Was it just a bad dream?

My Bilateral Mastectomy – Was It Just a Bad Dream?

When was the last time you woke from an unpleasant dream feeling relieved to realize it was merely that, a dream? It’s an amazing moment when you wake from such a state of agitated sleep. Reality suddenly feels pretty darn wonderful doesn’t it?

Sometimes I still have moments when I wonder if all the cancer crap that has transpired has been a dream. Sometimes I pretend or think about waking up and finding out none of it really happened. Sometimes when I first wake up in the morning, I do forget for a while.

I wonder if a day will come when I do not think about cancer.

Somehow I doubt it.

It’s not like I’m stuck in the past. It’s not like I dwell on cancer. I’m not and I don’t.

With this being said, certain things and certain dates are triggers and likely always will be.

Certain dates still feel full and heavy. Certain dates still bring to mind vivid memories of a time when things felt very uncertain. One of those dates for me is June 2nd, the date of my bilateral mastectomy two years ago.

There is much to remember.

I remember the weeks before that day which were full of appointments, tests, restless nights and huge decisions I felt forced to make. I remember feeling trapped into a corner as my oncologist explained to me why a bilateral mastectomy was my best option.

I remember a long and lonely night with little sleep before the surgery. I remember the text message that came in during the middle of the night from one of my sisters wishing me well. She couldn’t sleep either.

I remember the jolting and silly-sounding alarm tune on my cell phone at 4:30 a.m. I remember the emotional and private minutes I spent in the bathroom taking one last look at the familiar image in the mirror. I remember the tears.

I remember my surgeon asking me what procedure I was to have that day and how I could not bring myself to say the words out loud. He gently patted my legs, said the words for me and told me I’d be fine. I remember wondering how he could possibly know that.

I remember a hospital chaplain peeking in the doorway and solemnly asking if we would like a prayer, making me realize this was a pretty major surgery. Dear Hubby said yes. I said nothing.

I remember a look of fear and helplessness, but mostly love on Dear Hubby’s face as we spent a few personal and precious moments together.

I remember being wheeled briskly away down a long hallway and into a brightly lit room that felt cold and sterile. And scary.

I remember voices and masks and a clock on the wall. I remember wondering what it would be like when I woke up with my new unfamiliar form.

I remember wishing I was dreaming and wondering if perhaps I was.

I remember slowly waking up hours later and realizing I was not.

I remember…

What is one of your “trigger” dates?

If you’ve had a cancer diagnosis, do you ever have days when you don’t think about cancer?

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My bilateral, was it just a bad dream
My bilateral mastectomy, was it just a bad dream?






58 thoughts to “My Bilateral Mastectomy – Was It Just a Bad Dream?”

  1. The day of my mastectomy….that day probably ranks as one of the worst days in my life. While some of the details have faded the sense of dread returns with the memory. I don’t think there will be any other way to “reframe” that particular day, nor should their be. It’s important, in a strange way, to have those markers. They help remind me of the depth of the journey, and the beauty of this moment.

    Thanks for writing, Nancy.


    1. Jody, I think you might be right. Perhaps it is a “good thing” to have these markers to remind us. I love the way you put it – “They help remind me of the depth of the journey and the beauty of this moment.” That’s perfect, Jody. Thank you. That really helps.

  2. Once again, you’ve captured my feelings to a T. It’s validating to know others feel this way because I beat myself up because I’m also not dwelling on cancer or living in the past. But few people understand how those three little words “you have cancer” haunt survivors.

    My trigger dates are the day I was diagnosed and the day of the bilateral (which I also celebrate as being cancer-free). I also wonder if a day will come that I don’t think about cancer and recently had an epiphany about that.

    While the circumstances are vastly different, as a New Yorker, I was traumatized by 9/11. For weeks and months on end, there wasn’t a NYer who wasn’t paralyzed by the sound of a pop, or the rumble of a plane or helicopter overhead. This dissipated over time, but so many things triggered the emotions of that day.

