Swallowing Fear. And Not the Good Way.

It’s none of my business, she said. But, I think every time you take one of those pills, you are swallowing fear.

Hmmm. You think so? I’m not sure I see it that way. 

As many of you know, I had a little party with breast cancer a few years back. As a result of that, my oncologist (who ever thought I would have one of those?) recommends five years of hormone therapy. Due to my age and situation we tried Arimidex first. It. Was. Horrible. Twenty to thirty hot flashes a day. Sleepless nights. And in general, I just felt awful. Since being diagnosed I have totally changed my diet. You might say I am vegan, but I am more whole foods plant based now. This means very little processed foods, no oil, no meat, no dairy. I was just starting to feel fantastic after all of the treatment party crap when the doc said – take this shit. So, I did. I struggled and struggled and finally decided, I was not going to take this shit. It made asofuckinglutely no sense to me that I should take something to prevent me from getting sick that made me feel sick. You know?

After the prescription ran out – the doc called me. Why did you stop taking it? (WHAT? What is happening? Um, you are monitoring my prescriptions now? Really? Maybe I am a paranoid crazy person, but that sounds like an action driven by drug companies.)  But, whatever, we made an appointment and I told him I couldn’t do the side effects. Well, we have other options, he says. We opted for tamoxifen – the pill I was most hoping to avoid (wow, do you hear that?). Fine, sure, prescribe it. Maybe I won’t take it, I think, but I was getting a little scared (hear that?) and after the doc left the room – the nurse leans over to me and whispers, most of the women who get it back, it comes back at stage 4. Wow. That was the last nail in the coffin of my fearful panic attack. This doesnt feel like supportive treatment. Okay, so I guess writing really is therapy – I cant believe the things dancing across this page that are coming out of my head. But, I went home and did it. We started slowly, taking one pill every three days working up to two pills per day. 

And, I felt like shit. So bad in fact, that I did a few things in January.  I put the wine bottle down – c’mon, this was still covid – that was hard. I became super strict on the diet. I was following about 85%, now – 98%. I vowed to get out and walk a mile or so a day. The first few days, I felt worse. Like I’d been hit by a mack truck. Then I felt a little better. But, you know what? I was still sleeping all of the time – I was exhausted. Which might be normal for a few days – but, January 28 came around – and, no change. I needed to not be so tired. Not always wanting a nap. 

If you haven’t noticed, I can agonize over decision making. I can see all the sides, weigh all of the options. And, I am obsessed with never making the wrong decision. Why? Because mistakes take time. And, there is never enough of it. So, here I was – take the pill and feel like I’m not living or don’t take the pill and die a horrible death. I know those are not the only two options, but those are the worst possible case scenarios. I’ve still got a lot of things I want to do. I had been living primarily for my X and my kids for the last twenty five years. Now, I want to live for myself and do new things and have new adventures for a bit. I’m not ready to go. 

The question remains, should I stop taking or keep taking this pill? I shared my dilemma with my friend above and told her I was seriously considering not taking it any longer. Swallowing fear, she said. Well, I quit taking that pill and I was scared. For a minute. Then, I recommitted 90% to the diet. I mean, I live in Sacramento, Mikuni’s is a sushi institution here. And the occasional oil. Because fries are plant based. But, overall, back to feeding my body with nutrition, not crap. And, every single day since then, I have improved. I haven’t taken a nap after work in a week. The hot flashes – which admittedly were way fewer and way less violent than on the first horrible pill  – diminish each day. But, mostly, I feel like I am living again. I have a ways to go – but, I feel like this is a good direction. And, you know what? My friend was right. I’m sure taking that pill had physical effects, but now I see they had emotional and mental ones as well. 

One day I may share my agonizing over the covid vaccine.

Boobs, Bras, and Giggles

To have a boob or to not have a boob. Or, way more information about bras than I ever cared to read or write. Or, PSA for women who have had partial mastectomies. Or, more cancer adventures.

As some of you may know, I had a mastectomy at the beginning of breast cancer treatment almost 2 years ago. When you have a mastectomy, you can rebuild – which I opted not to do. Or, you can wear a prosthetic. Yeah, I opted not to do that, too. For a variety of reasons. I was happy with one boob. It didn’t get in my way, didn’t have sweat under it, and I kind of quit wearing bras. Because, you know – the old ones don’t work and they don’t really have bras with one cup. So, I wore sports bras and racer back bralettes. I had to change the way I dressed a little and some necklaces hung weirdly, but I was good. 

