In the womb for 5 years…she’s been growing, evolving, both inspiring and terrifying me…and I’m ecstatic to announce her birth THIS SEPTEMBER! I’ve already picked out the sweetest name…
My Guru Cancer: You Don’t Have to Fight to Find True Freedom from the C-Word
A classic Bethany overshare of the ups, downs, and turnarounds of my cancer journey, this boobliography gifts you a roadmap for transforming any nightmare into a blessing. Yes, cancer may have rendered me infertile with two new weird AF boobs, but it’s not stopping me from birthing this book baby into the world.
It takes a village! Will you support me?
Here are 4 ways to start now:
1. Joinmy launch team by clicking this link. Two free gifts will magically appear in your inbox and you’ll have access to the latest book baby scoop + upcoming events.
3. Help me spread the word by sharing posts, tagging #mygurucancer, and being that person in conversations who says, “OMG! I know this awesomesauce lady who learned how to enjoy cancer! Buy her book in September at bethanywebb.com.”
4. Reach out if you have connections. Podcasts, speaking engagements, interviews, articles…any way I can share this book baby with as many people as possible. Email me at email@example.com.
It’s my hope that everyone finds true freedom from cancer; a freedom that exists with or without cancer cells in the body. If I can do it, anyone can. SO much gratitude for you, for life, and #mygurucancer…stay tuned 🙂
The most important ingredient in healthy eating has absolutely nothing to do with food. It’s not about being vegan, paleo, keto, vegetarian, ayurvedic, or a raw foodie. Nor is it about ditching sugar, carbs, gluten, trans fat, dairy, soy, GMO’s, or red meat.
This ingredient is free and accessible anytime, anywhere. It’s actually quite medicinal and has zero negative side effects. It pairs beautifully with any way of eating. Would you like a taste?
It’s called PEACE.
With so much conflicting information and health fads around diet, it’s no wonder we all get so freaked out about food. Add a cancer diagnosis (or any health condition) to the mix and it’s the perfect recipe to turn the art and joy of eating, shopping, and cooking into a frustrating and fearful experience.
Before cancer – especially in the 8 years prior to my diagnosis – I was a really healthy eater. Mostly plant-based, organic, with minimal dairy, gluten, and processed sugar. I did cleanses 2-3 times per year and exercised regularly. And cancer still had a party in this yogini body. I do feel nutrition is super important which is why it has been a huge part of my healing plan. It can also be a source of stress.
Here’s a popular mindset that use to send me into panic mode…until I added a question mark.
“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.”
Let’s explore this belief together using The Work of Byron Katie. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Can you 100% know for sure what every bite of food is doing to each cell in your body right now AND in the future? Are you some kind of magical medical psychic with X-ray vision?
I call BS (Belief System). I know people who eat fast food every day and they don’t have cancer. I’m the healthiest eater in my family and the only one with the C word on my resumé. And I can also find ways that it’s true ~ there’s plenty of research and I do feel better when I eat better. But can I absolutely know it’s an irrefutable fact? No. And you may find a “yes.” Both answers are valid ~ it’s all about what’s true for you. And it’s so worth taking a look at the cause and effect of being this thought.
How do you react, what happens when you believe that every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it? How do you live your life?
Anxiety, fear, guilt, shame…Mind goes back and forth like a ping pong ball – is this good or bad? I overthink everything and get overwhelmed. I compare myself with others and feel ashamed if I eat a piece of pizza or drink a beer. The joy of eating disappears. I become controlling and then exhausted. My body is tense, my stomach contracts. Jaw clenches, breath shortens, and my heart races. This sounds like the ideal internal environment for digesting a meal, eh?
Who would you be without the thought? (Whaaaat!?!? But I NEED this belief in order to put healthy food in my body.)
Oh really? Test it.
Hmmmm….Without the thought, I actually feel more relaxed and at ease. I’m enjoying the meal that’s in front of me. More present and eating becomes a mindful meditation. I relish in the flavors, textures, and smells. My body is breathing more fully and my stomach softens. I pay attention to how my body feels afterwards too. If I don’t feel so hot, it gives me a clear direction for the next meal. Or not. No self blame or shame. I can research in peace. I notice I crave clean, real foods more often. It’s a natural happening rather than a requirement. Cooking is a true joy – I become more creative and inspired.
Turn the thought around…how could the opposite be true?
“Every time you eat or drink, you are NOT either feeding disease or fighting it?”
Where is the stress? Is it in the actual food or is it in what you’re thinking and believing about it? It’s more stressful in my head. Then the body reacts to the beliefs and creates a pretty shitty inner environment for digesting anything, let alone healing a disease.
Now that my mind is clearer, I’m free to eat however I choose, WITH a side helping of PEACE.
There is no one healthy way to eat. Bodies are unique and go through many changes and seasons as they grow up. What works now may be totally different in a few years (or even next week!). What’s best for your body may be different than mine. So I stay in tune with my body, my business. And I’ve learned a lot.
During treatment, it felt really clear for me to eat an organic, plant-based diet and eliminate meat (other than fish), dairy, sugar, soy, alcohol, and caffeine. I started my day with ginger & turmeric tea and a green juice or smoothie. Click here to see more details. And some people rock mac n cheese throughout all of chemo – that’s ok too! Since treatment has ended, I’m more Flexitarian. I’m also traveling a lot and still watch mind get tempted with stress around food. It’s my practice and peace is my priority.
Cancer has totally upped my game in the kitchen…cooking is a joyful meditation. I’m that annoying person who posts pics of her food on FB ~ many people have asked for recipes so I created a new page on my site. If you want to get alerts for new recipes, follow my facebook page. Here’s a taste…
Organic Baked Potato topped w/Yellow Split Pea Curry, Sautéed Kale/Beet/Onion/Garlic/Chickpea/Lemon Medley, Green Onions, Parsley, Cilantro, & Broccoli Sprouts
Organic Split Pea Yellow Curry over Cauliflower/Quinoa Rice w/side of Swiss Chard and Red Potatoes
Ayurvedic Spiced Latté
So what’s on your plate?
If you’re ready to put a little more peace on it, join our upcoming Inner Peace Retreat April 27-29th in the Texas Hill Country. You’ll have an entire weekend of nourishing food for your mind and body with the help of a Private Chef, 2 Certified Facilitators of The Work, and Inquiry + Yoga Therapy Sessions. Save $50 when you register before Tuesday, March 13th!
Ok, I’d like to have an open and honest chat about different avenues of healing and how I’ve struggled. Us cancer patients/thrivers want to support ourselves in every way possible to both cure cancer now and forever ~ we see lots of doctors, read books, talk to fellow cancer peeps, and do research online. Actually, we do A LOT of research online which can sometimes lead to exciting discoveries and more often, it leads to a full on-set of Google-itus (panic attack + frozen in fear + holy-shit-everything-causes-cancer-including-the-treatments-I’m-going-to-die-and-it-won’t-be-pretty syndrome). Just me?