    Now 11 years later, a group of us went to see the Memorial site over the weekend. As our out of town guests asked us many questions about where we were that day and what NY was like in the days following, I was flooded by emotion as we described the sites and smells and the intense loss that was so universally shared. Restaurants, bars, and stores were empty and quiet. No one spoke. Complete strangers hugged each other. The sidewalk memorials, the lost faces plastered in every neighborhood of friends and family who would never return home after that fateful day.

    While the scope and nature of 9/11 cannot be compared to what we have gone through with BC, there are many emotional parallels. And I say this because I no longer measure 9/11 by days, weeks and months and the sites and sounds that used to alarm me raise concern, but no longer paralyze me in my tracks. Even the earthquake we had last summer which swayed my desk on the 40th floor didn’t give me a panic attack when we had to evacuate down the stairwells not knowing what had happened.

    I share this in the spirit that it made me realize that time does heal. I have a hard time imagining there will be a day that I don’t remember my diagnosis or my surgery, but visiting the Memorial made me realize how far I had come reconciling that terrible day. I hope that 11 years from now I can achieve a similar co-existence with my diagnosis.

    Thanks as always for an insightful post.

    1. Blonde Ambition, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. There is a strange analogy one can make here isn’t there? 9/11 was a tragedy on another completely different level and I would never wish to compare my situation with that. The connections you point out make perfect sense though. Emotional events of any kind stay with us, though the intensity of the feelings may fade somewhat over time. I’m glad to hear you have healed from the emotional wounds of 9/11, at least to some extent. I hope you come to find a similar peaceful co-existence with your diagnosis day (and all that goes with it) as well. Thanks again for commenting and for understanding where I’m “coming from” here.

  3. I don’t remember any of the important dates. My memories are triggered more by place or image or smells. 11 years later, every time I drive by Park Ave. & 90th, I remember walking to visit my plastics doc the first time & experiencing that feeling of being unable to walk another step forward, sure that my legs would collapse under the weight.

    And after 11 years, yes, I still think about cancer every single day, but in a different way. I think of it in a less scary, personal way.

    1. Julie, Your comment makes me wonder how often you drive by Park Ave and 90th. Some of those memories remain with us forever don’t they? It’s good to hear you still remember, but in a different way now. That gives me hope I’ll reach that point too. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Nancy,

    This is an excellent post that has hit quite a nerve with me because I totally relate. Even though my cancer diagnosis and treatment were in 2001, and my double mastectomy with reconstruction was in 2006, not a day goes by that I don’t think of cancer. Every day I put a prosthesis on, every day I see the scars, every day I feel the pain from the surgery in my abdomen and my back. One major trigger date for me is Dec. 1, the date of my double mastectomy. There was a major snowstorm, and I and all the docs got there on time, like 5 in the morning.

    I remember so very much about cancer and treatment. These memories are forever etched into my brain.

    However, like you, I don’t dwell. The memory is there, and I do move on and manage to enjoy each day, each moment, each second.

    Thanks for writing this honest post that I’m sure so many others can relate to!

    1. Beth, I agree that these markers are forever “etched in.” They just are. My problem is that between my mother’s markers and my own, there are so many of them. Thanks for commenting and for understanding, Beth.

  5. Nancy I can relate to everything you have written as well.

    It’s been 15 months since my bilateral mastectomy with immediate recon in Feb 2011. I had healing issues; had to have one tissue expander taken out five months later and eventually put back in. I’ve been “cooking” for a long time. I won’t have my exchange until fall at the earliest.

    What I remember most about heading in for my BMX is my complete confidence and optimism about my surgery. I really felt very certain this was the best path for me to take. I listened to my gut.

    Even told my BS and PS on surgery morning to take my nipples off. We were going to do nipple-sparing surgery but I decided at the last minute I wanted them gone. Turned out I had DCIS as well as IDC on my right side, and ADH and calcifications on my right. The gut is never wrong.

