The body image issues continued. How could they not? After breast cancer treatment, the woman in the mirror looked like a damaged mannequin. And even with breast implants, I felt like a creature that belonged on a different planet.
I pity the guy who checks me out and dares to come up to me, I told a guy friend over a text message. And when he asked why, I replied, Its like feeling sorry for a man who hits on a drag queen thinking he is a she. He said I didnt make any sense.
Three weeks after radiation therapy had ended, the injuries in my chest were starting to look like a sunburn. And nearly four months after the last chemo, my eyelashes were back, my nails were starting to grow stronger and my head had enough hair for people to assume that I was going for a rebellious punk look.
Never has the link to beauty and health been more obvious. I weighed 144 pounds; my ideal is 125. I hadnt exercised in months, so I decided to show up to a spinning class at a gym in Miami Beach. I walked out of the class after 15 minutes and nearly fainted while walking back home.
Are you kidding me? Why would you do that? a friend asked. You are not well. You really need to take care of yourself. Yes, now you dont have to go to the hospital as often. Lets keep it that way.
She was right.
The past five months had felt like some one had thrown me into a pool, and I had been doing my best to swim back to the surface. But as much as I wanted to think that I was getting closer to the surface, I wasnt.
I was in the gray zone. My energy level was low, but I was healthy enough to return to work part-time, and as I attempted to do so, I caught a nasty throat infection. I love and admire my co-workers. I wanted to hug, shake hands. A few days later, I had a fever. I showed up to Dr. Alicia Rodriguez-Jorges office without a voice.
She had not seen me since she had given me the green light for chemotherapy last year. As I attempted to whisper my course of treatment, I covered my face with both hands and broke down in tears. I couldnt believe I had gone through everything I had gone through. I was terrified. I didnt want to suffer any more.
Whats important is that you survived, said Rodriguez-Jorge, who has a private practice near Mercy Hospital in Coconut Grove. If there was a good time to get cancer, this was the time. You are young, and have a capacity to recover. Not everybody does.
According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 229,060 new cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2012. One in 31 women will die.
You can slowly increase your level of activity. You can start doing some weight training to work out your legs when you start to feel better. No spinning yet, said Rodriguez-Jorge. Pneumonia is not uncommon after treatment. You need to get some rest. She sent me to get a chest X-ray, lab work and antibiotics.
Before the cancer treatment, Valentines Day week would have been a busy one. I would have worked long hours. I also would have networked at the Social Media Miami conference, celebrated my brothers birthday, gone to the boat show in Miami Beach, people watched at Premios Lo Nuestro in downtown and explored the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.
Now, thinking about the old me felt like I was thinking about a stranger.