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8 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Cancer Diagnosis

1. Topless is in vogue

My body, specifically my boobs, became the 8th wonder of the world and everyone wanted to look at me... topless. Physician's Assistants. Doctors. Nurses. Radiologists. Oncologists. Surgeons. All of them! There were days that I should have probably just walked straight into my appointments without my top on. It would have saved us a lot of time. I already know you want to see my ta tas so let's just cut out the whole ‘you leave, while I take my shirt off and then you come back’ thing.

2. Implants are much bigger than A-cups

Much to my surprise, breast implants do not come in an A-cup. Who knew!?! One of my very first appointments with my cosmetic surgeon was one of the FUNNIEST experiences of this entire roller coaster. We were discussing what size I wanted to be. I looked down at my tiny boobettes and replied “I want to be this size… my normal size” He looked back to me and with a smirk said, “Well, they don't make ’em that small.” OMG. Talk about some comic relief!

3. Movement is a bitch, but you will feel better

One day - ONE DAY - after the biggest surgery of my life, nurses had me basically working out. Well, maybe not working out exactly, but it sure felt like it! They had me doing arm raises, deep breathing exercises, and helped me practice putting on my own shirt. I was terrified to move my arms because I was afraid it was going to hurt, but it didn’t and it actually felt a lot better to move my arms around even if it was just a little bit.

4. Pillows should be everywhere

Pillows are amazing. In the hospital I was given a small mastectomy pillow so that when I was trying to stand or walk I had somewhere to put my hands and/or support my newly developed bigger-than-A-cup boobies. I never realized how frequently I used my arms to get in and out of chairs, which is a relatively difficult thing to do after having a mastectomy. The pillows helped me feel more stable and prevented me from pushing off of a chair with my arms/hands because I was holding the pillow to my chest.

5. Chest muscles get used a LOT throughout the day

See #4.

6. Healing is a long process

I am still healing today, three years later. Maybe not physically, but emotionally. One of the many questions I asked just about every doctor was the “how long until I can do XYZ” question. The answer varied, but the primary response was to not rush back into anything. To take my time. To feel out any new physical limitation… Like not being able to do push ups anymore (silver lining… maybe!).

7. Support is key

Having a support system in place to get you moving and keep you laughing was key to my successful recovery. It still is even today. Cancer sucks, but it doesn’t have to be all debbie downer all the time.

8. Life will have new milestones  

Birthdays, births, marriages, deaths, and graduations are all milestones that most people experience. Once you have cancer, you get to add a few more - date of diagnosis, date of surgery, the start of treatment, the end of treatment, etc. I also shifted to referencing life events as pre-cancer and post-diagnosis. I’m trying to move away from this way of thinking but it was such a major “event” that it is still a challenge.

November 18, 2017 by Stephanie Nichols

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