For my thirty-six birthday I decided to give myself the gift of a breast reduction. I have always had large breasts and felt that it was time to finally take matters into my own hands and have the surgery that I've been dreaming of for years. I had enough money saved and knew it was the right time in my life, I was done having kids and I had maintained the same weight for years. During the required mammogram before the breast reduction the doctors discovered a tumor. Within a month I was lying on the surgery table to remove the tumor. (You can read more about the journey here.)
Since my breast surgery I have had to get a mammogram every six months. The type of tumor that I had removed, Phyllodes, has a high reoccurrence rate and grows rapidly. Thankfully I have not had any reoccurrences and this past week after the mammogram appointment the radiologist announced that she was going to recommend that I move to yearly mammograms. It's almost been two years since my surgery and I am beyond thrilled to not have to endure the emotional tumor of getting a mammogram every six months.
Every time I stand in the paper gown and hold my breath while the machine presses down on my breast I say a prayer in my head, "Please God don't let there be anything. Please God!"
"Okay you can breathe." The technician calls behind her glass encasement.
I try to release all of the worry but it's hard not to feel as though you are back in time, to the day when they did find something. Each and every time I have panic attacks as I drive to the appointment. I practice the breath work that I do in meditation and I try my best to remain calm but it feels as though I am on an emotional roller coaster. On the outside I look the same, but on the inside I am in turmoil. Flashes of my journey during the past two years enter my head, in between prayers to God and then doubt about making the decision to not have the full mastectomy....I think I age ten years in those thirty minutes before my appointment.
"We are going to miss seeing you.", my friendly technician says to me. I have been fortunate to get the same technician almost every time. She's probably about my mom's age and has amazing skills on being gentle while also being efficient and getting the images that the doctors need without having to redo them because of a skin fold or another type of hiccup. She makes this stressful process a wee bit easier to manage. We often end up in a conversation about yoga and I instruct her on some yoga poses to do in between patients. I live and breath yoga. Everywhere I go I have incorporatedit into my life.
"When you leave we all talk about your images.", she says chuckling to herself like she's a child telling a silly secret. "Huh?", I reply with a hint of worry. "Your pec muscles are gorgeous! Tell your yoga students that pec muscles make better mammogram images because the muscle pushes the breast tissue out. I've never seen a woman with pec muscles like yours." "Thanks, I think." She gives me a wink as I nervously laugh to myself. All of those chaterungas are paying off!
I haven't fully accepted and embraced my new body, I'm still healing physically and emotionally. I still feel betrayed by my body, yet at the same time I am in awe of my strength to not only endure this experience but to share my feelings and experience openly online and in my yoga classes. I've embraced the vulnerability of breast cancer. This two year journey has been eye opening. When faced with a life altering decision, you look at the world differently. You don't take things for granted. I've become very clear about my goals and how I want to share my message with the world. I'm continuing to surround myself with the people who lift me up and encourage me to be the best version of myself.
And today I celebrate one year and 6 months of being sober!
You don't need breast cancer to reevaluate your life...put yourself on the to-do. You deserve it! Let's honor Valentine's day by focusing on self-love and sharing the best version of YOU with the world.