Cowgirl Amy wrangles surgery & radiation

Thanks to Amy, guest blogger and 2010 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient. She blogs here monthly on her journey through breast cancer treatment.

I just looked back at my latest blog and realized I haven’t written since the middle of January. Since then, I have had surgery, began the process of reconstruction, and am preparing for radiation.

I kind of thought surgery wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I made it through chemo – so I am Superwoman, right? I had even gotten to the point of feeling good again. I enjoyed being out and about more, and took a few yoga classes with friends. I even taught a class.

Also, I learned that my chemo was VERY successful. My tumor shrunk, and hardly lit up on the MRI at all (vs. my Christmas tree status pre-chemo). This and the comments from my doctors telling me the worst was over left me a bit euphoric before surgery.

So I went into surgery blind, understanding that there would be pain, but not at all prepared for the emotional hit. And it wasn’t the loss of my breast that bothered me…it was the whole sight of myself – the sickest I have ever looked – that absolutely freaked me out. I had already lost my hair, eyebrows and my once long and thick lashes. The surgery left me with two drains on my side, and the drugs made me sick and very pale. It took several days before I could comfortably walk around, and when I did it hurt to stand up straight. And I could only wear ugly baggy clothes that would loosely cover my scars and drains.

It was the “what have I been reduced to?” stage…beyond angry. I have never been a sad person, and really don’t even like reading this because I don’t like the way I sound. And yet, truthfully, I was in the darkest place I had ever been in.

I cried a lot. My family was confused by this. Not because they weren’t empathetic, but because I had been so strong up until this point. Now the cancer had been surgically removed from my body, and instead of grateful and happy, I was a heaping mess.

It just made me mad. In fact, I was mad at all of the people I loved the most…those whom carried me through the toughest times. I was mad at my mom because she got to clean my home and take care of my kids, I was mad at my friends who helped to drive my kids around because I couldn’t, mad at my sister, who everyone says I look like but who still has her beautiful hair, and even mad at my dog who obviously does not have cancer detecting skills.

Recently, the darkness has dissipated. My hair is coming in, and people have told me my coloring has returned. I’m not as nervous about going out, and don’t feel as many sympathetic second glances. And I can drive my kids around again. I’m not mad anymore, and that feeling of gratitude and awareness of the blessings in my life has returned.

I still mourn the old Amy. I miss the fearlessness and blissful ignorance. I miss time spent being involved with my kids’ activities instead of at a doctor’s appointment or in bed. But as I get stronger again, I am amazed at how far my body has taken me.

The next step is radiation. This week I will have tiny blue dots permanently inked on my chest to mark the area to be radiated. This seems ironic for a girl who never liked to stand in front of a microwave. I’m not so ill-prepared for the guaranteed rush of emotions this time. They say there are fewer side effects now-a-days…but I know that for me that’s not the hard part. For those close to me, I’m taking this opportunity to apologize in advance for my radiation meltdown.

Fortunately, spring and summer are approaching. It is often thoughts of a concert with my husband, hiding Easter eggs for kids, an island trip with family and friends, and a Cowgirl Yoga retreat in July that help pull a girl out of her funk.

Plus, I can’t wait for the next person who asks if I have any tattoos.