Until I tried to take my old bras – the ones that were barely or gently used, to the bra shap I frequent. For those of you that can shop at Victoria Secret, you wouldn’t understand. For those of us with giant boobs, we have to go somewhere special. You know – they don’t sell F or G cups everywhere. You read that right. I was a 36G when this all started. Also, those over the shoulder boulder holders are not cheap – it takes a lot of strong fabric and ingenuity to hold up big girls. So, I paid anywhere from fifty to a hundred dollars each for bras. So, the Quarantine had me cleaning out things and I had a very large bag of gently used and slightly worn bras. The owner of this lovely shop will take any of these and she will donate the bras and her bra fitting expertise to the women in shelters looking for a new start. She is amazing. She can tell your bra size and which bra style and brand that will fit you best when you walk into the shop. Not all women are shaped the same, so not all bras work the same. 

So, I called her to see if she was taking donations. As soon as I said, I had a mastectomy, she interrupted me, “Did you get the prosthetic”? Um – no. “No? Ma Ma. You have got to get the prosthetic. You are unbalanced. If you keep walking around like that, you will be crippled and walking around like one of those hump backed old ladies, you will have years of pain. Ma Ma, you have to get the prosthetic.”  I will, I will. I promise. Thanks for telling me. “I’m serious, Ma Ma, do it right away.” She says in her lovely accent. “And save the bras for when Covid is over (I smirk at that now).” I told you she was amazing. And, she didn’t even really know who I was. I am doubtful that she recognized my voice. She calls everyone, Ma Ma. There really are angels everywhere.

So, I made an appointment and went to get a new boob. It was a horrible day in Northern CA. we were just coming off a heat wave and in the middle of the Camp fire of Aug/Sept 2020. The wind was blowing and there was chunks of ash in the air – not the snow like flakes. It was gross. But, I ventured out to get the boob – supporting local business where I can, you know. I am not going to chop the shop up – but, things were interesting with the new boob when I got home. 

I got to look closer in the mirror and wear my new fake boob with different clothes. A thinking girl would have worn a t-shirt to the fittingbecause they do not lie. I brought home a tank top with a shelf bra and that worked fine. But, I had to wash the tank, so I decided to wear the bra today.  Firstly, the band is not my size – it’s a little big. Okay, three sizes too big. Plus, it is a stretchy comfort bra. Since the salesperson had loaded the fake boob into the tank, I was loading the fake boob into the bra for the first time. The bras have pockets where the prosthetic fits. As I am folding a prosthetic breast and pushing into the side of the bra – I get an irresistible urge to giggle. Is this the weirdest thing I have ever done? Could be. I’m putting a very large fake boob into a pocket in a bra so I can wear it around. Also, I am writing about the experience. So, all weirdness.

So, I put the bra on – the boob I had removed was my small one. Real boobs are not symmetrical. One is almost always bigger than the other. I think the prosthetic is a size too big? Or am I just used to seeing nothing or something smaller over there? Fuck, I dont know. Another irresistible urge to giggle. Also, no prosthetic that is paid for by insurance, can ever match the size and shape of an individual breast. As just about any man will tell you, no two sets are alike in shape or size.  My insurance pays for a prosthetic and a few bras. Since I don’t miss wearing a bra and I was looking for something comfortable, I opted for some tank tops with the shelf bra and one stretchy comfort bra. Which I knew I would only be wearing at home for balance since it offered little to no support and,  you can’t hide in a stretchy comfort bra either, you can see it all.  So, I’m wearing this stretchy bra and every step I take on the stairs, the prosthetic sinks a little lower and a little lower. Now, I am sure that I’m a visual riot. The prosthetic is so heavy – it cannot be supported by the bra. My own boob is doing just fine but every few steps I have to cup the fake boob in my hand and hitch it up. This is hilarious. So many unexpected adventures in the wake of cancer. Not a worry, I will take myself, my prosthetic, and my growing understanding of post cancer bras and go visit the lovely lady who calls me, Ma Ma.

So, do I miss having a boob? Not really. Do I feel whole now that I have a prosthetic as some have suggested? No. I was pretty whole before. The peace is in my heart and soul, not in my boobs. Was walking around with one boob weird? Yes. Is this weirder? I don’t know. Maybe? I am sure that once I get the size and bra thing figured out, it will be fine. But, you know, I should have taken them both off. Lighter, cooler, freer, bras and prosthetics not required. I sure won’t be dancing in this bra.

PS. I ate lunch with my new boob and the bra that can’t support it and something happened that hasn’t happened in almost 2 years, I got food in my bra. Good times.