Three weeks ago, in The Stories That Don’t Make Headlines, I shared an old college friend’s visit to a California ER during the time of COVID-19.
Then in Tell Me About Yourself: When Family Planning Is Put on Hold, I told you the story of another friend’s delayed fertility treatment due to the growth of the pandemic in the New York City area where she lives.
Since then, I reached out to my friend who lives in Iowa. I was curious to learn how much her life has changed as someone who resides in a small Midwestern town, which is nowhere near any current epicenter of the Coronavirus.
Unlike the first two people I mentioned, she has noticed more benefits in her life since this pandemic started. She is well aware of how this is different from many other people’s stories and is upfront about that fact.
Since she told me how her life has become more convenient, I have heard from other friends who have made similar comments. Of course, nobody wants this virus to continue; however, several have confided in me that their forced lifestyle changes due to the pandemic have compelled them to reevaluate how they approached their life prior to COVID-19 and how they want to seize each day moving forward.
How has the Coronavirus made you reevaluate your life?
Photo from Flickr
During my first few weeks of recovery from surgery, my family visited me. My sister flew in a couple days before my mastectomy and stayed for a week. She overlapped by a day with my parents, who stayed in a hotel near my home for almost a week and a half.
By the end of my parents’ last visit with me, my mom raised the topic of how people didn’t know how to talk to me. That is why some of them hadn’t said anything to me about my breast cancer diagnosis.
For context, this is an issue that came up quite a bit after I was initially diagnosed. My sister asked what she could share. A few cousins asked what they could share. Somehow other members of my extended family aren’t sure what they can or cannot say about my diagnosis to others.
Some relatives wanted to share my story with others, and other relatives were saying that they shouldn’t. I heard this from a few different sources in my family.
My mom said that some relatives told others to “just pray” for me—or at least that’s the story in this never-ending game of telephone.
Image from Flickr
I haven’t written here in two weeks. In case you were wondering why, it’s because I got a mastectomy a couple days after my last post. I’ve been adjusting and readjusting to my new body.
If you regularly meditate or do yoga, you’re likely familiar with the concept of the mind-body connection. Well, my mind-body connection is so thrown off. My mind and body are confused. This week, a social worker at my hospital told me that this feeling is normal. She said my mind and body are working to reintegrate their connection to each other.
Prior to my mastectomy, I was so scared of how I would feel when I woke up without one breast after the operation.
After my operation, I woke up with a nurse beside my bed in the recovery room. After a few minutes (or what seemed like a few minutes) of her asking me how I felt, another woman pulled open the curtain around my bed and walked in. This new woman introduced herself as a chaplain of the hospital.
“You’re Regina?” I asked. Yes, she was surprised that I knew her name. I explained that another chaplain had referred me to her and told me to expect a visit after surgery.
Regina asked how I was, and unexpectedly I had a lot to say. My throat hurt from whatever tubes the doctors had put down my throat, but I recall a lot of word vomit. Since it was my first time meeting Regina, I recounted the events of my discovering the lump in my breast, steps I took in my medical care, and the shock I was feeling post-operation. I was surprised how much I had to say. I was feeling light-headed and/or dizzy from anesthetics and medication (and continued to feel that way over the next couple days), but that didn’t stop me from being talkative. I think I was word vomiting because I needed some way of immediately processing everything.
More than a month and a half after I received my breast cancer diagnosis, I attended a support group for women who had all types of cancer. During the latter part of the session, a breast cancer survivor introduced herself and wanted to find out what brought me to the group. After learning that I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer, she gave me her contact information and offered to talk to me further about resources.
Within a few days, I emailed her, and we were able to talk on the phone a day later. She shared her story with me, outlined the challenges she faced, and provided advice for my next steps.
“Get a Keurig, ” she told me. I almost told her that I was a tea drinker, but I was intrigued by her specific recommendation. I asked her why she suggested a Keurig. Then she explained that people could serve themselves when they visited me. I wouldn’t have to worry about serving them.
Photo from Flickr
Something about her recommendation sat with me in a funny way. I couldn’t put my finger on why. Then it occurred to me how much she had thought about serving other people when she had been the one in dire need during her recovery.
As many of you know, last fall and winter were hard for me because several important people in my life either passed away or were managing health issues that forced them to confront their own mortality. The following summer, I had to manage my own health scare with a visit to the ER. Thankfully, doctors were able to figure out that I needed an appendectomy. Fast forward to this winter, I felt a lump in my breast and found out I have breast cancer. Since then, I have been pretty real with myself and others about what that shock and mourning process have been like.
As I’ve opened myself up to sharing my experience, I’m learning a lot about myself and the world. I’m navigating medical appointments, healthcare bureaucracy, health insurance, financial implications, work life, home life, spiritual attitudes, body image, and self-worth in ways I haven’t before … That’s surprising to me because I already have had quite a colorful, adventurous, and unpredictable life. Just when I thought I couldn’t be shocked anymore, the Universe decided it was time to let me know that I had cancer growing inside of me.
Photo from Flickr
Since I’ve shared more of my story, people have reached out and asked me about my situation.
That’s where things have gotten interesting.