It's been exactly 16.5 months since the mastectomy and 14 months since reconstruction of UTM (under the muscle). I had one of my best friends tell me. “Jos you are going to want to write as much down as possible in the first year before you start to forget everything” I didn’t listen, which is what I regret. So here I am trying to remember - remember for my sister, my clients and others like me. When I read other stories previous to doing the surgery, it helped me when I was scared to make this choice.
So I will do my best to describe what my recovery has been this past year. I wanted so badly to be stronger than I was. I had followed another woman on social media that did Crossfit. I don’t do Crossfit but I was inspired by her quick recovery. I wanted to be like her. My journey wasn’t even close; I found out a few months after reconstruction that I had a torn labrum, then about four months ago that I have a herniated disc. My back had been hurting for over a year post surgery and I thought “Oh it's just the mastectomy.” Wrong. I should have gotten it looked at after a couple months. But I’m stubborn like most athletes are, and decided I could treat myself and pushed through pain until I couldn’t anymore. It started to affect work. Which can be physically demanding when helping clients. I tend to really question my self-worth when I am injured because I feel helpless. I question, “why would clients want to be trained by an injured trainer?” What I really should have done, was analyze myself like I do with my clients. Then it maybe wouldn't have taken a year. So why don’t I treat myself like a client? I should. I am working on it this year as well. So far I have done so much better, with the help of Galen, my partner. He is incredible. I couldn’t have done this process without him. He once told me no one does anything alone in this world, everyone has some help in some way. I will interview him in another post for others to know how your partner deals with everything during the first year of recovery.
So this past year I think I came back to work too fast. My job can be fairly physical, lifting weights for clients and moving objects around like I mentioned before. However, returning to work was a blessing in disguise, as I learned to cue clients without picking things up, using only description and verbal cues. My clients were all amazing about my situation at the time. It also seemed to be the summer of friends getting married so that was fun for me. I didn’t really want to be questioned a bunch about the mastectomy. Or did I? I was confused at the time. I didn’t know what I wanted. I wanted to be with people but I also wanted to be alone. I felt overwhelmed by people's questions, yet open about them at the same time. It was definitely an odd state to be in. That can also happen with injuries in general.
The most interesting question I was asked was, “Are you going to go bigger?” I hated and loved that question. I didn’t want to go bigger as I consider myself an athlete. I am not doing this to get a free boob job. But what if Galen wanted me to go bigger? I had that conversation with him of course. He wanted whatever I wanted. Classic non-answer answer. I then decided to go with as close as possible to what I had previously had. I am happy with my decision. I feel I could have easily regretted that decision. However, something I didn’t know would happen. Well I guess I sort of knew but I didn’t know how much I would hate it.
When you get UTM reconstruction you have the implant placed below your muscle (pec) and when you use your pecs (which is basically everyday for me), your implants get pushed to the side near your armpits. Weird, right? I have had moments where I just get so embarrassed, and there are no companies that make cute sports bras that make sure to cover that. I have searched near and far. I even reached out to major companies and got no response. I was bummed about this for a while until I decided to just accept it. I don’t regret getting this prophylactic mastectomy. I do regret not sharing this past year. I know I have promised videos to be released about how to recover after surgery. I plan to do it this year. I have gotten the pleasure of training other women in person and remotely that have had mastectomies—another thing that wasn’t even on my radar before. It has been an honor and I hope to keep doing it!
For the climbers out there, I did find out I had a torn labrum right after the mastectomy and decided to do physical therapy instead of surgery. At the time, I felt it was too much to do a third surgery. My shoulder is actually doing well because I’ve listened to my body, and when it feels fatigued I cut training short. I think that is what is most important about recovery. Whether it is the mastectomy, any injury, or surgery, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND DON’T PUSH IT TOO MUCH. I know, easier said than done. Almost a year and a half later I am bouldering again, getting stronger and feeling more like myself. We feel more like ourselves when we can do what we identify with. I can now run a little, do push-ups, pull-ups and really do almost everything I could pre-mastectomy. So yes, I guess I am almost there! I feel good, and I’m healthy, which when I think about it, is really the point of all this. This is my journey and I am happy with it. I don’t regret it. I am proud of it! So for those of you reading, if you feel ready or want to reach out please do not hesitate. That is what I did when I was about to get the mastectomy. Some women answered and some didn’t, and I am grateful for the ones that did. I felt more prepared.