Braless in Britain

Today I made two decisions.

First was to forget about the bra. Mom and I went in search of health food stores on the high street, and I wore my loose and lovely blue dress.  Because the dress has some strategic pleats I was able to walk around sans-false breast (sans bra altogether) and it felt divine: just me and the soft caress of cotton in the breeze.  You know what, I think people didn’t even notice.

Today was a very good day for body image awesomeness.  I also bought a shirt from H&M that has similar pleats. The neckline plunges considerably, but I figure why not? I’m only 28, and so what if I occasionally show a bit of scar? Once this wound heals it will lighten and become less alarming to the accidentally flashed, plus in general the design of this shirt means neither boob nor scar will be hanging out for the world to see.

🙂 Shopping. Oh I love it, even if I can only stand an hour before my side becomes overcome with pins and needles.

My second decision has also been made today. Zsolt and I will stay in England for the chemotherapy. While I’d love to be near my family, I also love being near my husband – and he needs to finish his thesis, which can best be done with access to the university and his colleagues.  In the meantime I’ll start applications in case we decide to move after chemo is completed. At the moment that future decision to move is still in the air, but for now we’re staying put in jolly old England.

So there you go. Today I am feeling better, better than yesterday, for sure. To top off the good vibes my work colleagues stopped by for a visit (and brought presents, yay!). I’ll tell you what, the library is the loveliest place – from the people, to the environment, to the work.  Shout out to Nick and Margaret! Thanks for coming round; it was great to chat a while.

So high and lows, as promised. Today has been a high.  And thanks goodness for that.

PS – an extra shout out to the generous ladies who delivered a certain lunch/dinner this past afternoon. Your thoughtfulness is very much appreciated, and I think was a highlight in the day.  It’s incredible how people can take care of one another. Wonderful too.  🙂

Post Mastectomy Recovery

It’s funny when they advise that mastectomy recovery takes 2-4 weeks, because  my mind automatically assumes that I’ll have this beat in one week, tops.  Four weeks of recovery? Sorry, but I don’t think so; not this girl. Didn’t you hear? I’m a fighter.

Destroying breast cancer

And I am a fighter. But one week post surgery I can now see this taking a while. Yes, I am out of the hospital, and yeah, I’m not falling asleep on the floor, but my side is still tight, my wound is still numb,  my energy is still low, my arm still aches, and the bandages won’t be removed till next Monday (aka my birthday).

Like I said before, it’s not a terrible pain but it is persistent. I’m all elastics that won’t stretch, and pulling gives that ‘about to snap’ sensation.  But there is my routine, thank goodness for small miracles. My routine, and my mother, are pushing me along.

So here it is, Catherine’s Feel Good Ready Recovery Mastectomy Routine – check it out and apply as needed:


Wake up! It’s a good start to another good day. Your alarm clock will most likely be the postman with a delivery, a result of ordering way too much from Amazon because it’s hard to leave the house for over twenty minutes, and stir crazy = online shopping.  Wrap a bathrobe over your body and answer the door. Say hello, share a smile, and sign an electric pad with your scribble.

Eat! Now is the time to bulk-up that body.  Here is breakfast, here are the vitamins, and here is the protein shake that Mom has whipped together (after many rejected trials we have settled for a mixture of powder, orange juice, and carbonated water, sometimes she makes protein powder crepes, and those are the very best).

Exercise! There is a list of exercises from the nurses that must be done three times a day. They are as follows: neck rotations, chicken wing lifts, chicken wing circles, beach ball, spider, behind the back, and up the wall. You may prefer to forget about these exercises (a reminder that moving is difficult, plus they’re totally boring to do), but persist regardless. Apply mother’s insistance if necessary.

Walk! Get out of the house, even if only for a short time. Whether we just circle the street or have a drink at Tragos, getting out and moving has been exhausting – but day by day it is becoming much easier.

Relax! Aka, come home and crash into bed. Don’t move because the arm is swelling, pulling and threatening to snap. Lay still for twenty minutes till sensations subside. Then, read a book for twenty more minutes because you can, and why not relax while work has you signed off? I’m right in the middle of Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett and hate to leave it untouched for long.

WORK! Throw bombs, do visualizations, and try right-hand/left-hand writing. What do we want? All cancer to die! Who’s gonna do it? We are! What are we aiming for? The best news ever!

Next Wednesday is my consultation, a result of med students and treatment specialists putting their heads together and discussing whether it’s worth blasting the shit out of my body over the next year. And it’s possible, because I’m young, they’ll lean towards ‘yes’. BUT I’m putting all my energy into them changing their minds, because miraculously the cancer is dying and the margins are very safe and, my goodness Catherine, it’s disappeared all together!

We aim for the best. All I can do is take things one step at a time, and either I sit here in anxious anticipation of a terrible year, or I let my mind and body start fighting. So I’m fighting: throwing bombs and punches at any fear, doubt or preconceived notion that enters my mind.  A lot of bombs have been thrown. A lot of shrapnel has gone flying.

Rinse and Repeat! Do it again, wussy! Get up and hit those targets – afternoon and evening, with a few substitutions and a gradual tapering off of activity.I get sore the longer I’m active, and the miracle of caffeine only lasts a certain amount of time. But each day stretches further than the last, and that is so encouraging.

It’s taking time. I’m not out saving the world yet, or even riding my bike. But things are getting better,  and they’ll keep getting better.

I am a fighter – I am recovering – and I’ll keep doing both for however long it takes.

P.S. HAPPY CANADA DAYYYYYYYY — WOOOOHOOOOO! CANADA!!!! I miss barbeques, fireworks, body painting, and aimless downtown wandering while draped in red and white.  However I did set myself a goal on Canada day, which was to make it to a friend’s art exhibit opening. It’s inspiring when friends succeed, and giving them support brings us all further. So on July 1st I put on my too-tight recovery bra and a dress, went with my mom, Zsolt, Ulrike and Darren, and visited Ian Kirkpatrick’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger solo exhibit. Ian and his wife Sara have been good friends since we met in Gower, check out his exhibit details here (being shown till September in the Michael Andrews Building at Southampton Solent University); he has a very impressive graphic design portfolio. Actually, Sara also has an impressive archaeology blog. Look into the past here.

Anyhow, thirty minutes there and I was a cooked goose – couldn’t stand a moment longer with my arm throbbing at my side (I miss my lymph nodes). Zsolt touched my back during the opening speech and was surprised to feel sweat – yeah, I was sweating; being there was an effort, but a worthwhile one. After taking a tour of the work and chatting with the artist, we all piled into the car and took off back home where I popped two pain killers and went directly to bed. But it was worth it; my goal to visit the exhibit was achieved. So that was my Canada day, and it felt pretty good.