Tag Archive | mastectomy

Pink Post Gratitude to Lisa Boncheck Adams

Every person has a story. So, too, does each chair.

IMG_7739There is comfort in routine.

Some people are superstitious. Sometimes they want the same chemo nurse, the same appointment time, the same chair. “If it is working don’t mess with it” applies to many things about treating cancer.

I am always thinking about continuity and the stories that objects tell. I’ve written twice about the tape measure my plastic surgeon used to measure me before surgery. I’ll post those pieces again this month.

Whenever I sit in a chair in a doctor’s office I think about all of the people who have sat in that chair before I have.

Each person has a story. So, too, does each chair. That chair is the starting point for this piece from 2011.


“I think so too”

That chair you’re sitting in?
I’ve sat in it too.
In waiting rooms. Chemo rooms. Prep rooms. For tests. Surgeries. Procedures. Radiation. Inpatient. Outpatient. Emergency visits. Routine visits. Urgent visits. To see generalists. Specialists. Surgeons. Alone. With friends. With family members. As a new patient. Established patient. Good news. Bad news. I’ve left with new scars. Prescriptions. Appointments. Words of wisdom. Theories. Guesses. Opinions. Statistics. Charts. Plans. Tests. Words of assurance. More bloodwork. Nothing new. Nothing gained. Nothing but a bill.

That feeling you’re having?
I’ve had it too.
Shock. Disbelief. Denial. Grief. Anger. Frustration. Numbness. Sadness. Resignation. Confusion. Consternation. Curiosity. Determination. Dread. Anxiety. Guilt. Regret. Loss. Pain. Emptiness. Embarrassment. Shame. Loneliness.

That day you’re dreading?
I’ve dreaded it too.
The first time you speak the words, “I have cancer.” The first time you hear “Mommy has cancer.” Anniversary day. Chemo day. Surgery day. PET scan day. Decision day. Baldness day. The day the options run out.

Those reactions you’re getting?
I’ve had them too.
Stares. Questions. Pity. Blank looks. Insensitivity. Jaw-dropping comments. Tears. Avoidance.

Those side effects you dread?
I’ve dreaded them too.
Nausea. Vomiting. Pain. Broken bones. Weakened heart. Baldness. Hair loss. Everywhere. Unrelenting runny nose. Fatigue. Depression. Hot flashes. Insomnia. Night sweats. Migraines. Loss of appetite. Loss of libido. Loss of breasts. Phantom pain. Infection. Fluid accumulation. Bone pain. Neuropathy. Numbness. Joint pain. Taste changes. Weight gain. Weight loss. Mouth sores. Fevers. Anemia.

That embarrassment you’re feeling?
I’ve felt it too.
Buying a swimsuit. Getting a tight-fitting shirt stuck on my body in the dressing room. Having a child say “You don’t have any eyebrows, do you?” Asking the grocery line folks to “make the bags light, please.” Wearing a scarf. Day after day. Wondering about wearing a wig because it’s windy outside and it might not stay on. Holding on to the bannister for dear life. Passing out in public.

That fear you’re suppressing?
I’ve squelched it too.
Will this kill me? When? How bad is chemo going to be? How am I going to manage 3 kids and get through it? Will my cancer come back and take me away from my life? Will it make the quality of life I have left so bad I won’t want to be here anymore? Is this pain in my back a recurrence? Do I need to call a doctor? What is worse: the disease or the treatment?

That day you’re yearning for?
I’ve celebrated it too.
“Your counts are good” day. “Your x-ray is clear” day. “Now you can go longer between appointments” day. “See you in a year” day. First-sign-of-hair day. First-day-without-covering-your-head day. First taste of food day. First Monday chemo-isn’t-in-the-calendar day. Expanders-out, implants-in day. First walk-without-being-tired day. First game-of-catch-with-the-kids day. First day out for lunch with friends day. First haircut day. “Hey, I went a whole day without thinking about cancer” day. “Someone asked me how I’m doing, I said ‘fine’ and I meant it” day.

