BRCA1 Double Mastectomy

Redefining Recovery

BRCA1 Double Mastectomy

And so it begins... the week of surgery I have been planning since February of this year, before I even set foot in my genetic counselor's office. After putting off that appointment for many years, letting "life" get in the way, I felt at 44 I should stop pressing my luck. Cancer runs rampant through my family, and I wanted to continue to see my babies grow up and be successful, and spend as many hours and days as possible with the love of my life by my side. Year 44 was the year for owning my health and my future.

Before we showed up to see the genetic counselor, I had already decided I would have whatever surgeries necessary to reduce my risk of cancer and stack the odds significantly in my favor to be around for a long time. So, I made it easy and made that decision two weeks before I received the news I was BRCA1 positive, a genetic mutation that basically tells you you're having cancer. It's not if, but when, much like a ticking time bomb. Um, no thanks.

Fast forward to August 27, 2019, the day of surgery. I was actually happy (as you can see in my picture), finally arriving at the day where I would tell BRCA1 to suck it and show that I would be calculating my mortality stats. Let me back track to say that in June I had my ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed to greatly reduce my risk of ovarian cancer, also part of the BRCA1 protocol. But, to me, this surgery on August 27 was "the biggie," the one that required more decisions, risks and ramifications. Even set, I was excited to dive right in and "get 'er done."

So, here I sit, day 3 of recovery. Up at 5 AM feeling the urge to blog. What's so important at this hour? Coffee and mindset. Yet, only one of those is up and running (I don't have the range of motion yet to mess with the coffee maker). So, I sit in silence, minus the early-morning shenanigans our four cats, and give in to my therapy... blogging.

I woke up with this thought speaking to me, "Why do we let others define our recovery? We should be taking the bull by the horns and defining that for ourselves." Allow me to dive in here. I think it very wise to do your research, ask questions, talk with your provider. Heck, you may even have a couple friends who have had similar procedures, and ask them tips and tricks to be mindful of. I'm all about knowledge sharing and learning from other's mistakes! What I'm not all about is allowing other people's journey—pain levels, recovery times, misery, define mine. I cannot tell you the number of people who asked me the recovery time for this surgery. Sure, my surgeon gave me an idea of what to expect. He even told me some of his super athletic patients were down and out for quite some time. But, the thought that comes to mind every time is, "That doesn't matter, it's not me."

The way I see it is that any time we are faced with a challenge, we are also faced with the opportunity to find new ways to solutions. Ways that haven't been shared or tried before. That, my friends, is the beauty of life. Of hurt. Of healing and recovery. See, the moment I decided I was having a double mastectomy and reconstruction, my training began. I was faced with a challenge and it would be me who would decide how I mentally and physically trained to prepare, my mindset around it all, and what my recovery would look like. Perspective, preparedness and perseverance are all choices I was unwilling to let others define for me.

Empowerment is not something others provide for you or gift you. It is something you provide for yourself; a decision to own any aspect of your life. Waiting for someone to "save you" is putting that power in someone else's hands... exactly where it doesn't belong. For me, we are talking a health journey, but this could apply to so many journeys in your life... your job, your emotional well-being, your finances, your success in school... you name it. Ownership is the only way to level up.

For this particular journey, my BRCA1 journey in year 44, I am running the show. So, what does that look for me?

I was determined to get off opioids for pain. My last dose was less than 12 hours after surgery. That meant I had to tap in to areas of my brain to help in recovery. I found sounds on Spotify at a specific frequency for healing and pain reduction and listened to it while I slept. I became hyperaware of any tension in my body, and with every breath I chanted, "Stronger and better in, pain out." I sat in the sun for a long duration, benefiting from the healing power of Vit. D and said to myself, "Vit. D in, let the healing begin." I drank loads and loads of water. Being a lover of nature and barns, I asked my family to drive me around to change my scenery, to take in the beauty around me and enjoy the things that set my soul on fire. You see, I firmly believe that when you set yourself up with all the right things and you "feed" your body what it needs, there are no limits to its healing power. Our brains and bodies are capable of far more than we give them credit for. Rather than letting WebMd, or my surgeon, or a friend-of-a-friend's journey define mine, I am connecting with my mind and body to help me define my own recovery and success.

Again, we are talking a health journey here. While I am not an expert, I would venture to say that the same principles: perspective, preparedness and perseverance, can be applied to anything in life. You are in charge of your perspective. Does it reflect the mindset or life that you want? You own how prepared you show up... for that interview, that job, your classes, your life. How prepared or ill-prepared you are is entirely on you.

You are in charge of your perseverance. I am persevering through health challenges now. What in your life requires an extra dose of perseverance? Are there areas where you need to show up better and not let up? Areas where maybe you have quit and you need to get back at it? Everyone is in a different season of life, but if any of this resonates with you, it's time to listen up and own it. I am redefining my recovery right now. I decided to not listen to what others would say about my recovery, but rather, I would write my own story. The same can be said for you. What in your life do you need to redefine and rewrite to live your best life?

healing
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