Tag Archives: healing

Forever On Hold

Breast cancer is overwhelming. There are so many issues I’m thinking about right now:

  • Insurance.Yesterday I spent an agonizing amount of time on the phone with GWU hospital, my insurance company, and my
    Frustration.

    This isn't me, but I probably looked like this yesterday.

    oncologist’s office trying to get rid of a $1,000 bill for an MRI that should have been pre-certified. I realize this should be a minor worry in my life right now, especially because we got final path reports and I am THRILLED to have finally confirmed that my cancer was Stage I. But I can’t help feelings of anger that dealing with insurance companies is almost a full-time job and no one can give me straight answers to my questions.

  • Fertility (and insurance). I have decided to go ahead with embryo freezing, along with my boyfriend who I lovingly referred to the other day as my “frozen-baby daddy”. The decision was tough – this is a complicated process that requires a lot of doctor visits, drugs, injections, a minor operation, etc, but the decision feels good because it gives me the best probability of having my own children in the future. I didn’t want to go through chemo, become infertile, look back and say “Why the hell didn’t I freeze my eggs?” Still, the process is already causing me stress and it hasn’t even started. I couldn’t get a straight answer from my insurance company as to whether they cover retrieval and IVF, so I’m applying for financial aid from Sharing Hope for Women program. I also just went off my birth control last month as advised by my radiologist, and I’ve been spotting for the past two days, but as it’s been a bajillion years since I’ve had a period while not on birth control, I have no idea if this is a period or not. Why is it important? Because if it is my period, I gotta get a jump on this egg retrieval process ASAP. TOO FAST, TOO FURIOUS.
  • The skin on my breasts. There are spots on both my breasts that the plastic surgeon “doesn’t like”. I don’t like it either. One very large spot under my nipple on my left breast was turning black and is now a weird brown, and there was a big blister that popped to the right of it. My incision (which is along the bottom fold of my breast) is also iffy. I am terrified of getting necrosis and needing revision surgeries and, if worse comes to worst, losing my expander. On the right side, the problem isn’t as bad but there are some very small areas of imperfection. Come on, skin, pull through!
Does this swirling tornado of crap that comes along with a breast cancer
diagnosis ever die down? It doesn’t help that today is the first day in a long time that I’ve been alone. Both my parents, who have been amazing and taking care of me since my surgery, are working today. My boyfriend is back in DC, also working. And I am all by my lonesome, with my armageddon-worthy thoughts (well… and my JP drains, which feel like my new best buds). 

The Art of Healing

Almost two weeks post-mastectomy! Still feeling wonderful; honestly, I think one of the hardest aspects of this whole experience has been finding a comfortable way to sleep. If that’s my biggest annoyance, I’ll take it. I’m also becoming a bit of a hypochondriac, freaking out with every small pain or stretch or movement I feel, thinking my sutures have torn or my expander has burst. Luckily, my stepmom is a nurse and my dad is a doctor, and at every step they reassure me that I am fine.

What I really want to talk about today is my job. I work as an office manager for the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, a wonderful organization that promotes the arts as integral to healthcare by providing resources, professional development and educational opportunities, and a forum for networking, learning, and furthering the field with colleagues. This past week, we held our annual international conference in San Francisco. Unfortunately, I was not able to go due to the timing of my surgery, but I was so proud to hear a feature about our conference and our organization’s work on San Fran’s local NPR affiliate, which featured our board president, some past board members, and callers who shared stories of how the arts have positively impacted their healthcare experiences. It was a wonderful broadcast and I encourage you all to listen: KQED feature “Healing with Art”.

One of the things I have been down about lately has also been the skin on my left breast, which is not looking so great and taking longer to heal than I expected. I so much want to heal perfectly, without any necrosis (dead skin) or need for further surgeries to correct things, which would give me a less natural cosmetic result. Today, after stepping out of the shower and still feeling disappointed in the state of my skin, I thought about the broadcast and my organization and decided to write a poem to improve my feelings about my skin.

While I don’t usually like to share my creative writing, I like this poem and think sharing it will enhance my positive feelings because I know all of my readers are behind me every step of the way, and I want to add my testimony to that of others who find the arts a powerful healer. Here goes:

“Healthy Skin”

The color of healthy
skin is pink. Peach if
you’re a Caucasian coloring
with crayons.
In shadows black skin
emerges, but the best
we can hope for is pink
underneath. Blood,
oozing, is a good sign,
scary as it is.

Cream is slathered
on the skin, like icing
on a cake, the surgeon said.
Covering up the black
and ushering in the pink,
the blood, the blisters
that pop and reveal soft
pink, underneath.

I hope for pink, because
it is the color of healthy
skin.