June 19, 2017. One year ago today. I so vividly remember the moment that the phone call came from my genetic counselor. I remember how I sat at my desk feeling like the breath had been knocked out of me after I hung up the phone. I remember knowing instantly that everything would be different.
In the 365 days since I found out I was BRCA1+ life has been anything but normal. There were days upon days spent with doctors, inside machines, MRIs, mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsy, manual exams. There were weeks of anxiety waiting for results. Waiting to find out of I have cancer. There was the joy and hope of learning I was pregnant followed a few weeks later by the heartbreak of learning that it was ectopic and therefore not viable (and potentially dangerous). There was the agony of deciding we would not try again for another biological child, and the nervous excitement of beginning the adoption process. There were surgeries. Two of them. Ovary and tube removal in January and prophylactic mastectomy with DIEP reconstruction in April. There were the side effects of surgical menopause – hot flashes, weight gain, insomnia. And the long (and on-going) road of recovery from my mastectomy. There were weeks upon weeks where I couldn’t pick up my child, and there still are days when I can’t look at my naked body in the mirror. I am different, oh so different, both physically and emotionally, than I was 1 year ago before the phone rang.
But I am also a motherfucking badass. I survived all of the above mentioned craziness while working at my busy and emotionally draining full-time job, parenting a very energetic toddler, and being a marginally decent partner to my spouse. Some friendships have suffered. I’ve definitely not taken as good care of myself as I typically do. There’s be a lot of take out, retail therapy, and couch potato nights. And a few all out break downs. But I’ve come out the other side, with a few less body parts than I had a year ago, but I am still me.
While the majority of the physical side of this journey is behind me (although the question of DIEP Phase 2 still looms and I still don’t feel 100% healed from Phase 1), I know the emotional and mental recovery will be a longer road. My struggle now feels like it is to reclaim myself as a person and find my new normal. I want to embrace my previvor identity, feel proud of it, but also just be ME again. Me with new scars. Me without ovaries or breasts. But still ME.
Reclaiming myself. That is the task I’ve assigned myself for year 2 in my journey as a mutant.