That hope you have?

I have it too:
More research. Easier access. Targeted therapy. Effective treatments. Better quality of life. More options. Longer life. Less toxicity. Fewer guesses.

Ultimately, someday, for my children or grandchildren perhaps: a cure.

Don’t you think that would be amazing?
I think so too.

** I am so moved by Lisa’s story and this post that I had to share ~ thanks for reading.  I think it makes no difference whether you are fighting breast cancer like we have or any other illness.  We can bond together to heal…that’s the most important piece of the puzzle.

Shine On!



Come Join the Celebration!



February 1st, 2002 was the date that I had my bilateral mastectomy due to my breast cancer diagnosis and the pathology report which read that after my lumpectomy, I still had breast cancer in my body.  It’s also the date that marks the fact that I finally took hold of my own health and my life and decided to prophylactically take the non-cancerous breast as well, much to my surgeon’s chagrin.  I can happily report to you, that I still stand by my decision as it was the right one for me.

There is so much I have learned in the last 11 years since that day that I walked into the OR by myself, sobbing after being taken away from hugging my supportive husband who still stands by my side.  In the wake of having had those breasts reconstructed with silicone implants twice since then and then after having one of those implants rupture last year, beginning multiple surgeries to create what I now have for breasts which is body tissue taken from other parts of my body to make new, real, soft fleshy breasts which are mine and not artificial, hard, painful implants which I had endured because I had no choice, I am celebrating!

Since my breast cancer diagnosis on New Year’s Eve of 2001, my life has changed so dramatically that words fail me in trying to explain how richer my life has become.  I have endured much suffering, but I have also reaped many blessings.  I am grateful for each and every day when I arise from my bed to greet the world.  I am thankful for life’s blessings, the big and small ones and I know firsthand the meaning of the preciousness of time.  I practice being present in my life ~ enjoying The Presents of Presence ~ meaning actually being in the moment and enjoying what that moment offers.  My intent to cast worry from my shoulders is an ongoing trial in my life, but I accept that it is a work in progress.

I know I am blessed with a loving family and much support in my life and I rejoice in the fact that I can continue to send out love on a daily basis through my blog, my FB page The Presents of Presence, my SendOutCards business and my actions.   I have struggled through the grief of losing my breasts, fighting the disease through multiple surgeries (more than 10 and counting), ACT (chemotherapy), radiation, the loss of my ovaries at age 35 (salpingo oophorectomy), multiple needles, shots, medications, tamoxifen, arimidex,  the loss of my hair, my self-esteem, my confidence as a woman, the sad passing of friends from the same disease and the mortal fear of reoccurrence.  This is not a pity party by any means, so please don’t mis-understand me.  It’s actually a celebration of triumph!

My mother-in-law texted me this morning, “Have an especially happy day!” and I knew exactly what she meant for I knew that she remembered ~ and I knew that she would be there with me celebrating this momentous event.  I’m still here!  I have no painful implants anymore!  I have come full circle today ~ from having my God-given breasts, to having them removed due to dis-ease, to having them reconstructed not once, but twice with implants, to having been miraculously restored and reconstructed with breasts again which are of my own flesh and blood.

I am not sure that if you haven’t experienced this phenomenon that you can imagine how incredible it is to be here 11 years later celebrating so many wonderful gifts that my life has brought to me.  It is with heartfelt tears of joy, of gratitude and of above all, love that I write to you today.  However, knowing that we all carry burdens while we endure our journey on this earth, I feel like this is OUR CELEBRATION TODAY!  So please indulge me as I invite you to celebrate love and life on the first of February (don’t forget to say Rabbit Rabbit)  as well as family, friends, miracles, faith, joy, laughter, tears, gratitude, blessings, health, compassion, friendship…I could go on and on!

Celebrate Today my friends…Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future…

Today is a gift, that’s why we call it the Present!

