Thoughts From a New Mom and Cancer Survivor
I’m now six-plus months into my entry into mom-hood so I thought it was time to update those of you who have been following my journey. Some people may think that cancer is probably a distant memory at this point, but, as most of us know, cancer is always there lurking at the back (or sometimes forefront) of our mind. As a new mommy and a cancer survivor, once again I feel quite unique. Here are some things that are currently on shuffle on my mind’s playlist.
Feeding my baby
I’m a badass mom who’s been through so much. I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction and therefore have no milk ducts (or nipples!). I am very sad that I didn’t even have the option to breastfeed BUT here are the positive thoughts that I keep at the forefront of my mind. ANYONE can feed my baby – this allows me to take the breaks that I need whether it’s getting a couple of extra hours sleep or running to the grocery store on my own. I think this helped contribute to my good state of mental health, post-baby. Also, breastfeeding is hard! I see it with my friends and new mommy friends and I know it takes a huge toll on them. Of course, I would have loved the option to give my baby breastmilk and to enjoy that intimate connection with her but we find other ways to connect. For now, I choose to focus on the positives.
Questions my anxiety asks
Even with all of the similarities between babies and their moms, she will be different from me. I’m already thinking about how I’ll explain to my baby why my chest looks so different from hers. I know I have a few years, but when will this inevitable conversation occur? I’m also realizing how much more I have to live for now while my mind goes to another crucial question: Will the cancer come back? I’m so in love (obsessed, really) with this little girl so I want to stay positive and enjoy every delicious moment that I have with her. This inevitably brings me to the question of her fate. What if she gets breast cancer? I can’t imagine her going through what I (along with my mother, grandmother and great grandmother) went through. How can I help her? What is her life going to look like? These are all lingering questions.
Being different from other moms
I feel different from some other moms. I’m still just as concerned for my baby but there’s just something that feels so different. No, her spit up doesn’t scare me. No, her crying doesn’t make me cry. I know she’ll figure things out and me stressing won’t help anything one bit. Cancer has put a lot of things into perspective for me about what I should and shouldn’t obsess over.
My health is still an ongoing focus
About three years ago I started getting skin infections in my breast that presented itself with pain, redness, inflammation, and fever. I’ve been taking antibiotics three times a day in hopes that this would eradicate the infection entirely but unfortunately, it has not. At this point, the implants need to go. This surgery is still looming in the future where I will remove my textured implants and replace them with smooth ones. I am hopeful that they do not cause any issues and I can finally stop taking the antibiotics. During my recovery, I won’t be able to pick up my baby for two weeks. No big deal right?! NO, it is a big deal! F*ck you cancer and the ongoing shit I need to deal with. Of course, this surgery is pending and will be in the books once things start calming down at the hospitals, which hopefully is sooner rather than later.
Confronting social norms
Unless you have a good 10 minutes to listen to the answer, don’t ask me this: “So…are you going to have a second baby?!” Whoa, slow down, I just popped this one out! I just got back on my cancer meds (tamoxifen). To begin with, it was already risky and controversial for me to take a break from the meds. I can hardly fathom how I’m going to afford school, trips, camps for this little nugget. How could I possibly do it for two? Also, I remember the shit year I had! The early morning fertility appointments, the pokes, the anxiety, the incredible sadness, the anticipation, the letdown, the roller-coaster. I’m honestly so thankful for this miracle and still thanking my lucky stars for her. So, let’s take a break here and just take that all in for a minute, or for a few years or forever. Because I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it.
In these crazy times I am just trying to take things day by day. I’m enjoying my time with my baby girl and trying to keep my mind off cancer and future surgery. All I can do is try to stay active, be healthy and help this little human grow up to be a wonderful little woman. – Dory Kashin