    However, my gut was so busy saving my life that it could not warn me of the complications that awaited me post-BMX. Though TE failure and necrosis had been discussed, I never took the time to fully research (or even ponder) what that meant. One step at a time.

    So my naivety is the feeling I remember most about that BMX morning. Fear, and naivety, and confidence.

    Kinda like a wedding day.

    1. Renn, I’m glad you felt so confident on your surgery day. I did, too, actually about it being the best “option” for me. It’s good you listened to your gut. I’m sorry you had those complications, but of course, cancer is the biggest complication of all here isn’t it? I’m not sure it’s possible for a person to fully research every possible scenario at the time of diagnosis. There’s only so much time and only so much a person can absorb and do at such a vulnerable period. Thanks for sharing your memories of that day. Sharing helps us all.

  6. No, Nancy, I can’t imagine a day when I don’t think about cancer. I wish I could. My bilateral mastectomy date was June 22, 2009. The day after my husband’s birthday. I’ll never think of his birthday ever again without thinking how I had a mastectomy the day after. Cancer, truly ruins everything.

    1. Stacey, I know what you mean. I don’t think that day will come for me either, Stacey. I’m sorry your surgery came on a day so close to your husband’s birthday. Cancer seems to have a way of maneuvering itself into our happy days, too, doesn’t it? Just keep on “shoving it to the back” as often and as much as you can. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. I had actually stopped thinking about the many areas that were the hardest days for me. I was really moving on.Some of the fear was in the back ground Of course there are a few outstanding moments, my melt down before surgery, landing in hospital after each Taxotere, the Priest coming saying prayers for the sick. I especially enjoyed his visits.

    I feel like I have taken backward steps these past few days. All that fear I have tried not to think about all back. I don’t like being scared all over again .
    Thanks Nancy
    Love Alli xx

    1. Alli, I know you are dealing with so much all over again, Alli, and I’m sorry about that. It’s so unfair. Thank you for stopping by and taking time to comment, especially since things are so chaotic for you right now. Please know you are not alone.

  8. Very moving post, Nancy. Like Julie above, my triggers are not necessarily specific dates, but places, sights and smells. Sometimes the season. However, I will say that after 12 years there are many days I don’t think about cancer. And I think that was the case a number of years ago too. Seems almost cliche to say it, but I do believe it gets better with time. When I do think about my own cancer, the emotional charge is not very strong at all any more. The memories may get triggered, but they don’t feel difficult to cope with any more. I work with many cancer survivors, so I talk about cancer all the time, but it’s different than thinking about your own. Again, the emotional charge isn’t there. Thanks again for another great post!

    1. Dawn, I seem to have an over supply of triggers, so I understand what you mean about yours being places, sights, smells and even seasons. I have those as well. My list goes on and on. It boggles my mind a bit “hearing” you say you do have days when you don’t think about cancer. I hope I get to that point. And as you mentioned, perhaps the emotional charge or intensity will at least weaken with time. That’d be nice. Thanks for the encouragement.

  9. I’ve shared this before, but maybe it’s OK if I share today, here:

    One Year Ago Today

    I am adjusted–
    I am not reconciled

    Fellow travelers
    say I will be someday–

    But I notice they never forget
    the date of diagnosis

    (Excerpted from Fine Black Lines, (c) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

    I wish I could say that was the worst day of my life. But it comforts me to know that I don’t think of any of those days daily anymore. And I’m fairly sure that the worst day of my life is yet to come.

    1. Lois, Of course it’s alright for you to share this today. Thank you! Your final statement is quite astounding. Something to think about for sure. Thank you.

  10. Ah, you have me all emotional. The date of my mastectomy isn’t hugely impressed (compared to the date of discovery and date of diagnosis and date of chemo’s end), but reading your post brought some of it back. It’s the helplessness that feels so surreal.

    When I was waiting to go into the mastectomy room (i.e. operating theatre) it was toward the end of the day, and the nurses were winding down. On the other side of my curtain, they were having their tea – and broke out in song, singing ‘all things bright and beautiful’. It was such a beautiful, calming moment right before that big change in my life. For me, that’s what I try to remember when it comes to the surgery. I know we can’t all have singing nurses, but it was certainly a big positive in that difficult day.