Cancer can be treated different ways. There is the more common conventional route, also known as modern medicine, which usually includes a combo of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and/or hormone therapies. And there is the alternative route, also known as natural medicine, which treats cancer with various natural modalities such as nutrition, juicing, cleansing, herbs, supplements, mind/body work, vitamin infusions, and other therapies.
I’m noticing most people fall into one camp or the other.
I seem to be a rare bird. Someone who sees SO MUCH love, knowledge, value, and benefit in BOTH worlds. This is why I chose to do a combined approach for healing. I had a good experience while undergoing 18 months of cancer treatment and if you could see me now, you would have no clue that I have been through 5 months of aggressive chemo, 2 surgeries, 5 ½ weeks of radiation, and am currently on Tamoxifen. I look and feel great, and I attribute this to going into the experience with a clear mind and supporting myself with many natural ways of healing too: yoga, inquiry, acupuncture, nutrition, juicing, supplements, emotional releasing, and sound healing to name a few. So yes, I do drugs and nature.
I’m a plant-based organic-eating yogini who also believes in science-based medicine, and this has been one of my biggest challenges: the war between conventional and alternative medicine. They trash the shit out of each other!
When trying to support myself in learning natural ways to heal and ease side effects, it was nearly impossible to find an article or study that did not bash chemo, radiation, and surgery. Statements like “chemo only creates cancer and kills people,” “the cancer will come back even worse if you do conventional medicine,” “it’s all a big pharma conspiracy ~ they are just trying to keep you sick so they can make money.”
As someone who said yes to what my conventional doctors recommended, this created a lot of fear and shame. I reached a point where it just felt kinder to myself to stop consulting the almighty Google and focus on being present with myself.
But then there’s a flip side. When reading articles about conventional medicine or talking to some of my doctors, I noticed many would immediately discredit natural therapies as pure “quackery,” and completely ignore the many accounts of people being healed, for years, without any use of conventional medicine. “That’s impossible. A total waste of time and money. How dare they take advantage of these vulnerable human beings.” Then there are also stories of naturopathic doctors who have mysteriously gone missing after claiming they found a cure for cancer. Or they are faced with legal charges making their medical practice illegal.
As someone who has experienced so many benefits from my yoga & meditation practices, eating a clean diet, doing acupuncture, and incorporating more supplements, this left me feeling frustrated and annoyed that doctors weren’t more interested in this. “Hey – look at me! I’m actually enjoying cancer! Don’t ya wanna know why/how?”
And if the overwhelming amount of conflicting information isn’t enough, I see people harshly judging each other for their choices in treatment, both in person and also all over social media, forums, & online.
It’s tough. I don’t know what is true and what is not. I see valuable points on each side. I’m not a doctor, a scientist, or an expert with healing plants. All I have is my experience of the cancer journey and this part has been hard for me. I have felt torn, confused, and overwhelmed…oh wait, stress causes cancer too! Ahhhhh!!!!
I know people who have died after the use of conventional medicine. I know people who are completely healed by it. I know people who have died after the use of natural medicine. I know people who are healed or in the process of healing from it. There are bonuses and risks in both paths; neither carries a guaranteed cure. There are good days and hard days in both paths too, neither is a joyous party 100% of the time.
So why can’t we all just get along? Why can’t we just accept that there is more than one way to heal cancer? Why do we need to put down another healing path in order to share and promote our own? Think about it. If you are really set in your beliefs about medicine (or anything), in which scenario are you more willing to change them? When someone comes at you with insults or when someone invites you to an open-hearted conversation rooted in experience and research?
In my medical utopia, I see both sides coming together as one. Dropping the judgments and criticism, the shaming and anger, and being more open to learning from each other. We all have the same goal: to cure cancer and live long, happy, healthy lives.
So how can we end this war?
Simple. I can control every word that is posted on the internet and every word that comes out of your mouth. Easy peasy. Right?
It starts with me. I can stop trashing conventional and alternative medicine for trashing each other. I can stop seeing them as two separate sides in my own mind. I can focus on the wonderful and helpful ways I have healed from cancer and share them with others. I can stop being defensive/taking things personally when someone questions my treatment choices. I can be open and excited to learn from others who did not choose the same healing path. I can be a compassionate, non-judgmental listener when someone complains about their experience. I can make peace within myself over any shame or guilt I have carried for my own choices.
Ok, this sounds great…but HOW?
The Work of Byron Katie. I take my stressful thoughts and judgments about doctors, medicine, treatment, myself, and others to inquiry. I sit in meditation with the 4 questions and turnarounds and I free myself from the war within. It leaves me more open, more available, and more authentic with myself and others.
When I read articles or watch documentaries, I not only take notes on what I’d like to incorporate into my own life or ask my doctors about, I take notes on stressful thoughts that come up from the words that I read. See…it all can be a gift. Bringing me back to my work. My awakening.
When I do my work, my mind opens to see that my “medical utopia dream” is actually more of a reality than I realize. I remember that my conventional doctors talked to me about nutrition, yoga, meditation, acupuncture…they even recommended writing. My Chinese Medical doctor encouraged my use of conventional therapies and he offered acupuncture and herbs that not only helped to ease side effects, they helped the medicine to work more efficiently. Last week, my Dermatologist recommended using essential oils for scarring. How cool!
My practice keeps coming back to this: There is no single right or wrong way to heal. We all do what is right for us. For me, the most important part of my healing path is peace.
If you’re looking to find more peace around any type of diagnosis (from cancer, to allergies, to low back pain), I invite you to join me and my dear friend, Helena, for our upcoming online class series, “Making Peace with Disease using The Work of Byron Katie” that starts December 4th. Save $30 when you register by tomorrow. You can join from the comfort of your home and even stay in your PJ’s. I won’t judge 😉
And let’s keep this conversation flowing…how else can we work together to create a more harmonious, healing experience for all?
Today is the 2-year anniversary of my diagnosis. I fully celebrate this day. I’m weird like that 😉 In the writing I did while awaiting test results, “Making Peace during the Waiting Game,” my inner work revealed a new definition for “diagnosis.” That word use to sound scary, permanent, a future-crumbling end…YOU’RE SCREWED LADY! Through meditative inquiry, I came to realize it’s none of these things.
It’s a new direction in life. It’s an arrow from the universe that says, “Ok, Love —> this way.”
Directions for the immediate moment: do nothing, breathe, stay present, find a doctor, show up to the appointment, question any stressful thoughts, take medicine (or not), go for a walk, or sit in nature. Directions may encompass a larger calling: change your career, help others through sharing your experience, pick up a paintbrush, volunteer, adopt a new workout routine, develop healthier eating habits, move to a new city, travel to an exotic land, do what you love.
