Shit just got real. (Or, today I got my PICC line.)

Well, it’s been a big week. I have been able to do a pretty good job of staying on top of my emotional reactions to each of the new phases of this treatment. I have done so by preparing myself for what’s ahead. By educating myself on what’s to come. I knew that my double mastectomy, removal of lymph nodes and reconstruction beginnings were going to cause me immediate and immense pain. I was ready for it. I was ready for it because I knew that every day that went by post-surgery I would wake up feeling exponentially better. This is what got me to sleep at night, or what kept me patient while I tossed and turned and sleep eluded me. I knew that every day was going to be better than the last.

This is me taking my first walk down the hallway of the hotel I stayed in post surgery. It wiped me out. But the next day, I walked further. And further still the day after that.

This is me taking my first walk down the hallway of the hotel I stayed in post surgery. It wiped me out. But the next day, I walked further. And further still the day after that.

Then I got my date for my first chemotherapy session. Sat down. Tried to begin my processing. Tried to figure out how I was going to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the next four months. Not so easy.

There are a few good things that come of this. The first involves some crazy haircuts for me and my boys – we are all currently sporting mohawks – them because they are being granted a small window of permission to do so, and because it makes them feel like they have a role to play in this trip I’m on. Me? Never before would I have taken a few weeks to embrace my long-lost inner punk-rocker and shaved my head! Now I can. It’s going to go anyway, right? So one very-well photographed trip to the spa later, we three are shorn and mohawked. My son has actually coined a great new word – as I carefully spread hot pink gel through his ‘hawk, he said “Mom, this mohawkery is actually kind of fun, don’t you think?”

My boys and I had a great night photographing our mohawks. I'm pretty sure they think they're in a band. It should probably be called 'Mohawkery'.

My boys and I had a great night photographing our mohawks. I’m pretty sure they think they’re in a band. It should probably be called ‘Mohawkery’.

Still gets curly in the rain. Damned resilient curls.

Still gets curly in the rain. Damned resilient curls.

I can envision my head bald. I have looked at so many photos of bald women that there is part of me that actually wants to jump the gun and do it sooner than planned. I am experimenting with makeup, have bought an eyebrow pencil, and am steeled for the reality that even with all of this in place, there will be months during which I don’t recognize myself. I am ready.

I am ready to feel nauseated, tired and miserable. I am ready to hand myself over, on some level, to this process. I have been trying to get some perspective on the amount of time involved. I have it narrowed down to being about 2/3 the length of a pregnancy. I have handed my body over to pregnancies. Often sick, often tired, feeling alienated and isolated at times and at others feeling like I had joined a special club. Don’t get me wrong – I understand that pregnancy is not the same thing. I am trying to dig deep and tap personal experiences in a way that will help me put this timeline into perspective. It is helping.

So why then, did I choose today to completely fall apart? What is it about this PICC line being inserted into my body that made me dissolve into tears the moment I stood up after the procedure? Is it the fact that there is a ‘line’ in my body that goes directly to the superior vena cava so that medicine can be delivered unapologetically? Is it that the device is ugly, and might as well tattoo me with “I am sick.”? Is it the limitations it presents? A summer without swimming in a lake? (That does really suck, by the way. I have to totally change my happy place now.) Is it that my tossing and turning at night is just going to get more complicated now? I want to say it’s all of that – it is, but it’s something more. A valuable lesson for me. I didn’t prepare myself for today. I didn’t spend any time thinking about what today signified. Aside from asking a few of my crafty friends if they would take fabric I bought and make it into ‘sleeves’ I could wear to cover the line, I didn’t give it another thought. I went to the hospital alone because I really thought it was going to be a ‘whatever’ kind of appointment. The lesson for me is that each of these steps, as insignificant as they may seem, is bringing me closer to a time that I know I can’t get through by saying that tomorrow I will feel better, and each step should and will from now on be preceded by some real mental preparation on my part.

I am now just days away from beginning a treatment that is going to systematically poison my body and I have no idea how to prepare myself for that. It is scary, but it is also wonderful, because hopefully these 8 visits wherein this ugly little portal into my veins is put to good use will eradicate any hope this disease has of setting up housekeeping in my body. I tied a scarf around the PICC line today and my good friend joked and said I looked like I had joined some sort of gang. It’s not all that crazy an analogy. I am preparing for a fight. This is just part of my armour.

I have talismans all over the place it would seem now. Every little charm on my necklace has meaning. My bracelet is from my sister. It's nice and simple. The writing on it is very fancy and makes it hard to see that it reads 'F#$% Cancer.' The scarf covers the armour. I can swim next summer.

I have talismans all over the place it would seem now. Every little charm on my necklace has meaning. My bracelet is from my sister. It’s nice and simple. The writing on it is very fancy and makes it hard to see that it reads ‘F#$% Cancer.’ The scarf covers the armour. I can swim next summer.

(My melt-down is done now.)



17 thoughts on “Shit just got real. (Or, today I got my PICC line.)