    Take care, Nancy. I hope the memories pass . . . at least for a while.

    1. Catherine, I’m not sure how I would have felt about singing nurses right before my surgery. I guess it worked for you and that’s all that matters! Of course, you’re so right about the helplessness. Feeling so out of control is really hard isn’t it? The memories sort of have an ebb and flow to them don’t you think? Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  11. Wow, Nancy. I’m still just astonished that it’s only been two years for you. Kudos to you for doing as well as you have been, although I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way sometimes. I still felt like hell-on-earth after two years. I was still at the bottom of the fatigue ditch. Two years ago, I’d had to bite the bullet and change my work status to permanent part-time/partial disability at work. And then live with the financial consequences. I had cording every day, shoulder pain every day. I couldn’t get out of my own way. I was angry at the lack of follow-up from my surgeon and my rad onc. I felt like I was barely treading water.

    I will never forget the day I was told my biopsy was positive. I will never forget my surgery day. I will never forget the day I first collapsed, literally, with the fatigue that became my constant companion, when I got home from my 7th radiation treatment. I will never forget the follow-up appointment I had with my surgeon six months after I was diagnosed, when the swelling had at last gone down enough to show how much damage had been done to me, how much of my breast I had lost. I felt mutilated and I cried my eyes out. And every mammogram, every test, still makes me panic. It will be four years in July since I was diagnosed. And I’ve needed every second of this time just to feel a few moments now and then when I think maybe, maybe I’ve started to recover.

    Massive hugs to you, my friend.

    1. Kathi, Well if truth be told, sometimes I DO feel like hell on earth yet! Two many reasons to go into here…Thank you for understanding. Sounds like you have plenty of “trigger” days yourself. Your four year marker is soon here; that’s incredible. You have come a long way, sistah! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the massive hugs too.

  12. Beautiful post. I’ll be carrying this one with me today and thinking about it. My digger dates are April 27, date of ex, and May 13, bilateral mastectomy day. The surgery was 2 weeks before my 41st birthday and in the midst of my kids’ end-of-year activities at school. My son “graduated” from 5th grade and I was determined to make it to the awards ceremony. I still had drains in, but I made it. I’ve heard from others that there will come a day in which we don’t think about cancer but I’m not there yet. Two years out, it still fills my thought, in myriad ways, every single day.

    1. Nancy, Thanks for sharing your “digger” dates. Guess you are a spring-timer too. That must have been rough dealing with all your stuff and trying to maintain a sense of routine for your kids at the same time. It’s amazing you made it to that awards ceremony. Mothers can accomplish a lot when they put their minds to it can’t they? I don’t think the day will ever come for me when I don’t think about cancer, but who knows? I’d love to be wrong on this one. Thanks for commenting, Nancy.

  13. Nancy, I just read Stacey’s post and yours because I stumbled upon your conversation on Twitter. Sixteen years ago, I was 27, and on June 19 I was lying on my back looking up at my parents with tears rolling down my cheeks as they wheeled me into the OR for my mastectomy. Some things you never forget, but they also get hazy. I just stumbled on some old medical bills when going through some files, and discovered that my memory was correct; my mastectomy was actually on June 19. I was unsure about the exact date. Memories fade and life goes on; I do not think about cancer every day. And I’ll admit; I think you and Stacey are wonderful, wonderful writers and you are a blessing to this community of cancer survivors, but sometimes I avoid reading your posts because today, I don’t want to be a cancer survivor. Today, I don’t want to remember what happened 16 years ago.

    I hope you understand what I’m trying to say, and don’t take it the wrong way! 😉

    1. Ginny Marie, It’s good to hear things get hazier. I understand perfectly where you’re coming from, sometimes avoidance works best to preserve one’s sanity. Read when you are so moved. Thanks for commenting today! You give me hope that I may at least someday forget the vividness of it all.

