Friday, March 5, 2010

Gilda's Club

Last night, Brian and I attended our first event at Gilda's Club in Seattle. Most people have probably never heard of it...I added a link so that you could check it out for yourself. It's a wonderful organization that provides emotional support for anyone touched by cancer.

Last night's meeting topic was about preparing for and healing from surgery. Sure, I'll have a pre-op appointment with my two surgeons and the anesthesiologist where they will discuss exactly what the surgery entails. We'll get the run-down of how to take care of my incisions, change dressings, monitor fluids, etc. while I'm in the hospital, and I'll have several follow-up appointments to track my recovery.

But that's all physical stuff. This meeting--led by a psychotherapist, herself a breast cancer and double mastectomy survivor--was to discuss the emotions. By all accounts, any cancer diagnosis is a scary thing. In most cases, it's a very short time between diagnosis and life-changing surgery. I had eleven short days between hearing those words and my scheduled lumpectomy. As much as I was trying to calmly and responsibly make decisions with what little knowledge I had, I became absolutely completely unraveled when I realized that the surgical decision was completely out of my hands.

At the time, my cancelled surgery was devastating to me. I realize now that it's been a blessing. I've had since September 10th to internalize the fact that my best chance for cure is to lose my breasts. Initially, when I was faced with a mastectomy as an option, I didn't even want to consider it. I was 29. I liked my breasts (my husband really likes my breasts!) I haven't had children yet and needed those breasts to feed them. I couldn't really imagine a life without them. It took some serious soul searching to realize that it was either a life without my breasts or a good possibility of no life at all.

That's heavy stuff...and these are the decisions that millions of people like me have to make on short notice when receiving a diagnosis of cancer. Thank God for organizations like Gilda's Club that cater to the incredibly emotional journey that is cancer. I was so happy that Brian decided to go with me. I worry about him because people are always asking how I'm doing, but he's going through this, too. He asked great questions, and I think he came away with some helpful tools to help him through the surgery process. I feel so incredibly blessed to have him by my side through this.

One question Brian asked the speaker was if the trip we're planning shortly before my surgery was a bad idea, thinking that it might distract me too much from the emotional preparation that I needed before the big day...that we might be better spending that time thinking of what was to come. The speaker looked at me before she spoke, and I made a comment...

I've thought about this surgery

She smiled at me and nodded, then proceeded to explain that our trip sounded like a perfect way to celebrate the end of a chapter in our lives and the beginning of a new one. It will be a new beginning. In many ways, I'm looking forward to having this behind me and getting on with my life, but there are days that I absolutely dread the idea of this surgery.

Fortunately, there are also lots of days where I can smile and proudly tell people that I'm having a double mastectomy...that I'm choosing to do everything in my power to end my disease and continue living.


  1. I am so incredibly proud of you. You never cease to amaze me. When I grow up I can only hope to be as strong and brave as you.

    I love you,