Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thank You 2015, For Saving My Life


I could say this was the worst year of my life.

I could say I want to put this all behind me and forget about it.

I could say so long 2015, bring on 2016.

I could say "why me?"

But I won't.  Instead, I will say thank you to 2015.

This year has happened for a reason.  This year makes me, me.  This year is an important marker in my life...and important year in my dash.  On March 3, 2015, I blogged for the first time on this site, when I truly began my journey of healing and saving my life.  I had finally made the decision to have a preventive mastectomy with reconstruction in June 2015, ten years after finding out I was BRCA1 positive.  It was Thanksgiving Day, 2014, when I received my first abnormal mammogram, and I was tired of playing it safe through screenings.  I wanted more assurance, I wanted to rid myself of the possibility of cancer.  I wanted to focus on living, not live in fear of dying.

My mastectomy journey was actually a beautiful one.  I was connected to the most wonderful team at PRMA in San Antonio, Texas, including Patient Liaison Courtney, Nurse Denise and the amazing Dr. Chrysopoulo...all friends still today.  This is my dream team who supported me before, during and after surgery.  My friends who are still here today, checking in on me, sharing new studies of information and who are truly invested in me as a patient.  They helped make Wonder Woman possible, because even Wonder Woman needs a dream team.

I did it for her.

Choosing a mastectomy wasn't easy, nor did it come lightly.  I researched a lot, blogged a lot and had a huge support system from friends and my online community.  It was a long road to recovery, it required a lot of strength and positivity (as much as possible) and it was the best decision I ever made.  I had made the choice to save my life and it was the right one for me.  I went from an 85% chance of breast cancer to 1-2%.  My fears of getting breast cancer are gone.  My fears of having my children watch their mother suffer, like I did mine, are gone.  My fears in general...are gone.  And in return, I was fortunate enough to have an amazing microsurgeon take away my mutations and give me my beautiful womanly body back, all while I was sleeping for what seemed a short moment in time.

My recovery and my blogging from my mastectomy turned into a blessing.  My voice reached far, letters and words of support poured in daily, women confused turned to me asking for advice...and three bucket list items happened within the next few months of recovery.  1.  I published a book based on my own experiences with my mom.  2.  I was asked to write an article for  3.  I went to Bali to complete my final healing...physically and mentally.  I'm often called brave.  I don't see it as brave.  I see it as a choice I made and went through with for a brighter ending.  Wonder Woman...I'll take it.  Not because I have super hero powers, but because I made myself wonder just how much I really am capable of doing and how much power I really do have inside.  Anyone can be a Wonder Woman...or any other inspirational character you choose.  Dig deep within and find what makes you happy, feel strong, feel womanly and most importantly, makes you feel like you.

I did it for her too.

In July of this year, I was back in the doctor's office, just over one month after my mastectomy, preparing for my bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.  I tend to do things all at once, both feet in and jump.  I went from college to post-graduate school to earning my Master's all in sequential years because I just wanted it all done.  I set my sights on a vacation spot, and before my husband can answer the question "do you want to go there?", I've already priced it out and am asking for the credit card.  I get an idea and I go for it.  I'm a doer, so it really didn't surprise anyone that I decided to have my oophorectomy within the same year as my mastectomy.  Let's face it, I was turning 39 in November of this year.  How cool would my 40th birthday be, in 2016, knowing all of this was behind me?  So, in for the pre-op appointment I went, learning all about my next steps.

While my oophorectomy would be done laparoscopically, requiring a mere two weeks recovery vs. the six to eight for the mastectomy, I was more nervous about this one...even in recovery.  While I would yet again be in great hands with the wonderful Dr. Dharshini, there were so many more side effects from this surgery which could affect me for the rest of my life; Heart disease, lung cancer, calcium deficiency, hot flashes, dementia...just to name a few.  But I had to have faith that once again, I'd be reducing my chances of ovarian cancer, from a whopping 50% to 1-2%.  Those mutated genes would once again, be defeated.

And I did it for them.

Three days ago, four days before 2016, I had my oophorectomy and everything went textbook, so I'm told.  I left the hospital the next day, am able to walk as much as I want, have minimal pain (despite the gas) and am very thankful for the opportunities that exist for women like me.  Yes, there are many other things I'm going through as side effects to the surgery that cause me tears today, but let me focus, while I can, on the blessing the surgery has given me.  I'm alive, I'm here for my husband and children and I will be for a long time.  Now, after two surgeries, I've done all that I can to save my life from BRCA1.  I have defeated it.  I can finally breathe.  I can exhale.  I can live.

So, here I sit, in my living room on New Year's Eve, looking at my three beautiful children, and I find peace in 2015.  I made MANY new friends, I accomplished things I only dreamed of, I found peace with my past and I'm now thankful for my future.  I send strength to all of my lovelies out there who are searching for answers, facing their struggles and looking for comfort or peace.  A warm hug from me to you for 2016.

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