Remembering THE call
As I reflect on the moment I got the call, I am met with fond memories. It was actually one of the sweetest, most intimate moments I have ever had with my husband. Feeling the squeeze of his hand when I answered the phone and was greeted by the doctor’s voice. The way time slowed down when we heard the words. How we held each other, trembling, crying, after we hung up the phone.
How I became a witness to the mind going in a million stories and scary movies, watching my body dry heaving over a toilet. I experienced pain, but it was not painful. It was pain with the absence of suffering.
The image of my mom’s face on the iPhone screen telling me she is booking a flight to come see me the next day. I remember the comforting hug at the airport, not wanting to let go.
I’m crying right now writing this. It was beautiful.
Those of you who have followed my journey through treatment to becoming cancer-free have seen that freedom from cancer can exist with or without cancer cells growing in your body. It’s possible to experience peace, joy, humor, connection, love, in what you think would be a nightmare.
So what are your nightmares?
Is it receiving a life-threatening diagnosis? Finding out that a loved one has tragically passed away? Going bankrupt? Or maybe it’s losing everything in a hurricane ~ a recent experience for many families in Houston and Florida.
The Work of Byron Katie is mental medicine. If these nightmares live only in your head, The Work is preventive medicine. It’s how to meet all of your fears, worries, anxieties with understanding and compassion. Identifying your stressful thoughts about each situation and then bringing them to inquiry can loosen the grip of your anxiety. It can help build resilience so that you can handle whatever life brings you. Coz let’s face it, we’re not in control of this thang called life.
I now prefer to explore my nightmares. I often ask myself:
How could this be good?
What is it teaching me?
Before I was diagnosed, I made a list of all of the ways that having cancer could make my life better. You can find the list here. I am happy to report that they all came true. And there have been countless more unforeseen blessings. This exercise + more examples can also be found in Katie’s first book, “Loving What Is,” ~ go to the chapter titled “Making Friends with the Worst That Can Happen.”
Over the past few months, I’ve been investigating my fears of the cancer returning terminally.
I have terminal cancer…and that means:
Cancer is killing me.
It’s not fair.
Death is painful.
My family will suffer.
It’s my fault.
God is punishing me.
I’m questioning my beliefs and finding out how it could be good if I received this news. It has left me with a fascination and curiosity about death. So far, the only thing that’s really dying are beliefs. One by one.
When a friend’s mother was told by doctors that the cancer had spread and she only had a few months to live, her mother responded with, “Ok. My diagnosis is to live every day to its fullest.” Now that’s a clear direction. Two years later, she passed in peace.
Looking forward to sharing my discoveries with you. xoxo
It’s been 2 1/2 months since my final reconstruction surgery. Recovery has had its’ ups and downs ~ physically, mentally, & emotionally as described in my last post about meeting big emotions. Although I technically finished treatment on May 4th ~ it really hasn’t felt that way.
In addition to the crazy places my mind went, all of my follow-up appointments happened to fall during the month of June: my plastic surgeon, breast surgeon, oncologist, & gynecologist, as well as my physical therapist twice per week. Add a CT scan and a vaginal sonogram to the mix…June was rockin.
It helps me to remind myself of WHY I have these appointments. They are FOR me. To support me, to make sure things are healing properly, and to monitor this body so it can continue to be free from cancer. My job is to show up and continue to free my mind of cancerous thinking.
I love physical therapy (aka private yoga therapy paid by insurance).
I was able to work with the amazing Tiffany again ~ she is the one who helped me with cording after my mastectomy. I call her my “Boob Whisperer” as her main goal was to help my boobs become more even by breaking up the scar tissue from radiation. I didn’t realize how much the tissue underneath the skin was affected from radiation until I got my final implants ~ the scar tissue has been pulling leftie up and out.
I’m not going to lie ~ I was NOT cool with my new boobs at first. Leftie was a couple of inches higher and if you were standing to the left of me, my left nipple would be looking straight at you saying, “Hey – I’ve never seen life from this angle before.” Rightie looks pretty good until I flex my pec muscle ~ it then shrivels up into a squashed raisin. I can get self-conscious of it when I’m in certain yoga poses and when I’m intimate with my husband.
I also adopted a daily practice of obsessively staring them down in the mirror, examining their weirdness from every angle, comparing them to my gift-from-God original breasts, and then crying. A lot.
As healthy as this practice was, I realized another approach would be more beneficial for my sanity. Investigating my stressful thoughts about body image using The Work of Byron Katie: “I want them to change. They should be even. I want my old breasts back. They are not attractive. It’s not fair.”
These thoughts weigh heavy on my heart. They block me from seeing the miraculous healing that’s taking place. Can I love my body just as it is? Yes, I can love it in all its glorious weirdness. Do I need to despise my body in order to take action? No. I can do my part from a place of peace – ask the surgeon questions, go to physical therapy, do my home practice, buy flattering bras, be gentle with myself, and commit to my inner work. There’s also the option of a revision surgery in December which was recommended by my surgeon. I’m open. We’ll see.
This is all an ongoing practice for me ~ I am a work in progress. And what’s cool is although there are moments of struggle, I’m still living a very full and happy life.
I am looking and feeling better every day. My energy is coming back. I have NO doctor appointments for 3 WHOLE MONTHS (a new paradigm!). And best of all, my last CT scan was CLEAR!
I learned that according to doctors, I have been in remission for over a year already! The start date is the day I was pronounced with “no evidence of disease” which was after my mastectomy & lymph node dissection on 4/18/16. The words “in remission” and “survivor” don’t really fit for me ~ I prefer “cured” and “thriver” unless there’s proof otherwise.
I have lived in Texas for 17 years and every summer, I have cursed the heat. Last year was the summer of expander boobs and radiation. So now, I’m embracing spending as much of summers in “Not Texas” as possible 🙂
This summer seems to have a water theme! I just went to Vero Beach, Florida to visit my family. Walking the beach, body surfing, kayaking, and relaxing with my family was the perfect transition.
It finally feels like treatment is OVER!
Tomorrow, I’m heading to cancer camp (YES – that’s a thing!) hosted by First Descents in Montana for a white water/kayaking adventure with my friend, Michelle. We met in Spain 10 years ago and she was diagnosed 6 months after me. How funny it is that at one time we were touring Spanish vineyards, sipping Cava, & partying in clubs all night…now we text boob pictures to each other and ask questions like, “How much hair do you have left? How are your boobs doing? Can I see them? Do yours ripple like this?” as well as so many words of encouragement. I can’t wait to see her.
