneficial resource is a good friend, a bright smile and a warm hug. My relationships are deeper, more personal and much more intentional after my experience with breast cancer. The kindness shown to me gives me hope for a better tomorrow. Be a good listener, give excellent hugs and be willing to do lend a hand to make someone’s journey ever-so-slightly easier. Time is fleeting. Their journey is now. Show up if you get the opportunity.
Thanks for letting me share my stories with you. The reflection has been emotional for me, each week. I hope they touched you too.
About Jeni Moore
I was diagnosed at age 43 with stage 3 IDC.
I found a lump myself, in the shower. It was a malignant lymph node.
I received chemo, radiation, a bilateral mastectomy and an oophorectomy.
I am not BRAC1 or BRAC2 positive. I am Chk2 positive. I have a long family
history of breast cancer.
I’ve been a “better half” for 20 years.
I’m a mother of three amazing kids and one ridiculously horrible dog.
I’m a graphic designer by day and a would-be potter by night.
And I am also a survivor.
You can read more of Jeni’s story here.