I am 4 months out from my DIEP flap surgery. It was preventative as I have the BRCA2 gene mutation. I am 54 and I am very grateful that I am a #previvor. Today, I want to have a real conversation about recovery.

I had a hysterectomy in May, double mastectomy in August and DIEP in November. I did everything ensuring that I could do it in one calendar year (thank you high healthcare deductibles). There were a few complications and setbacks, but I am good now.

I can admit it now, there were really tough days, days that I was sad or blue (okay depressed) and a real struggle to get back to normal.   Reality is there is a new normal.   I am no longer the same woman I was when I started this journey back in February.  It has taken me some time to understand that. With that being said, I am happy to have this behind me and I would do it all again.

The Struggle is Real

I watch so many women who seem to bounce right back and life is great at this juncture. Sometimes I feel like a failure because I can’t do what I used to do (10-15k steps a day seems like a far-off goal. Yesterday I managed 3.5k) I tire so easily.  I had the ability to stay home and take care of myself with a wonderful support structure.   Not all women are that lucky.

I write this because I know that there is someone out there struggling. Just want you to know you are not alone. We all heal at different rates. Four months is not that far, and each day does get better.  If you are reading this, know that you are not alone and for now, it is perfectly acceptable that:

  • I still get tired
  • There is guilt I feel because I still struggle
  • I just don’t have the energy I used to
  • Rest is so important, I find myself sleeping a lot
  • I haven’t dusted the house
  • Allowing myself to lean on my husband for assistance
  • I still have aches and pains
  • People distanced themselves from my journey
  • Clothes do not fit
  • I have trouble tying my shoes
  • Body image issues I struggle with
  • I have brain fog and struggle to focus

Healing is Serious Work

Pain or the push-back from your body is normal; respect it.   As long as you are progressing forward you are doing great.   I understand that it is hard to not to push it, but I also have seen women that pay for it (open wounds, infections, etc.).

Keep saying to yourself
“As long as I am progressing, I am doing great!”

Remember it’s a lot for your body to go through. Give yourself some grace and let your body heal. It will likely take longer than you want, so breathe. Do what you can and try to be patient.

I was not in good shape (but was healthy) beforehand.  Somehow, I thought that I would be able to bounce back fairly quick. There are days that I can’t make it through a day without a pretty hefty nap. I realize how much healing my body has to do and how much rest that takes. But yeah, at this point, “normal” feels so far off!

We all heal at different rates.

Best advice I can give?   Give yourself time to recover. Your body has been through a lot. The surgeries, anesthesia, hormone changes all contribute to how you are feeling.

We all start this journey in different places. Some have cancer, some have a genetic gene. Others have chemo and radiation, while others don’t. Some have had medical issues, age…to name a few.  We all pray that there aren’t any complications, not everyone is that lucky.

I have learned that recovery is different for everyone. While some bounce back, it takes others longer and that’s fine.   So, stop comparing yourself to others.  Do everything to heal body, mind and soul.  Remember when you see picture of women looking great ask them how many surgeries they have had to get there.

Lastly, don’t be hard on yourself.  Look how far you have come.  Continue to heal, know you are not alone and you are doing great!

Rev. Colleen Irwin
Reverend Colleen Irwin is a Spiritual being having a human experience as a Blogger, Wife, Mother, Mentor, Healer and Public Speaker living in Rochester New York. Colleen, a Natural Born Medium, teaches, lectures and serves Spirit when called upon. She remembers speaking with Spirit as a child and learning how to share this knowledge with others has been an adventure that she captured in her book “Discovering Your Stream”. Colleen has been mentored by Reverend Jack Rudy, and ordained as a Priest in the Order of Melchizedek by the Reverend Dan Chesboro through the Sanctuary of the Beloved. When she is not doing her Spiritual work she is a volunteer docent sharing Susan B. Anthony's history to visitors of the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester. Her trust in Spirit gave her a new title – PREVIVOR. She now uses her platform to educate others about the BRCA genetic mutation and how one can take control of their health and well-being.
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