Shauna Wears Pink

I will never forget the day my doctor uttered those horrifying words “I am sorry to tell you, but that is a cancer tumor that you have in your left breast”. I was 33 years old, and my life changed forever. I invite you to read my story, learn from it and hopefully be inspired to reach out to other young women living with and beyond breast cancer.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why, Why, Why?

I thought I was done asking the question “Why” until last week when I learned that one of my friends and a fellow young breast cancer survivor was diagnosed with a metastasis of her breast cancer (i.e. her breast cancer has shown up in other organs of her body.) I held it together all day, but in the car on the way home I finally let myself break down. My son was in the car with me and kept asking me why I was sad. The only appropriate thing I could think of to say was “one of mommy’s friends is sick”. My mind just kept screaming why, why, why her? There is just no logical explanation as to why breast cancer reoccurs and metastasizes in one person, but not another. The research does show that breast cancer is more likely to be more aggressive and more advanced in younger women. However, that still does not answer the question of why the chemotherapy and hormone therapy seem to work for one person, but not the next……and more importantly did the chemotherapy and hormone therapy work for me? I know that my reaction to this situation is a bit irrational, but my fear of a recurrence of my own is very real. Over the next few days I began to freak out over every little potential ache or pain, thinking…”What is that?” “Is my cancer back?” “Is it in my bones?” For the last few months I have been plagued with bouts of bronchitis and asthma, so I called up my doctor to see if I needed a chest X-ray. He did not think I needed a chest X-ray, so I made an appointment with him to try to convince him that I need a PET Scan instead which would show any cancer in my body. Again, I know I am being a little irrational, but this is how I deal with my fear of a recurrence. It is the only way I know how to deal with it. I try to work out every day because I know that decreases my chance of a recurrence by 50%. I try to eat healthy organic foods because I know that pesticides contribute to breast cancer. I take my Tamoxifen (hormone therapy) every day, despite its unpleasant side effects. The problem is my friend did all these things too, so why her and not me? It’s almost as if the cancer has already determined what it is going to do and there is nothing I can do about it, but wait and see if it comes back. So, I reaffirm my pledge to continue to make sure that I live each day of my life to the fullest. Yesterday with my husband and son, I visited a local springs and waterfall. I eagerly climbed up a big rock to stand directly under the waterfall so that I could feel the ice cold spring water pour over my entire body and then I jumped off into the deep blue swimming hole below. I felt so alive! Right then and there, I promised myself that I would take more time out of my busy schedule to do things that make me feel that alive!

Friday, June 15, 2007

“Did you say tattoos?”

The first time I visited with my plastic surgeon about my breast reconstruction process following my double mastectomy, he said that the final detail would be for me to get tattoos to recreate the color for my areolas. At the time I remember thinking I needed to get my ears checked, and asked “Did you say tattoos?” I had visions of showing up at a local tattoo parlor to be tattooed by a local tattoo artist with dreadlocks and a million tattoos on his body. As strange at it sounds, last week I completed the final step in my reconstruction by getting two tattoos, one on each of my areolas. Thankfully, my doctor has hired a registered nurse to perform the duties of the tattoo artists in a very clean and sterile medical office. When I first arrived at the office for my “tattooing” the nurse began to ask me all kinds of questions such as what color were my areolas pre-mastectomy and how big they were. I had to admit that I honestly had forgotten. Fortunately, my plastic surgeon had taken photographs, so she was able to print a nice colored photograph of my pre-mastectomy breasts. I had forgotten what they looked like, and was actually very surprised to realize that I actually prefer my post-mastectomy breasts. Yes, they are that good! Anyway, back to the task at had, together we picked out a color and she got right to work. I have to say that it was a little gross to watch, but luckily I could not feel a thing since I still do not have any sensation in my breasts. 10 minutes later I was bandaged and on my way out the door. The next day I was able to remove the bandages and take a look. They look great! They are the same color as before and seem to really complete the look of my new man-made breasts. In fact, in the locker room at my gym a couple women have asked who my plastic surgeon is, not knowing that I have reconstructed breasts, but instead thinking that I have had a boob job or a lift. In addition, I feel more confident at the gym. I used to cower a bit in the dressing room not completely confident in my newly reconstructed breasts. Now I am happy to show them off to any of the other women in the locker room. I can’t help but marvel at the miracle of modern medicine and realize how thankful I am that I have been put back together with such skill and competence.