After Montana, I’ll spend a week in Colorado and then in August, a romantic trip to Tulum with my husband. I am so looking forward to this time with him where we can just be a young, regular ol’ couple, in love, in paradise, in celebration of a new chapter of our life. We’ve been through a lot over the past few years.
Self-care continues with daily movement, inquiry, and eating organic, plant-based meals + fish & eggs. I’m mostly free of gluten, soy, dairy, & processed sugar. If I splurge, it’s for pizza, wine, and chocolate…and it’s worth it! More on my lifestyle diet here.
To boost my immune system further, I’ve started to get into medicinal mushrooms like Reishi (which I took as a supplement) and Chaga (which I drink as a tea or add to coffee). I still love acupuncture and go once or twice a month and after my trips, I’ll start massages with an oncology-trained therapist.
People often tell me, “It’s amazing how positive you are all of the time about cancer!” Lol…I love your story of me 😉 And perhaps you have not read my blog. Yes, I have found a way to navigate the cancer journey with peace, grace, humor, & joy. The entire experience has been and continues to be the biggest blessing of my entire life. And guess what? I still freak the f*ck out sometimes too!
Some of the biggest emotional rollercoasters have been felt during this past month AFTER I completed cancer treatment. This took me by surprise…I mean, I’m done – right? There’s NO cancer – right? What’s going on here?
When I was in the middle of chemo, I attended a cancer support group. With my bald head and tiny body, I shared that I was surprised at how well I was doing ~ I felt pretty darn good compared to the stories I had heard and my attitude remained clear and positive. Then the ladies said, “Oh…you just wait until after treatment. You’re going to feel horrible.” Then I went on to hear about how terrible their lives are, the side effects from treatment (which honestly didn’t really seem related to treatment), and how they live in constant fear of a recurrence. As I witnessed their suffering, I could see so clearly that it was in their minds ~ if they could just let go of these stories, this victimhood, they would have a happy life (insert spiritual arrogance here). Why can’t they just see this?
Well, I’ll tell you why. When you’re in the midst of suffering, you are bombarded with a sea of stressful thoughts, images, physical exhaustion, & BIG emotions. A dark cloud looms over you, covering your eyes, so that all you can see is crap here and crap there. You are blind and stuck in a shitty mental movie. How do I know?
I’ve been here. And I’ve come to realize that depression, fear, anger, resentment, loneliness, and disappointment are not a problem. Do you want to know what makes these moments unbearable? It’s thoughts like…
I should be happy.
There’s something wrong with me.
It will get worse.
These feelings will never go away.
These BIG emotions fluttered in and out after my final reconstruction surgery. They were also fueled by the fact that during recovery, I was feeling very disappointed with the cosmetic outcome and also developed an upper respiratory infection that was accompanied by an intense cough…I coughed so much that I threw a rib out of place and vomited a few times. I was whiney, annoyed, and just wanted to get back to my normal life. I didn’t want to do The Work. I didn’t feel like doing movement. I’d curl up into my bed and cry. And then came in the above self-judgment and stressful thoughts.
How do you react, what happens when you believe that you should be happy, when you’re not? I am even more frustrated, ashamed, disappointed. I harden inside and want to close myself off from the world. I see images of the “old Bethany” who was peaceful and free – where did she go? COME BACK!!!! I don’t see the possibility of a happy future.
Who am I, feeling this way, without these thoughts? I’m here for me. I rock me through tears, I ask others to hold me. I feel the support of the bed. I tell myself that it’s ok, you’re doing great, and this too will pass. I am so sweetly connected with myself. These BIG emotions are welcomed and I let myself fully FEEL.
One night, I experienced what one might call an “emotional exorcism.” I was sobbing, hovered over the toilet and vomiting. My body was shaking…I felt 100% completely out of control. There was no choice but to surrender into grief. Grieving for the changes in my body and my life. My husband encouraged me to keep letting it go, which I did for what felt like hours. I awoke the next morning and cried more. I went to Acupuncture and cried through that as well.
And then, a shift.
I began to feel lighter, relaxed, at peace. My smile and sense of humor returned. Life looks sparkley again. I feel like myself again. I have more energy and feel excited and hopeful for the future.
For me, these BIG emotions could not be bypassed. It felt important and necessary for me to really feel them. Let them have a life. Let them move through me. And now that I’m on “the other side,” I can go back to inquiry ~ identify what I was thinking and believing ~ and continue to become enlightened by suffering.
BIG emotions are a natural part of life and the cancer journey. Suffering teaches me humility, connection, self-care, and the power of the mind.
So to the women who I judged at the cancer support group: I am so sorry. You are entitled to feel however you feel. There is nothing wrong with you. How can I help?
There are many ways to deal with emotions ~ venting it out may be the best way for you. For me, it’s often not enough. Feeling my way through it and questioning what’s beneath it is how I find the most freedom. What works for you?
With love & gratitude for ALL of the cancer journey (and that includes suffering),
After my double mastectomy last April, I remember reading an online article about how women are now forced to live with prosthetic body parts because of breast cancer. I thought to myself, “Wow, that sounds horrible. I guess I’m really lucky that I didn’t need to go through that too.” I even felt a little shame about it, “I got off pretty easy.” I had an image of these women in my mind: they are suffering, cancer victims.
Flash forward 3 months…I had just finished radiation and was planning a month-long celebration vacation. This was the first time I was flying post-surgery so I asked my plastic surgeon if there was anything I needed to know about traveling with tissue expander boobs ~ ummmm….do they set off the security alarms? Can they blow up at a certain altitude?
He said there’s nothing to worry about and his office could give me a letter explaining that I’m in breast cancer treatment. As I read through the letter in the waiting room of his office, my heart skipped a beat:
“Bethany is undergoing breast reconstruction and currently has prosthetic devices in her chest.”
Wait a minute. Say what? Prosthetic devices?
Pointing to my tattas, I asked the assistant at the front desk, “Are these prosthetic devices?”
“Yes,” she responded.
I burst out laughing. There I was imagining these poor victimized women with their prosthetic body parts and guess what? I’m one of them!
But yet, I’m not a victim ~ it’s not so bad having temporary anti-gravity boobies (which by the way, don’t blow up on airplanes). Are they weird as hell? Yes. And with clothes on, they look like boobs with an extra perk.
So…What are Tissue Expanders?
Tissue expanders are temporary implants that replace women’s breast tissue after a double mastectomy is performed (often, and in my case – it’s done in the same surgery). The outer layer is much harder than a regular implant and there is a small round area at the top of the expander for filling. They serve 4 main purposes:
It emotionally supports a woman as she gets to wake up from surgery with some sort of breasts.
They stretch the skin to prepare it for the final implants/breast reconstruction surgery.
They hold the skin in place as it goes through radiation, which can shrink/tighten the skin.