  14. A very moving post, Nancy. I am heading towards my big ‘first anniversaries’, as I was diagnosed in June last year (weirdly, I can’t remember the precise date) and had my mastectomy in July. I am having such strange moments right now as things remind me of this time last year – it’s so eerie knowing that the me of a year ago today had no idea of the way her life was about to come crashing down around her. Goodness knows how I’ll feel on the anniversary of the actual operation!!

    1. Liz, You are still pretty new to this ballgame then, Liz. It must be very eerie for you indeed to think about what you were doing last year at this time and to realize you had no idea what was about to transpire. Keep me posted on how that first anniversary goes for you. Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Poignant post, Nancy. Cancer either creeps or barges into my thoughts every day. Sometimes it is triggered by the most unlikely things, and so I’m learning I have to make room for it. If I can banish it to that one designated space in my head, then it is less likely to push out all the other moments that I want to savor. Somehow, this is beginning to make some kind of sense for me.

    1. Yvonne, We never know when cancer will barge or creep in do we? Learning to live with the shadow is a process. Glad to hear you’re figuring stuff out. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  16. Your revisiting that day really resonates with me, Nancy. The night before my bilateral, my husband told me something dreadful, and then cautioned me never to tell anyone he said that. I won’t ever forget THAT treatment. I’m so glad your hubby was loving and supportive, even though he felt helpless.

    A “trigger” date for me is the day my mother died, November 16. She was with the living the day before, and forever gone from my visage the very next. My youngest son always calls me on that fateful day. He’s so sweet to remember, when no one else seems to.

    Over nine years out from cancer recurrence diagnosis, I’ve had days when I don’t think about it. That’s when I’m on a bike ride or jogging or swimming, or at social or family events where I’m distracted from the subject. Also, because I’ve suffered additional trauma of a different sort since then, I tend to focus on that more these days. And I wish that new trauma were a dream, but indeed, it is real.

    But we go on, don’t we? What choice have we?

    Thanks for your eloquence on such a sensitive subject.

    1. Jan, Oh my gosh, that makes me really wonder what on earth he said to you. I’m sorry it was hurtful and yes, I am very lucky to have such a supportive husband. The day my mom passed away is another trigger date for me, too, for many reasons. It’s sweet your son calls you on the day you lost your mom. I’m glad you have days when you don’t think about cancer anymore, but then of course you’ve had a few other nasty things to occupy your mind. I’m sorry about that. Yes, we go on no matter what we are dealing with don’t we? Thanks so much for sharing, Jan.

  17. When I finished treatment, before I was diagnosed with mets, I decided I was not going to make the fact that I’d had cancer my life.

    I made a plan.

    1) I stopped posting on cancer forums. They are wonderful for support but once you are done, you are just living cancer when you don’t need to.

    2) I decided to implement the 2 week rule for any ache or pain – don’t call the doctor until you’ve had it for 2 weeks. People who have had cancer get normal aches and pains too.

    3) I began to refer to cancer in the past tense. I HAD cancer.

    4) I began to deliberately put it in the past and make long-term plans. I decided not to celebrate my “cancerversary” or talk about “when I did chemo…” all of the time.

    5) I recognized that it would take time to put it behind me but it is possible to do so and it would take work.

    6) I made a plan to pack up my blog and stop posting. To keep the blog, I had to live in the cancer world. This was the hardest part as I love doing the blog but I felt I had to choose – the rest of my life as a healthy person or the rest of my life, half in the world of cancer. I know women writing about cancer who haven’t had it for 8-10 years and I think that is unhealthy.

    Unfortunately, only 5 months after I finished my herceptin, I was diagnosed with mets to the liver. So, cancer will now and forever be my life …and my death.

    But, those months when I thought I was done and I was putting it behind me were great months. I’m glad I did it and I would encourage everybody who has survived cancer to do what they can to put it in the past. Don’t dwell on “trigger dates” and don’t allow it to live in your thoughts on a constant basis. You can’t “survive” cancer ONLY physically – it has to be mentally too. And, that means moving on from day-to-day thoughts of cancer.

