Remember your first day back in school in late August or early September when your teacher asked you to write an essay entitled. ‘What I did on my summer vacation?” Well, this September, with a pandemic that still continues at a scary pace, we’ll all have a story to share unlike any other. Here’s mine:
How I spend my Pandemic Summer
Some people shared that during this pandemic they took up a new language, started a kitchen table business, sewed masks, re-designed their websites, volunteered at the local food pantry, caught up reading books, watched old movies, learned to bake sourdough bread, attended Zoom cocktail parties and meetings, drank copious amounts of wine and slept more (or less). Others started a diet, ended a relationship, redecorated their house, or tossed out their junk.
Sadly, a few of my friends buried a loved one, most often an elderly parent. Some were impacted by COVID-19; others by the progression of age. Condolence calls and notes seem to become more frequent. I tried harder to seek out birthdays and occasions to celebrate my friends and picked up the phone to touch base whenever I could. Connecting became more important than ever in isolation.
Everyone has a unique pandemic story. Sheltering in place, not traveling and basically living a more isolated life brings out the best and worst in a person. You learn a lot about being alone, having patience, embracing gratitude, finding your creativity and rethinking what matters in life.
And so, it has been with me. One thing I learned was to slow down and stop trying to do too much. That lasted a week or so. Then this happened:
I Got New Breasts After Mine Were Recalled
In June, I underwent surgery to remove my textured silicone breast implants and replace them with smooth saline ones. This was a personal health decision, now faced by many women with textured implants. In July 2019, all textured surface breast implants were taken off the market after studies found the textured implants have been linked to a rare but treatable form of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a cancer of the immune system. The “texture” is the casing around the implant.
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA), who issued the recall, stated that patients who have the textured devices do not need to have them removed, but they need to be aware of signs and symptoms of BIA-ALCL such as breast enlargement, pain, asymmetry, lump in the breast or armpit, overlying skin rash and hardening of the breast. Patients with these symptoms may require additional screening such as ultrasound or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
My decision was based on a few issues. First, I was concerned about the health risk. Second, my breasts were hard, cold, itchy, tight and achy. I developed Raynaud’s, an autoimmune condition that may or may not be associated with my implants. I learned during my research that breast implant illness affects many women has as numerous symptoms.
My recovery from day surgery took longer than I thought. My legs felt like lead and my stomach, where fat was removed by liposuction to fill in around the breast, felt ripped. Now my stomach is ripply, (Why would anyone get liposuction?) Even by end of July I was still tired and had to take it easy. But, overall, I am incredibly happy with my decision! I have pillow, soft, warm and healthy breast implants! David, my husband, is happy, too! I went on a bra buying binge.
Edition #3- Getting Things Off My Chest- now out!
In July, I finished revising and updating my first book, Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide To Staying Fearless & Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer. The 3rd edition can be found on Amazon and other booksellers. The sections on reconstruction and choosing not to reconstruct are new. I also address more food safety issues and updated my resources. I hope you will consider buying the book but also let me know if I can support a breast cancer charity or women’s group in your area with a virtual talk. Link to purchase book on Amazon
The Big Move
In August, David and I sold our house and most of our possessions and packed what was left in to a 10 x 16 -foot storage POD unit. This was an exhausting experience with a lot of give and take between a husband and wife. David and I had accumulated many things and had no one to leave them to. We selected those items that meant the most to us, sold or donated the rest, and filled two dumpsters with stuff no one wanted after three moving sales. (No one really wants your stuff we learned). Watching the POD leaving for a storage place in upstate New York until we decide our new domicile was both scary and exhilarating!
An Open Road and Next Chapter Being Written
After about a week of clearing the exhaustion from our minds and bodies, we hit the road in a packed SUV. We have been house sitting in NY’s Finger Lakes and staying at a friend’s home in the Hudson Valley to plot our next leg of the journey. People ask us, where are you moving to? We respond: “Roam. Home is where we Roam.” Are we crazy? Maybe. But we feel kind of freed up as well.
Living through a pandemic makes you take stock. After talking about moving for years and sheltering in place for five months, we decided to unburden ourselves, both physically and emotionally. We’ve hit the road with confidence and an open attitude, always mindful about health, safety and social distancing. Where we end up is up in the air. But we know we’re making the best of a time in our lives when we are still healthy and now freer to embrace and accept new opportunities.
Some may call 2020 a “lost year” but I feel we have gained perspective on what really matters. We live with the unexpected and uncertainty and pivot to adjust. We learn to wear a mask and keep smiling underneath. We may miss physical hugs, but we connect in other ways.
Life is an open road, and we are taking it on the best ride we can!