So the woman can be overly excited to receive her final implants because gosh darn…they’re gonna be better than these!
I also think tissue expanders could use a new name. Please choose from the following:
Boobs of Steel
Bionic Super Hero Breasts
Boobie Fill Tuesdays ~ the Expanding Process
Starting one week after surgery, I visited the plastic surgeon for weekly boob fills on Tuesdays. This is another way of saying that I got to see my boobs GROW a half or full size every week!!! He places a syringe full of saline in the top of the expander (the silver part). I don’t feel any pain ~ just a little pressure ~ and then sure enough ~ bigger boobs! Yes, I did take a video (how was I his 1st patient to do that???) and no, I’m not sharing it here.
I really enjoyed experimenting with different boob sizes. The expanding process happens until you reach your desired size, which for me is a small C. Anything larger than that would look a little too porn star on my small frame. He then blows up the “used to have cancer” side to be a size larger because it will be going through radiation which shrinks the skin.
So I spent the summer of 2016 with a leftie super boob!
The Hardest Part for Me…
I had heard from most women that tissue expanders weren’t painful ~ they were weird and uncomfortable at times ~ but not painful. So I was surprised to experience some pretty intense holy shit pain during the expanding process. Like I mentioned before, the fills were not painful. It was the time between fills. Because my tissue expanders are placed underneath my pec muscles, my pecs received an intense stretch when I got a boob fill. This then put extra pressure on my rib cage and surrounding shoulder girdle muscles. During this time, I also had a rare complication called “cording” which made it difficult to fully move and stretch my left arm. The fact that I’m a tiny person may have made it more difficult too. What supported me the most is physical therapy, yoga stretching, breathing, and yes – pain medication. Once again, I was confronted with my thoughts about medicine and you know what? It helped me immensely.
Life with Tissue Expanders
After the filling process was complete, the pain disappeared. The expanders did a great job of holding the skin in place during radiation. Now I am in “the waiting game” for my final surgery which is scheduled for May 4th. My plastic surgeon tends to wait longer than usual for the final reconstruction ~ 8-12 months after radiation. Since the skin can shrink during and even months after radiation, the longer time frame gives my skin plenty of time to fully heal, which will lead to a better aesthetic outcome and a less likely chance of complications, such as rippling and capsular contracture. I figure that I’ll have these boobs the rest of my life, so what’s a few extra months?
During the waiting game, I am still living a full life. I don’t really notice them much until I look in the mirror for my nightly ritual of massaging oils & lotions onto the skin to help the healing process.
Do I regret choosing this surgery?
To be honest, I have had moments where I have questioned my surgery decision. There has been a natural grieving process for my breasts ~ they have permanently changed (and they were pretty fabulous before!). I’ve had to be gentle with myself through many tears. Sometimes I feel insecure and not “natural” or as “feminine” as I used to be ~ more on this in a separate blog post. My mind has told me “A lumpectomy would have been easier. I made the wrong decision. I won’t like my final breasts.” Yet, is that true for me?
Actually, it’s not true. A lumpectomy + radiation would have made my left breast much smaller, so I would have needed to do breast augmentation on the right side to match (this involves more scarring as my right nipple would be removed and moved up). I am also reminded that my natural breast tissue was incredibly dense and lumpy ~ it was difficult to decipher the cancer lumps vs. natural lumps. I don’t know if I’d ever have cancer again, but I was guaranteed to have lumps again which means I’d need to go through a lifetime of “find the lump/mammo/ultrasound/biopsy/wait for results.” There are many ways to spend my time and if I have the option, less time in a doctors office works for me.
So…Do I regret it?
NO. I’m happy and grateful for this path. It’s the right choice for me. Without the stress, I’m free to be completely entertained by my boobs of steel. I show them off quite frequently. In fact, I recently spent a day at the Ten Thousand Waves Spa in Santa Fe and soaked nude in the women’s natural spring hot tub. I felt free, confident, and at peace. The other 2 women in the tub left 2 minutes after I arrived, but hey ~ no need to build a stressful story around that. I had the place to myself for 2 hours!
When a woman asks me, “what do they feel like?” I usually immediately grab her hand and place it on my breast or I’ll offer to show her what they look like in the bathroom.
When someone hugs me, they often ask, “oh – am I hurting you?” Dude – I’m the one with the hard-ass, indestructible bowling ball boobs that dig into your chest when we hug…”Am I hurting you?”
PS ~ they can NOT be used as massage tools. I tried with my husband and he wasn’t into it. However, they CAN be used to hold a plate of food while watching Netflix.
They keep me in my yoga practice. Daily stretching, movement, & some strengthening is choice-less for me.
I am also free to LOVE the anti-gravity bonus…you see, I didn’t realize just how much my natural boobs yanked on my shoulders & neck until I had weightless breasts. There are tiny, strappy, tank tops and bras that I can now wear and I LOVE it! Most of the time, I don’t even need a bra (except to cover my nipples in some shirts).
They don’t move. At all. So rebounding on my trampoline doesn’t hurt anymore. I don’t need to wear 2 sports bras while running (ok, I actually don’t run…but if I did, major support was needed!). So I created this facebook video to showcase this talent…
Final Surgery ~ May 4th!
I am beyond stoked for my final surgery, which is coming up in less than ONE month! Time has actually flown by and I am so okay with that. I have had fun designing my final breasts with my husband ~ we googled boob images online and showed my plastic surgeon. PS – googling boobs can bring up some pretty disturbing images…
The final ones will be much softer, closer together, and more natural looking. I will actually be able to have cleavage again! I’ve longed for the day I can look down and see a butt crack on my chest again. I plan to wear a lot of slutty clothes after May ~ tube tops, backless shirts, bikinis…bring it!
I choose to focus on the bright side of this process, the cancer bonuses and what I’m learning about myself. How I’m becoming more loving, accepting, and patient with my body and mind. How I can find humor in anything. This isn’t painting an airy fairy image over everything ~ it’s actually reality. And when I’m feeling down, The Work of Byron Katie brings me back. It’s a kind universe.
About 2 1/2 weeks after surgery, I received a very special gift from a client & dear friend, Shelby. It was a small plant with a green gem-looking stone hanging over it. She had said that she searched all over for it and thought it was perfect for what I was going through. When I got it, I thought the green stone had some type of healing property ~ I set it on my kitchen island.
I was just starting to feel so much better – physically, mentally, emotionally. Pain was being managed really well (I still claim Midol as the drug that changed everything!) and I was starting to move and exercise my arms again. I noticed that the left side (where I had the armpit surgery) was more restricted & painful than the right. I could feel this thick tendon-like thing in my armpit and down my arm. I showed the plastic surgeon and he said to stretch more. And although it was painful, I continued to gently stretch and move my arms the best that I could. It hurt. But ok, trusting the process.