    1. Ann, Thank you for your insights. I think it’s admirable you made a plan that you intended to put into practice, however, I don’t agree with all your “strategies.” They were right for you, but not necessarily for others. Just as every person has the right to their own unique path of making their way through diagnosis and treatment, I believe every person also has the right to their own unique way of handling things post-cancer treatment. Part of that for me right now is blogging and sometimes that does include writing about “trigger” dates or whatever. I don’t see this as dwelling on them. I see it as part of my healing and also as a way to hopefully help others. How long will I continue? Who knows? Also, I don’t see myself merely moving on from thoughts of cancer. It’s too much part of my past and present and as a BRCA+ person, it also affects my family’s future. That’s my reality. I hate that you had a mets diagnosis, but I am happy you are still blogging! Thanks so much for sharing, Ann.

    2. Maybe 1 thing 4th stagers could do while we still can is “rock the pink boat” until a REAL CURE is hopefully found and NO ONE would have to ever think about BREAST CANCER again.

  18. Nancy, this such an insightful post, and the discussion it started here speaks to the complexities of living with and beyond serious illness. You are essentially asking: How do people live full lives knowing they are on a path of possible recurrence, ongoing medical interventions and/or side effects, or potentially dire prognoses? It’s a question more of us need to ask so that we can be better supporters and caregivers. From the responses here and elsewhere, one size doesn’t fit. Thank you for the reminder. — Gayle Sulik

    1. Gayle, Thanks so much for asking the questions that need to be asked. And you’re right, one size fits all almost never works and certainly does not here. Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support.

  19. I was dx with cancer around Thanksgiving. Surgery was scheduled for beginning of December. After MRI the surgeon called me the day before planned lumpectomy and told me the MRI revealed a tumor much larger than expected. Tumor board decided it was best to start with neo-adjuvant chemo to reduce the size of the tumor. I selected an oncologist and scheduled port surgery. The tumor was growing so fast that I was unable to stage cancer or have SNB. Finally ready for chemo on the 20th of Dec. MO said do you want chemo tomorrow, Dec. 21 or wait until after Christmas. I said start tomorrow. My mother had cancer, she was given her first chemotherapy on her birthday, December 21. Sadly, my mother died from complications arising out of her very first dose of chemo. December 21 will always bring me back to cancer. I survived chemo but time will tell if Dec 21 will be a day of remembrance and a day to celebrate.

    1. Tess, Wow, that’s quite a story you share here. I’m sorry for all you’ve been through. I’m sorry about the loss of your mother as well. How tragic that she had such a reaction to her chemotherapy treatment. That’s terrible. December 21st is certainly a “loaded” date for you isn’t it? I hope you’re doing alright now, Tess. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. My best.