May The Presents of Presence

Be with You Every Day!

Shine On!


Breast Cancer, Boobs, Oprah and Dr. Phil

Whew…my title is a mouthful isn’t it today?  I awoke this morning in a tizzy, perhaps because one of the furbabies was gagging on a hairball right beside my bed, but I was also dreaming that I was having a good ol’ fireside chat with Dr. Phil and it wasn’t going well….for him!  Forgive me this morning, but there are a few things I have to get off my chest (yes, pun intended) and ever since I read this article, I’ve been madder than a hornet.  I should explain this in a proper manner to you so that perhaps those without having endured breast cancer can understand and for those that have endured it, well, I hope you’ll be nodding your heads in agreement.

Page 58 in Oprah’s Magazine, you know the one ~ Oprah’s Favorite Things! that has just come out recently.  On this page in particular, Dr. Phil responded to a 54 year old woman who had endured a double mastectomy 4 years ago and was having trouble because her Dr. had ‘botched the surgery, and I had to remove my implants.  Now my new surgeon says my skin is too thin for another reconstruction – which means I will never have breasts.  My husband has been supportive, but I can’t help feeling undesirable.  And I don’t feel like me.  How do I get back my old self after such a loss?”

In my dreamed fireside chat to Dr. Phil, I gave him a full piece of my mind…and I didn’t spare him at all.  I dismissed his response to this lovely lady which in part was to “write down something affirming, like “I’m a strong, intelligent, attractive woman.”  Study those words….let that affirmation be your mantra…seek help from a therapist who specializes in self-esteem issues.  I wouldn’t worry about your desirability.  Looks are not what sustain s a man’s interest in a woman.  I’m sure your husband still sees you as the beautiful and brave woman he married.  To be happy, you’ll need to start seeing yourself that way, too.”  “A change in our bodies almost always changes how we feel about ourselves, too.  But the truth is, you weren’t a better person before your surgery, and you’re not less of a woman after it.”

Ohhh…that man touched on a live wire of a nerve with me!  Last night, our chat was a no holds barred type ~ one which I was very angry at his unwillingness to realize that she’d endured breast cancer and all that the mental anguish that being diagnosed entails and I shared the fact that even 10 years later, although I am cancer free, I am still leery every time I enter the oncologist’s office to be checked.  My blood pressure skyrockets because I know first hand of what I’ve been enduring for the last 10 years and I wiggle in my seat for the next week until I get my blood test results back.

Perhaps I should just recount my rant to you…and perhaps after reading it, you’ll decide I’m angry and you don’t want to read my posts…or that perhaps you’ll think I’m menstrual (nope, had the ovaries taken at age 35), but hopefully, you’ll see the gal you know who’s usually a sunny side of the street, glass 1/2 full girl tell you in a no holds barred way what she’s endured, how she’s triumphed and how she’s still taking baby steps forward everyday.  I hope I don’t lose my readers on this one. xo

Dr. Phil and I are seated facing each other by a beautiful fire in a living room somewhere.  It’s my turn to talk.

“I, too, endured a double mastectomy at age 34.  And perhaps I’m being sexist here, but sorry Dr. Phil, no man can even come close to understanding what it feels like to have your breasts removed and to think that you advised her the way you did (which reading it today, was really sweet but not meaty enough for me)…well, it’s what set me off.  I would love to know if you would advise a prostate cancer survivor who was sad that his testicles were removed in the same way?  Because,  for to me, that’s the male equivalent ~ well, not even because they aren’t seen in daily life.  Women’s breasts are out there, exposed ~ shape & size-wise, society-wise, they are checked out by all.  Do you know what it’s like to look in the mirror everyday and see train tracks of scars across your flat, nipple-less breasts, under your armpits (lymph node removal) and to have to wear falsies which move all over the place?  Then to endure every Tom, Dick and Harry Dr. and Intern’s roving eyes on your breasts as you are seen every few weeks to see how the scars are healing…only to endure the subsequent surgeries of reconstruction until you can finally have your implants installed.

