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Thursday, December 15, 2011


Pain. Such a simple, four-letter word. Yet it is huge. It is so much bigger than four letters. Pain has been one of the main factors in my breast cancer journey. Sure, there's worrying and anxietities and the emotional and mental toll cancer has had on me. The waiting and wondering and stress of decisions. The fear. The paralyzing fear. Those things, though they have a huge and constant impact on my life, are being worked on. Meaning I am talking about my fears and anxieties. I'm seeing a professional. I'm working on getting through these feelings. Yes, it could take years. But I'm working on them. And there's always hope that I can get THROUGH them with the love, care and support of my fiancee, family and friends. But pain. Pain is the one thing that I feel completely helpless about.
While it's true I have a LOT less than now with the implants than I did with the expander, I still have pain. Not debilitating, like before. Driving is more comfortable. Sleeping is better. Wearing bags and purses feels better. Hugging doesn't hurt as much. All of those things have improved with the removal of my expander. But I guess I expected something more, and sooner, when it comes to pain relief. My plastic surgeon told me it could be MONTHS until I feel like myself again. I have to remember I'm just now getting to the two-month mark from my implant surgery. And yes, the pain IS better. But in no way is it gone, or even close to being gone. Bras still hurt. Even sports bras. Stretching still hurts. Bending over still hurts. Sleeping in some positions still hurts. I still have a tight, pulling feeling on my right side, where the expander was. Both sides still get "pangs" of pain that last a few seconds. But it's mostly the tight feeling that bothers me. Lifting my arm up, standing up after sitting for a long period of time. Sneezing. Sneezing STILL bothers me.
I don't expect instant relief or results. That's not how surgery works. I guess I expected, with the implant surgery, to one day just feel completely better. But like with all things, it doesn't work that way. Especially surgery. I guess relief from this (complete relief) will come slowly. It's not like one day I will just feel amazing. The pain will creep away slowly over the next few months. Things will still hurt as I work my way back into physical activity. Running at the gym, lifting weights, dancing at weddings. Things will just hurt for a while. But I have to remember my body is still getting used to two foreign objects lodged beneath my chest wall. Sure, they are squishy objects, but they are still foreign. My body has to adapt to them. I have to adapt to them. And getting breast implants after a mastectomy is nothing like getting them with actual breasts still there. While it's true my right side had plenty of time to stretch out and make room for the implant through months of having the expander, it still has to get used to having an implant there. There's no tissue there. My plastic surgeon described it like the expander had created a "pocket" so the implant on that side would kind of settle almost immediately, and would feel more comfortable than the other side. That was true in the beginning. Right after my surgery it was the left side that hurt a lot. But now, the left side seems to be doing OK, and the right side still hurts. It's still tight and pulling and uncomfortable.
So the pain is something I feel I can't control. I stretch every day. But really, there's nothing else I can do except wait, and try to believe one day it WILL feel OK. I also have to believe that the OK feeling won't come "one day." It will come over a long period of time. I won't just all of a sudden notice it; I'll become acustomed to the actual "healing" process of it still hurting every day, and hopefully getting a little better each day.
My body has gone through a lot of trauma between May and now. I have to give it time to heal. I have to be patient. It's just hard because the pain reminds of every day I'm not quite "there" yet. Though now, the difference is, there's no rush to get "there." There are no more surgeries scheduled. Now I just let time runs its course. It can only get better. There's nothing left to do.
It's just frustrating to not feel 100 percent yet. And to want to feel 100 percent after so many months of not. I want to be able to put this behind me. As Dory says in Finding Nemo: "just keep swimming."
And my all-time favorite, via Albert Einstein: "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
I can say I've "kept moving" throughout this whole process, pain and all. And it's hard. But I need to constantly remind myself it won't always be hard. A time will come when I won't have pain. I'm not sure when that will be, and honestly, I hate waiting for it and am extremely frustrated by it. I am angered that I'm forced to always think about it because now, there's no escaping it. Pain still comes with each move I make. And it's funny, because no matter how long it lasts or how long you have it for, you never, ever get used to pain.

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