  20. I found this site when I googled “Bilateral Mastectomy” after just finding out yesterday that a dear cousin had this operation recently. I was shocked because although she’d told me she had breast cancer, I had assumed she was having a lumpectomy in one breast. She’s been very private about this, so I don’t know the details of her cancer or her decision, but I worry she was ‘pushed’ into doing more than necessary. I come from a place as a cancer ‘survivor’ (although I continue to live with growing, now ‘untreatable’ recurrent tumors) of a completely different type, and have all the same emotions that have been expressed here. Cancer is cancer; people are people! Not only do I worry constantly about my cancer increasing (for now its ‘indolent,’ meaning slow growing) and spreading, but I also worry about a diagnosis of breast cancer as it is prevalent in the females of my family. Even four years out and counting from the start of the ‘journey’, I still have my triggers: three separate diagnosis dates, initial oncology/surgery consult, first and second surgery dates and all the subsequent complications/treatments. But, I concur with those that say the emotions tied to any particular date or incident diminish -very gradually – over time. My family is wonderfully supportive and when they see that the memories and stress become overwhelming to me, they encourage me to be extra nice to myself with Shopping Trips, and mini-vacations and indulging in the hobbies that I love: I’d encourage the same to all the other ladies here. I was always a “I’ll-save-that-for-‘good'” and “I’ll-have-fun-later”, and “Someday……” kind of person. Now, I ENJOY the nice things and MAKE time for fun and “Someday” is NOW. That helps a lot to get over the humps in the healing process. Another thing to remember is – unless the nurses and docs HAVE GONE THROUGH IT THEMSELVES, they are just plain FLAT OUT WRONG on the time-frames of healing, both physically and mentally/emotionally. I was told “six weeks and you won’t even know you had surgery.” THAT WAS JUST PLAIN WRONG, IGNORANT and CRUEL. It took me the better part of a YEAR with my first surgery to start feeling even a LITTLE like myself, and then I got the diagnosis of the recurrence, and had to start the process all over again. (I also felt PUSHED and frightened by my surgeon and my family into having the second MAJOR surgery, which I now regret.) A therapist told me that it takes AT LEAST a FULL YEAR to even get over the effects of just the anesthesia, alone, let alone the surgery itself. So, be extra gentle, patient and nice to yourself both in your head and in what you do, like you would be to a small child or elderly person. YOU ARE WORTH IT! That was a HUGE lesson for me to learn – and I’m STILL working on it, daily!
    The good news is, It WILL get better, Nancy, you are perfectly normal in all your feelings and reactions, and there are SO many people walking the same path and struggling – and succeeding – who can be very understanding and sympathetic and supportive to you and each other – as you’ve been to us with this post.

    Thanks so much for this and allowing me to share my thoughts and feelings, as well.

    God Speed to you all.

    1. BMX’s Cousin, I’m sorry about your cousin’s recent diagnosis and about your earlier one as well. I’m sure your cousin could use your support about now. Hopefully she made the best informed decision for herself regarding her surgery choice. I understand about your triggers and your worries. It’s great that your family has been and continues to be so supportive. That means a lot doesn’t it? Thanks so much for finding my site and for sharing your thoughts and feelings. They are always welcome here.

  21. Whew, so many memories that feel familiar for me as well. The entire month of June is a trigger date, since that’s when I have all my yearly tests. Getting through this month without any tears will be a triumph of determination. ~Catherine

    1. Catherine, Good luck getting through all those dates. Don’t worry about the tears. Let ’em fall if need be! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Thinking of you this month.

  22. What perfect timing, Nancy. June 7, tomorrow, is the one year anniversary of what I call The Day the Evil Started”. In one day I had the rug pulled out from underneath me at work by my new boss and then went to have the mammo that ended up with lots of biopsies and surgery and radiation, all the while trying to advocate for a complex issue to my HQ management. It’s been a full year of treating cancer and battling to remain relevant in my job. Of course the actual day the pathology report from my first lumpectomy for DCIS showed IDC and ILC. When my surgeon called to tell me I have invasive cancer – July 26, 2012 – that is still the day my world flipped. I am early to this, but breast cancer has lived with me every day since.
    BTW One little PTSD trigger I have is seeing MSNBC’s daily show The Cycle. It was on everyday when I came in for rads.

    Thanks again, Nancy. This post was very touching – going in to look at your natural self for the last time had to be so overwhelming and you expressed the memory so well. Tears and hugs.


    1. Jane, Thank you for sharing about your “trigger dates”. I have heard it said that the “typical” cancer diagnosis and treatment takes a year from your life. Geez, I think I even have a post called that come to think of it. Not even close I say. The fallout never ends – a year – not even close. Thinking of you as you approach all those reminder dates and the TV show as well. Isn’t it funny what sticks with us? Thanks again.