The next morning, I walked into the kitchen and froze. The green stone on the plant was now a huge, gorgeous monarch butterfly. Just chilling in the middle of my kitchen. My entire being lit up in excitement! Oh my God, what is this? Where did it come from? Turns out the green “stone” was a butterfly cocoon!
Shelby didn’t know this, but butterflies are kind of my thing. I have always loved them and felt a special connection with them. I wrote a poem in 8th grade titled, “I think of myself as a butterfly” and drew a picture of a woman with butterfly wings ~ it made the cover of a booklet distributed at school. I re-wrote the poem when I quit my corporate advertising job and moved to Spain.
For my wedding, we had a butterfly release. We lived at the retreat property where we were married for 4 years and created/ran the business ~ on our last day, we were down by the lake and a butterfly crawled onto our hands.
As I approached surgery, I made the decision that if it were my time to leave this earth as a Bethany, I would return as a butterfly. And I would definitely play adorable butterfly tricks on people and mess with them. In an effort not to freak anyone out before my surgery, I decided to keep this reincarnation plan to myself.
I brought the butterfly gift outside to my balcony and sat in meditation. Before I closed my eyes, I noticed a dragonfly had landed on the railing to my right. This sent “holy shit this is so meant to be” chills down my spine. You see, Shelby has also been deeply affected by cancer ~ she has been a caregiver for 3 of her family members’ journeys with cancer. Her son passed away at the age of 6. Her stories of his courage and wisdom through the process astonished me. She shared with me that there was a point when she was feeling torn about his treatment plan and Clayton said, “Don’t worry Mommy, don’t you know the light is in the doctors too? The light is in everyone.” This brilliant little 6-year old opened my eyes and heart to a new way of looking at surgery and it completely soothed any remaining nerves. Shelby and her family created a foundation – The Clayton Dabney Foundation – to support children with cancer. She said that after he died, dragonflies began appearing in the oddest places. They knew in their hearts, it was Clayton.
Remembering this brought tears. I closed my eyes and breathed. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my face. The sound of the wind whistling through the trees. A swell of gratitude overcame me. Look what I’ve done. Look what I’ve been through. And I’m ok! I’m here. Really here. I began to gently move my arms ~ opening and closing them like wings. When I opened my eyes, the butterfly was doing the same. Stretching her wings for the very first time. The dragonfly continued to watch. More tears fell from my eyes. This is my rebirth. I again remembered a deep purpose-filled connection to this journey and to myself.
I texted Shelby in crazy excitement to share my story along with a photo of Clayton the dragonfly. She said that she had no doubt in her mind that Clayton was with me. I then went for a nature walk with an extra pep in my step. When I returned, the butterfly and the dragonfly were gone.
Later that afternoon, I had a post-op meeting with my breast surgeon and I learned that the arm band thing had a name: Axillary Web Syndrome. An extremely rare complication that can occur after surgery and could last a few months or forever.
Now that I am 6 weeks out of surgery (bilateral mastectomy), I can sum up my experience in 4 sentences:
It was easier than I thought.
It was harder than I thought.
I did it!!!!
It’s all true for me. And ohhhhh, am I excited to share more of my story with you. This post focuses on my experience right before surgery and while in recovery for 2 nights at the hospital – Medical City in Dallas.
The day before surgery
It’s the night before surgery, and a complete calm has washed over me. Today, I posted this on FaceBook:
What I find mindblowing is not too long ago, I was absolutely terrified that I would never feel a sense of calm and acceptance around my surgery decision. Remember? Damn, I love when the mind is wrong.
It all feels so simple now. I’m ready on every possible level – mentally, physically, spiritually. I just show up and it’s a complete surrender. A sweet surrender. The FaceBook comments keep pouring in and each one tugs at my heart strings. Such a collective feeling of oneness.
Tonight, my husband, my mom, and I sat in a circle, lit a candle, and listened to a pre-surgery meditation that was gifted to me by the team at CanSurround. When it finished, we sat in silence, tears in our eyes.
I. Am. Just. So. Ready.
On Monday, April 18th, my alarm went off at 4:45am ~ it was pitch black and I could hear the rain pouring outside. Oddly, I felt excitement ~ it reminded me of going on road trips as a kid. My parents would wake us up at the butt crack of dawn; still half asleep and in pajamas, we’d pile into the car. I’d have a rush of “woohoo, a new adventure!” excitement and would then fall right back asleep. Yes, my parents are smart as this gave them a few hours of peaceful silence before the 3 of us started our “are we there yet? I’m bored! He’s bothering me” chanting.
And now here we are, another new adventure. My mom, Travis, and I gathered in the kitchen with our hospital bags in hand…let’s do this!
I felt this same sense of peace/adrenaline/curiosity for each moment leading up to surgery ~ I even declined the nurse’s offer to take a xanex chill pill before the procedure. “Oh yeah, I am so evolved,” I thought, “I don’t need those stinkin drugs.” (Note: future me said YES to every possible pain-killing drug after surgery). There was one exception where I lost my cool…When we first arrived, we all gathered in the pre-op room. The first nurse that walked in said, “OK, Bethany – what are you having done today?” My first reaction was, “Well, uhhh….shouldn’t YOU know that?! Why are YOU asking ME?”Panic, holy shit, they are so flipping disorganized, you have to be kidding me, how am I supposed to trust them with my body and this HUGE surgery if they don’t even know what the F I’m here for!??!!?
Then I learned that this is standard protocol…hehehehe….They are required to ask you this question when you arrive and I would be asked the same question over and over again by each nurse, volunteer, the breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, anesthesiologist, strangers passing by… I then laughed at my mind and realized they are doing this to be helpful, efficient, avoid mistakes, and oh goodie – I know the answer!
I am here for “a nipple sparing bilateral mastectomy. The breast surgeon will also remove the chemo port, and in the left axilla, she will perform a sentinel node biopsy, with a possible lymph node dissection. The plastic surgeon will insert tissue expanders, with a possible allograft.”
Here it is in English:
Nipple Sparing: I get to keep my nipples. Because the original cancer was a good distance away from my nipple, I am a candidate for nipple conservation. However, this is not a guarantee. The surgeon swipes a sample of the tissue underneath each nipple and tests it to confirm there are no microscopic cancer cells found underneath. If cancer is found, bye-bye nipples. There is also a chance the blood flow to the nipples will not work properly or the skin can die.
Bilateral Mastectomy: the removal of all breast tissue (and cancer!) in both of my breasts.
Chemo Port: this is a medical device that was inserted during a day-surgery before I began chemotherapy in October. It’s a small plastic “plug” that goes under my skin, just above my right breast. Instead of sticking me with multiple needles each time I received chemo, the medicine was delivered directly into my bloodstream via the port. It’s completely painless and made me feel like a super hero being “charged up” with special powers each week. And I’m happy to see it go!