And as with your reader, I had to have my implants explanted (removed) after a few years because they hurt and I was in so much pain!  The capsular contraction which was my body’s response to foreign matter in my chest caused me so much emotional and physical pain!  The silicone implants which were supposed to look like breasts twisted under my skin to form hard, ugly balls of pain which upon removal, gave my surrounding muscles relief.  The muscles also involuntarily contract around the tissue which is part of the constant pain which plagued me.  So I endured yet another set of implants, tear drop gummie bears ~ ah, such a cute name now instead of the flat stripper boobs they were giving us in 2002!  But alas, the same situation reared it’s ugly head for me just a few years after enjoying ‘natural looking’  teardrop shaped breasts except this time one of them ruptured, leaking silicone into my already ravaged body.

Not a walk in the park Dr. Phil.  It’s painful, it’s scary and yes, it does pack a wallop to your self-esteem!  That poor woman whom you’ve advised to write and speak affirmations etc., needs a bit of sympathy…a bit of love, a bit of hope and a huge hug for what she’s endured.  It’s not easy to have to choose to not have breasts even when you want them.  I, too, have thin skin from radiation, but I was blessed to find a surgeon who is so advanced that she is using my own body’s tissue to MAKE REAL BREASTS FROM OUR MY OWN BODY!  There is an answer to her desire ~ she CAN have breasts Dr. Phil!  There are advancements now and dedicated surgeons whose talents and advancements are helping women who are enduring this common plight!

It’s one thing for a woman to feel fine after breast cancer and to not want to deal with reconstruction.  To those women, I stand up and applaud because I share your enthusiasm for the scars that show that we are strong, we are courageous and we have beaten the C word!  I have seen many beautiful photographs of women who have exposed their scars for the world to see and I find their enthusiasm contagious and their scars radiant.  As fighters and survivors of any cancer and illness, we all deserve a standing triumphant ovation for simply enduring all that we have experienced.  Because until you’ve walked in our shoes, you have no idea what you’re talking about at all!

However, it’s a major change and emotional roller-coaster to have to deal with a single or double mastectomy at any age.  A woman’s breasts can be viewed as a part of her femininity and it is a major change in the thought process to accept your new body.  While I am a girl who believes in affirmations, what your reader was asking was how to find her new normal, her new femininity and her new self, because it’s a long process Dr. Phil.”

I went on and on (perhaps I’ll do another post) but for now, I thank you for reading and for sticking this one out with me.  I started this blog as my 10 year cancerversary began and it’s morphed into more than just inspiration, cancer tidbits and SendOutCards.  It’s become a sharing place I hope…and a place of friendship.  I am thankful for all of my readers and I pray that you’ll understand my post today.

Shine On!



Bras, Friendship and October…

Bras, friendship & October all come together as the month of  “All Things PINK” continues.  It’s in the camaraderie of breast cancer (BC) survivors that we immediately understand what the other person is enduring once we identify ourselves as having or having had BC.  It’s like with any other club or illness I think…it’s just that the month of October puts it out in front of everyone’s face for an entire month, wrapping it up tightly in pink ribbons for all to see.

I am a survivor which you know already because quite frankly, I am proud that I continue to endure after having been diagnosed 10 years ago.  BC gave me a tough run for my femininity as well as for my health.  It’s beaten me down, only to have me rise up from the ashes of my life and to great each day with the happiness that I am here to experience life ~ to Enjoy the Presents of Presence ~ to Send Out Love with my cards and to hopefully inspire others with my blog and to help women who are enduring the same.  Because we’re all here together, all connected and in helping others, I am even helping myself.