  23. Wow Nancy reading this again today about your bilateral mastectomy when mine has been on my mind a lot lately. I had a recurrence with a radiated breast only a year and a quarter after my lumpectomy, chemo and radiation. There had been a question if not taking tamoxifen had contributed to it but I am er+, pr- and because the ATLAS and aTTom studies came out of ASCO this week and I had been reporting on all of the breast cancer abstracts at ASCO on #BCANS, I went back to my question of whether er+ pr- is resistant to tamoxifen (since I took it for 5 years) and all of my research shows it is. All those side effects for possibly no benefit! I was going to blog about my procedures, since I had a radiated breast I had many failed surgeries but I finally found someone who fixed it. I found myself researching this for hours. I have decided I must not let fear take over me and assume all is well since this kind of thinking will do me no good. I think about my mastectomy every day especially because my radiated breast is so numb with my back a little numb too from the lat flap. Each time I woke up with the expanders in I felt so positive everything was fine. Then came the waiting to get the drains out and the injections. The expanders would come out, implants in and over time many surgeries failed. What I must do is bring my mind to a positive place and be thankful that all is well. I just wish that this disease did not have so many awful side effects and cause mets and take away people that I loved very much. What’s most important is that I release all of this into the universe, take a deep breath and focus on all of the positives while I try to be the best advocate I can be to others. It’s ironic that there are people who think we got free breast jobs! LOL!

    1. Susan, You covered a lot of ground in your comment. It’s funny how one post can stir up a lot isn’t it? Thanks so much for reading this one and leaving your thoughts.

  24. May 6th will be my trigger date. My birthday is May 7th. May 6th of 2013 I received a phone call informing me that I had breast cancer. I did 8 rounds of chemo, 2 herceptins, decided to refuse any more herceptin and schedule a double mastectomy. Guess when I have surgery. Bingo. May 6th, 2014. I am having second thoughts. I know that after they cut parts of my body off they will also cut off pain relief. Chemo caused a lot of nerve damage on top of already existing nerve damage. My breasts hurt constantly even though I only have a tumor in one of them. I think the residual nerve damage that will be heaped upon me after the nerves in my chest are severed due to the mastectomy will cause a lot of pain that they will be unwilling to treat me for. So I may be better off accepting the pain level I have now, keeping my breasts, and going on with my life until my time comes.

    1. Marilyn, Obviously, I don’t know any details about your situation, but it sounds like you’re feeling nervous and frightened and this is completely understandable. Second guessing your decisions is as well. I don’t understand what you mean about them not being willing to treat your pain, that doesn’t sound right. If you still have questions and concerns, be sure to discuss them with your doctor before your surgery. Good luck with things. You’re not alone.

  25. I can really relate to the dream part. After my mastectomy, when I was undergoing chemo, I would wake up in the morning and touch my chest to remind myself it wasn’t a dream. I stopped obsessing about a recurrence or mets a while back. But I do think about it often. In my heart of hearts I think it will come back, but there are days that go by where I don’t think about it. Not weeks, but days.

    1. GLF, I still think about it nearly every morning when I wake up too. For one reason, I usually wake up on my back now – a sleeping position I always hated before. Always used to sleep on my stomach. Just another little daily/nightly reminder. I think about recurrence, too, of course, but I certainly don’t dwell on it. I do think about cancer every single day. I don’t see that changing. I’m sorry you have that thought about recurrence in your heart of hearts. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment.

  26. I’m thinking my reminder times would be November (a strip mall fire in my community with my favorite cat lover’s specialty shop going up in smoke ) and December (my breast cancer diagnosis where my breast cancer status was “fortunately controlled but still complicated” with suspected breast cancer “spots” in my liver.). I wonder if my other reminder times will be mid – winter to mid – summer when I had to “mark time” between “3 week on – 1 week off” chemo sessions. It was surprising that I didn’t pinch myself and that those inauspicious events that transpired in November and December 2015 would all be a nightmare and the Cat House was still around and I still had a healthy right boob or breast and didn’t need a “boob bandage” or chemo sessions (though aside from hair loss and occasional insomnia,, I was rather lucky with the side effects.).

  27. I think about it every dang day. I’ve been through so much in these 4 1/2 years. Having bilateral lymphedema is a daily reminder. Just today I was thinking it was a bad dream….my life feels so different. But I’m still here.

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