Sentinel Node Biopsy: This is a standard procedure where the sentinel nodes (the first few lymph nodes closest to the breast tumor) are identified, removed, & examined to see if any cancer is present. A dye is injected into the axilla (arm pit area) and it turns a certain color if something is cancerous. Usually 1-3 lymph nodes are removed.
Lymph Node Dissection: If the above procedure shows cancer, this procedure is done which involves removing additional lymph nodes and some of the surrounding tissue. I believe the typical average is 12 lymph nodes and could result in even all of them being removed depending on what the surgeon sees. (NOTE: my surgeon leans more towards the conservative side as there is a lot of recent research that confirms taking out less lymph nodes leads to less complications and radiation cleans up any remaining cancer cells).
Tissue Expanders: After the breast surgeon performs the above procedures, the plastic surgeon replaces the breast tissue with tissue expanders that go underneath the pectoral muscle – they are hard balloon-like temporary implants. After this surgery, they will slowly be filled with saline over 6-8 weeks to help stretch the skin and prepare the boobies for the final implant surgery. You literally get to watch your boobs grow and experiment with different boob sizes! They also hold well during radiation which can shrink the skin.
Allograft: If the tissue expanders do not fit securely underneath the pectoral muscle, the plastic surgeon will add extra tissue (called allograft) to help them stay in place. The tissue comes from donors which sounds creepy, but it’s so deeply cleaned & processed that there is no DNA remaining. Think of it as extra padding.
Going into surgery, I was in complete surrender to the unknown. I love that during my pre-op visits with my surgeons, I asked them what the best ways were to prepare for surgery and they said, “The best thing to prepare is your mind. Trust us. We have your best interests in mind and we want the best possible outcome for you.” So, that’s exactly what I did.
I became child-like a curious. Each person who walked into the pre-op room was smiling, kind. I marveled in wonder while the plastic surgeon drew artistic lines all over my chest with a red marker. He made eye contact with me with a reassuring, “you’re ok. We’ve got this.” My breast surgeon looked so confident and well-rested as she tied her hair up in a bun. This is what they do and they do it well. I watched the fluids enter through my arm. I saw the care and concern in my husband’s and mother’s eyes. Neither wanted to leave my side. My last hug and kiss with each of them was special and intimate, not scary. I loved being wheeled around in a bed! And in a bed in an elevator! The last thing I remember is being wheeled into the operating room under these huge, beautiful lights that looked like colorful honeycombs. I said, “wow…those lights are so beautiful!” And that’s it. Goodnight.
I found out later that right before I started surgery, my breast surgeon went to see my mother. She pointed out a special place to sit in the waiting room. She explained, “your daughter will be on the operating table just on the other side of this same wall. This is where you can be the closest to her.” Wow. The kindness. I also found out that my plastic surgeon wore cowboy boots with his scrubs through my surgery. Gotta love Texas.
I woke up in the recovery room which was full of other patients. We were all separated by curtains. The first thing I remember is a huge intense, painful pressure on my chest; it felt like a giant elephant was sitting on me. I was unable to fully breathe, so I took small, shallow breaths and tried to focus on breathing in my belly. I could tell the nurse was under-staffed and whenever I could get her attention, I asked for ice chips because my mouth was insanely dry. I floated in and out of consciousness and could hear the moaning and groaning of other patients; one woman in particular, “nurse! nurse! It hurts! It hurts soooo much. Help me, please.” Or maybe that was me? The typical amount of time in the recovery room is 1 hour and I was in there for 3 hours – I remember hearing staff members approach the nurse saying, “Bethany’s family is ready to see her now” multiple times. I could picture my mother & husband in the waiting room after 2 EXTRA hours went by saying, “Damnit! I want to see her NOW!” I smiled at the image and went back to sleep.
I awoke to being wheeled into my final recovery room ~ a private room with a beautiful view and this is where I’d stay for 2 nights. I watched my husband, mom, and mother-in-law rush in to see me. Travis reached for my hand, “hey baby, how are you…?!” I smiled and said, “Ok. It’s hard to breathe. It hurts. A lot.” And it did really fucking hurt. Way more than I thought it would, to be honest. I was given a pain pump of morphine ~ they said if I feel pain, I can pump it every 8 minutes when the green light turns on. I thought of some of the other women I talked to who had gone through this surgery, and they said that they didn’t even need the pain pump or maybe used it once. Well…I pumped that shit like it was a hand exercise. And later that evening when it still didn’t seem to relieve the pain, they asked me if I wanted a morphine boost. All of the “I’m so evolved and awesome and don’t need extra medicine” bullshit thoughts vanished and were replaced with:
YES, PLEASE. BRING IT ON.
One unexpected & uncommon side effect of the drugs was that I was unable to pee on my own. I would try and try…I pressed on my stomach, let water run in the faucet, put my hand in hot water, my mom played waterfall noises from her iPhone, I counted tiles to distract my mind…nothing. What’s cool about modern medicine is if you can’t pee on your own – they can do it for you! I had to get catheterized 3 times…each time, they removed about a liter and a half of urine. The mild discomfort was nothing compared to the sweet Jesus relief I experienced when it was done. After the 2nd day in the hospital, I finally began to go on my own which was one of the most exciting things in the world at that time. The simple joys…If you are ever in the presence of someone who can not pee, here are 3 things not to say/do:
“Just try harder.”
“We really need you to be able to go to the bathroom on your own.”
If I politely ask for everyone to leave the room so I can try to pee in solitude, LEAVE THE ROOM instead of standing close enough to me so that my knee is brushing the back of your thigh while you make my bed. This is especially true if we just met 30 seconds ago.
Easier than I thought
All jokes aside, the staff was amazing. And even though the pain level was so much more intense than I expected, there were so, so, so many things that were BETTER than I expected. Examples:
The moment I saw my new breasts. Before surgery, I dreaded this moment. I imagined it on so many occasions and was brought to tears every time – I saw me standing in the hospital mirror, seeing the first glimpse of my creepy-looking-mutilated-use-to-be-beautiful-and-never-will-be-again breasts. Then horror and regret filled my mind. Well, reality turned out to be pretty awesome. I lifted up my gown, looked in the mirror and thought, “wow – they look pretty damn good! Hey honey, did you see these?” I had adorable little A-cup breasts. The clear surgical tape was wrapped around me like a bra and I could see some swelling & discoloring from bruising, which is expected.
The breast surgeon’s execution was brilliant. The only incisions she made were along the outer, lower part of each breast. I believe she has magical powers; somehow, she was able to remove the chemo port by my right collar bone AND do a half lymph node dissection in my left armpit through these incisions. The scarring is healing beautifully and is barely visible now.
