Therapeutic Encounters

I’ve had a lot of therapeutic encounters in the last 24 hours. Yesterday, I went to my first local FORCE meeting. I got in touch with one of the co-organizers, Robin, back in December, and we have met for lunch or coffee a few times. She is really great and helped me so much during the chaos that was most of January. All of the women were, of course, BRCA positive. Some had had cancer, some hadn’t. Many had already had prophylactic surgeries, mostly with implants. Some were considering their surgery options and figuring out how to navigate the local hospital system and meet with the doctors. It was very cathartic to listen to their stories and to tell my own. It was hard to hear that so many of these women had mothers or close relatives who’ve passed away – I am so fortunate that my cousin discovered our mutation a while back; she really did save all of us in my father’s and my generations. While my grandfather’s generation wasn’t so lucky, at least they did not die in vain – their cancer diagnoses taught us all that there was something lurking in our family, and now we’ve been able to stop it (well, some of us sort of met it halfway).

The meeting was educational as well. As I plan for a hysterectomy, probably during my winter break at the end of this year, I was excited to hear a woman talk about her DaVinci surgery done at Magee. I am very interested in that surgery but hadn’t been able to locate anyone doing it at Magee, so this was really helpful to discover. She had her surgery with Dr. Krivak, and I will definitely make an appointment to meet with him soon (not too soon though – my surgery will probably be in December and UPMC seems to have a lot of turnover). Everyone was really open and honest about their experiences, sharing info about doctors and types of surgeries. I think an interesting part of being BRCA positive is that your life really isn’t about cancer – it’s about surgery. When you get your diagnosis, you don’t start educating yourself about cancer. You educate yourself about MRIs, mammograms, hysterectomies, mastectomies, breast surgeons, and plastic surgeons. There’s no need to educate yourself about cancer because your plan is to avoid it! It was nice to meet women who are also somewhat obsessed with surgery! I’m looking forward to going to another meeting soon.

This morning I saw my therapist for the first time since the surgery. I was glad to be able to report to him and thank him for his suggestions of the guided imagery and breathing exercises; both really seemed to work before the surgery (although I acknowledge I had such a small window of time to plan for this surgery, I really had very little time to become anxious!) and after. In our future sessions, he will help me use breathing and tapping exercises to work through some of my post-surgery anti-hospital anxiety.

I’ve also begun researching a massage therapist with expertise in mastectomy patients. This will also be therapeutic – hopefully I can see someone soon to get rid of some of the back pain I’ve been having (although, so far I have been at my desk with a pillow and some tylenol for about three hours and I’m doing much better than previous days). I have calls in to some family friends who get frequent massages, as well as to Dr. Ahrendt’s office to see if they might recommend someone at Magee.

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