Truthfully, I’ve endured a lot in my life ~ with BC, I’ve endured multiple surgeries in 10 years ~ actually this Tuesday I’ll be enduring #8 for breast cancer which is also #13 total in my lifetime.  I think enough is enough quite frankly, but I know there looms one more after this which will be the last for BC.  I will have come full circle finally once I am finished with them all.  I will have had my breasts removed completely with a double mastectomy, been replaced with hard implants twice, been explanted (removed implants) and now, I am finally putting my breasts back completely using my own flesh ~ all within the span of 10 years which is quite a feat I think.  To me, it is a full circle in a decade ~ one that I had never even dreamed of 10 years ago when I was diagnosed.  The reality of the situation makes me stop at times to cry tears of gratitude…I want to thank my surgeons who made it all possible and who are giving me the opportunity to regain what was taken so many years ago.  I am thankful that medicine has come so very far in 10 years!

So, although I never wanted to be a part of the Pink Ribbon Club, I am happy today that I can give back and teach what I’ve learned to those who are sad, angry and enduring all of what BC brings to our lives.  I have been blessed to continue to be able to fight, live and learn as well as help others.  My life is richer now because of the suffering I have endured.  Without having first-hand experienced BC, I would never be able to appreciate every day the way I do now.

I am grateful for where I am now 10 years later…and now I”m excited for my next decade!

I’ve made it so far…and I’m going to keep looking up and taking baby steps

and enjoying The Presents of Presence

with YOU!




Lovin’ Pink

I’ve always liked the color pink and if truth be told, I’ve never been a tomboy…I’ve always been a bit of a girly girl.  I was the one who didn’t want to get muddy or dirty, who threw like a girl (really!) and who always has her toenails painted pink (except during the holidays).  However, for those of you who believe that PINK is a color that is for a wimpy girl, you are way wrong, baby!

Every breast cancer survivor will tell you that pink is NOT a wimpy color as it is a symbol of the survival of a journey of endurance which begins with a single step.  This journey never truly ends even when the breast cancer is considered cured.  Its tentacles, even 10 years later, slither through moments during the year when doctor appointments for check ups are necessary or when we wait a week for the blood test results.  Even normal yearly trips to the gynecologist can result in an unbidden heightened sense of alarm if a Pap result isn’t normal because, quite frankly, the normal that we previously relied on isn’t normal anymore.  In it’s place, comes a new normal that with time acclimates to our lives.

I was perusing blogs today and searched under breast cancer and what I found was alarming…so many women being diagnosed, being told their breast cancer had metastasized and even one who sadly told of her Mom’s recent passing from the disease.  My heart went out to every one of them and all I wished to do was to hug them, let them know I understood and that it gets better ~ so here’s my short list of wisdom for today.

  • There are good days and bad days.
  • When you think you’re going through hell, keep walking, even if it’s only baby steps, one tiny step at a time.
  • Stumbling is normal as is late night insomnia with the dreaded “what if’s” relentlessly circling in your brain.
  • Bald can be beautiful.  Let wig wearing be fun ~ try new styles & colors!
  • People say dumb things.
  • There are good and bad nurses/doctors who sometimes remember and sometimes forget that we are all human.
  • Double mastectomy isn’t a death sentence to your femininity even when it feels that way.
  • You will find what you are looking for so FACE THE SUN!  face-the-sun
  • Your body, your decision.
  • YOU are the Boss of Your Life so BE the Boss.
  • If you don’t want something done to you, then don’t do it.
  • Speak up when you don’t understand.
  • This is Your Body so be in touch with it, talk with it, be kind to it…it’s fighting for Your Life!
  • Now’s the time to blossom ~ You have the Power and you’ve always had it!
  • If you were like me, you shy-ed away from your power, but in having breast cancer, I have refound my power which encourages me to blossom!

I want you to know that I am here for you, I’ve walked this journey.

  I’m still on the path enduring everyday along with the rest of humanity.

Life is what you make of it, so make it good for you!

Happy Sunday ~ or for you ice cream lovers ~ Happy Sundae!