The plastic surgeon is an artist and creative genius. He was able to secure the tissue expanders without any allografting and he noticed that I already had a scar on my belly (it was from having a mole removed when I was a teenager). He threaded the tubing for the two drains to exit through this scar so that I wouldn’t have any extra scars on my body. The drains were easy to keep clean and came out in 2 weeks. It did take a little creativity on figuring out how to hide my drains when in public – a sweet fanny pack I bought in Barcelona 9 years ago did the trick.
I can still feel my breasts. The skin on the inner & upper breast still has sensation! It’s very common for women to completely lose all sensation of their breasts after a mastectomy because sensory nerves are removed with the breast tissue. I jokingly had asked the breast surgeon, “you mean if my breasts caught on fire, I would have no idea?” I could joke but this was something I was depressed and anxious about…sensation meant a lot to me personally and sexually with my husband. I did hear from another woman that yes, she did lose sensation but “other senses are heightened if you know what I mean…;)”
The food in the hospital was incredible! Assuming hospital food would suck ass, I had called the hospital to let them know I’d be bringing my own food. She asked what my dietary needs were and I explained that I eat all organic, vegetarian + fish & eggs, and no dairy, soy, sugar, or gluten. She said, “sure, no problem – our chef (what they have a chef?) is starting to lean towards using more organic ingredients these days so I’ll make sure he has plenty of items on hand during your stay with us.” For breakfasts, I ate an organic egg omelette w/fresh veggies and a side of organic fruit. Soup & salad for lunch and one dinner was organic salmon, sautéed kale, and sweet potato mash – Travis and my mom ordered a plate too and we all enjoyed it together. I felt pretty darn pampered.
People are so kind. I have now collected thousands of examples of this throughout the entire journey and there was never a shortage of kindness and love in this part. In fact, I think it amplified. The staff, my family, friends, all of the flowers and thoughtful messages…. everyone and everything was/is here for me.
There are so many more blessings I discovered throughout the recovery process as well as extremely tough moments of physical & emotional pain. Much more to share with you.
Right now, I’m grateful to now sit in reflection of it all.
Spring is definitely bringing a lot of change & transformation – I always love this time of year. Lots of updates…
Well, my friends, as of March 2nd ~ C-Love is officially DONE! Although overall I had a pretty darn good experience going through chemotherapy ~ it feels SO GOOD to have one big part of this treatment plan complete. If you missed my Nae Nae Bell Ring, you can check it out here.
I will write more about my time in C-Love and will also include some tips on all-natural cures for various side effects. I attribute my positive experience mainly to my mindset: I chose to gratefully receive chemo as a healing cleanse instead of fearing it as a poisonous necessary evil. And it worked. More on how I got to this genuine space of gratitude later…HINT: The Work of Byron Katie 😉
My hair is coming in much more quickly than I anticipated! It’s been extremely entertaining; it’s like all of my hair follicles became over-excited to jump start again, which produced a strange layer of fuzz on MY FACE and neck. Yep, I shaved my face on more than one occasion. It seems to have simmered down for now. My head feels like a combo of a soft bunny rabbit + baby chick and I have to say the color is leaning wayyyyyyy more towards gray than I prefer at the age of 34. I’m excited to see what it will look like when I grow up. The only place my hair has yet to return is on my thighs and hamstrings ~ WEIRD and I’ll take it!
During the past 6 weeks, I have been slowly building my strength back, cleansing w/foods & supplements, and am still enjoying afternoon naps. Muscles have been achier – it feels like no matter which activity I do, I end up being soar from it. I had the complaining thought, “geez, my body is feeling everything” and then it dawned on me…”awesome! my body is feeling EVERYTHING!” My energy is now steadily increasing and I noticed a HUGE boost after I made the decision to do the double mastectomy. I continue to be amazed at the mind/body connection of this process.
Click here to learn more about my decision-making process for surgery. Just a few days after the post, I attended the pre-op visit and I had a feeling that I would have an even clearer answer of how to move forward after that appointment. And I was right. It felt right. Since then, I have felt so much more relief and am enjoying the process of preparing for this big event which is scheduled for THIS Monday!
It may sound strange, but doing little things – like buying post-surgical bras, frozen peas, & button-down shirts – feels like a way of emotionally processing this shift. A way to move from unease to acceptance. I even bought my current boobs a cute little lacy bra to wear for a few weeks and some funny underwear to wear during surgery. (Hey, there’s nothing wrong with making the surgeons laugh while their working on my body, right?).
Last weekend, I took my boobs on a relaxing retreat at Living Waters near Austin ~ the retreat property I use to manage and is now run by my brother and his fiancée. This turned out to be THE BEST possible way to prepare…I went on nature walks/hikes, journaled, was able to participate in a women’s yoga retreat, ate amazing meals prepared by my chef brother, and had an incredibly healing Reiki session with someone I feel a soul connection with. It. was. just. awesome. Plus the wildflowers are beyond gorgeous this time of year!
On the last night, Emma (my soon-to-be sister) and I decided to do a ceremonial skinny dip plunge in the lake. The water was so refreshing! Then the next day, my brother and I hiked Reimers Ranch and spontaneously decided to jump in the river with our clothes on and then lay on the warm rocks under the sun. I have a thing for water…it’s always a mental game-changer for me whether it’s an ocean, lake, bath, or shower. I left this trip feeling pure adrenaline for life and what is to come. I’m so grateful I gave this gift to myself.
I have also been exploring a really interesting inquiry – I have been questioning the thought “I am losing my breasts” using The Work and I’ve come to realize two things:
I am not losing MY breasts. They are not mine. I do not own them (or this body). THESE breasts are changing which makes it so much less personal. The reality is, some tissue (which I’ve never even seen before) is getting replaced. That’s it. Same skin. Same nipples. Much simpler.
I am GAINING my breasts. Isn’t this also happening? Even though these new breasts will have expanders and then implants, they will, in fact, be my new natural, healthy breasts.
This inquiry is leaving me with a sense of child-like curiosity as I approach surgery, recovery, and reconstruction. My mind is also looking at the reality of the procedure: I show up Monday morning and go to sleep. When I wake up, it’s done. I rest. Experience wonderful drugs. Get 24/hr care in the hospital for 2 nights (and organic meals…what?!). I then go home, chill out, see what it’s like to have T-rex arms (you’re not supposed to lift your arms for a few weeks), read, watch movies, go for walks, get waited on, and bond with my “nurse” mom and husband. My part sounds pretty easy: be present and enjoy the ride. I can do this.
The surgery starts at 7:30am on Monday, April 18th, and will last about 6 1/2 hours ~ if you’re into praying or meditation ~ I invite you to send me some love at that time!