Carolina on My Mind

Realizations about life, personal and professional


October 2016

The Unexpected

I write because there is some woman, somewhere, who will, unbeknownst to her at this moment, have to navigate a journey similar to mine. That woman is likely to feel afraid, alone, and wonder “why me?”  For that woman, I want these words to be here, waiting for her to find, to comfort her soul, and to know that each step of the journey will bring challenges you think you won’t be able to withstand and celebrations because you’ve made it further than you ever thought possible. 

Having settled into a place of emotional peace, I was prepared for, what I hoped to be, the final step of this ordeal:  exchange surgery. I was well planned (selected the date that fit so very well into the schedule of life) and mentally prepared to move forward; November 16th was right around the corner. 

Saturday morning I woke with little pain, which was surprising since the afternoon before I had received my final “fill” that is usually accompanied by days of aching. Since touching my would-be breasts to ensure they are still there and nothing was wrong was now commonplace, I investigated to find the unexpected:  instead of the rock-hard texture of  freshly expanded skin, I found soft, malleable flesh. I knew immediately my expander had failed and the saline was slowly leaking into my body. 

To describe this moment as terrifying is an understatement. The panic, the worry, the breakdown that came with this moment….the mere possibility of having to start the process again brought me to my knees in tears. 

Fortunately, after a call to the doctor where her concern was minimal and best summed up with “this happens, not often, but it happens”, some of the panic subsided enough that I was able to spend the day with friends, keeping my worry contained inside, with only the occasional “volume check”. 

The “unexpected” drew out emotions I believe I had been fortunate to miss following my mastectomy; the feeling of loss of femininity and panic that I’d never feel whole again. I’ve watched my volume decrease and felt my anxiety increase with each escaping milliliter; the hope that this too shall pass. 

It’s time to go to work today. The easy road would be to stay home today until I can see the doctor again. But for those who haven’t had the luxury of being reconstructed, I’m showering, dressing, (albeit in a very baggy top) and heading out to face the day. 

My journey is a constant reminder that life can change in a moment.  Love hard, feel deeply, and embrace all you can. Tomorrow may come but isn’t promised, and even if it does may hold the fight of your life. 

The Intellectually-Emotional Conundrums of LifeĀ 

As time passes we all grow and learn.  Recently, my noticing has revolved around the intersect of intellect and emotion.

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person on any given day; one who is able to interpret data and make decisions based on conclusions gleaned from the data available; Calculated. Analytical. Measured. Planned. 

However, as focused as I aim to be on the data of life, I find myself mired in the complex web of my emotions. I am learning that others in the world do not “feel” with the same depth and passion for ordinary events as I do. Although this is a rather reflective realization that helps me to better process, understand, and appreciate many aspects of my life, I find there is an equally blind spot to others’ perception of my rationally determined decisions. 

With my recent journey I have been so humbled and honored and embarrassed as folks describe my decision as “brave” or “strong” or even “heroic”. For, in my mind, there was a data set that had accompanying outcomes and choices. It was from the data that I made my choice….not so much the emotion. I didn’t perceive my decision to be brave or strong, just the logical outcome to the algorithm of life with which I was presented. 

So, it is in this space that I continue to struggle. Martyrdom has never, ever been on my agenda. Hence, it is such a challenge to graciously accept, much less discuss my decisions as “brave”, “strong”, or “heroic”. My decision, at least in my mind, was data-based and selfish (i.e. >80% chance of cancer without surgery +losing hair was not a formula with a positive outcome in my book). But those closest to me share their awe and admiration for my ability to make such a decision. Apparently I’m blind to the fact that many would rather gamble against Mother Nature than choose a proactive response. That with which many would approach with emotion, particularly fear or indifference, I approach with analysis and calculated logic. 

I’m not sure how many  others experience intellectually emotional conundrums. But for those of us that do, I want others to please just understand that we are thankful for your kind words and caring actions; that we are, like you, trying to determine our path.  Only, our path is fraught with emotional hills and valleys within the land of data.  

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