  1. Well Tanya, what can one say after reading this? All I could think of is, boy, she can put this in a book and become rich after all this is over … you have a real flair for writing my little niece. :0)

    Not my only thought. I shed a tear when you explained the “after” experience. I don’t know if it’s a good thing to go these sessions alone Tanya. I know you want to be brave and all but there’s nothing wrong with having people who love you join you. Let them help you. Luv U

  2. I slid the wall and dropped in a lump of tears onto the floor when I read this. Oh Tanya. I want to be closer. I want to share your fears and understand your strength. I love you and hate that you’re going through. Hold on sweetie…. hold on…. you’re doing it right. xox

  3. I am so proud of you, Tanya! Words cannot begin to describe how inspirational your insight has been… God Bless!

  4. Hi Tanya. Your words brought back memories of Stacie being flown down to Sick Kids in Grade 2, to have a paeds PICC line inserted. Such a line does indeed bring out the reality of what’s happening, and make ‘the shit’ real. Thank you for being there, way back when, when you saw me and asked how she, and we, were doing. May your shitty days also one day become distant memories for you as you fight and experience healing. (Although, maybe keep the mohawkery!) P.S. Although it doesn’t replace swimming in the lake — there are 4 fish in our family who agree with you — the walk down McVicar’s Creek is one of my ‘secret’ places, and it’s close by, if you’d like to share it…

  5. Your way with words is amazing and uplifting. Your strength and perspective is obvious throughout! Looking forward to next summer…20’s night and an epic pub crawl – I’m booking you now for it!!!!

    Ps I left out the emoticons

  6. My dear Tanya- Perhaps it would help if you considered the PICC line the friend it is- no more “pokes” to deliver meds. (I’ve placed a few, by the way.) I’m very happy you’ve taken charge the way you have; It is profoundly important! You made the decision to bring yourself “to the process” alone, but I agree with Avis: It might help to bring someone else with you if for no other reason than to keep you company during the wait times. In my not so humble opinion, it’s rather isolating, perhaps not something you need at this or any other point. Wish I could be there. I love you.

  7. Tu as beaucoup de courage Tanya! Tu m’inspires! Je pense souvent à toi et je suis certaine que tu vas gagner cette bataille. Amitié

  8. Dom mentioned he saw you at TBRH today and had a good catch up chat with you. We all wish you well and thinking of you during this phase of treatment. Any time you think you could use some R and R, quiet lakeside pizza nibbles, bring the boys out to our place on the lake. Maybe we could let you run through the sprinkler a couple of times? Not the same as a swim, but we can improvise….

  9. My dear Tanya, I admire your brave attitude as well as your incredible fun-loving “mohawkery” spirit. I send you hugs and good thoughts. Thinking of you. I love you. Barb Day

  10. Words fail me – we’re all onside, hang in there, and Avis is right, you DO have a flair for writing, maybe a new direction for you after this dark spot in your life is over. I will keep those positive vibes going your way! Love, Cousin Lorna

  11. My Lovely Tanya — I finally learned how to open your Blog by myself (haven’t been much of a Facebook person) and have now carefully studied all your Blog entries and the entries from your family and friends. I’ve been following and participating in real time of course, but that doesn’t have the impact as reading it through your eyes. I’ve always known and appreciated you as a very strong young woman – and I now wonder if I could ever personally go through what you are going through with such strength.

    I only wish that I could personally take some of your personal pain away and accept it as my own – but unfortunately life just doesn’t allow that. A pity! But I think you know that I love you and will always be there for you. You will always be beautiful to me (I love the new ‘mohawkery’ cuts on you and the boys) so don’t worry about having a bald head for awhile – You’ll still be beautiful!

    Keep up your wonderful positive attitude — We are there with you at all times. Love you….



  12. Thinking of you today and always. Wishing you strength for your journey and great courage through what lies ahead. Know that we are all here for you in any way you may need us. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experience. It helps us know when our positive vibes need to be sent stronger and when angels need to be sent to comfort and carry you through. Hugs to you. Laura C.

  13. Tanya, I don’t believe we have ever met. I attended grade school in Nipigon and when I headed to Red Rock you had moved to Thunder Bay. I came across one of your posts because a mutual friend had commented. Your words are so incredibly touching and it is so inspiring to read how you are dealing with this diagnosis. May you find strength in your family and friends that surround you and also know that I am sending you best wishes for the future.

    Sasha Mannila

  14. Hi Tanya – My good friend sent me this link to your blog, she thought I might enjoy reading this as I to am going through all the things you talk about. Your words express just how i am feeling…..this week will be the toughest, will have ultra sound – bone density scan – chest ex-ray then will have picc line inserted next day which then leads up to the big day chemo. Feeling a little anxious about all the unknowns. Take care and hope all is going well with you.

  15. Something to think about….It sounds like you have a good support system in place. Use it. Have someone with you for all of your appointments. I have not gone to a single appointment alone since the initial mammogram. My husband, cousin Christine, or my mom have been with me for everything no matter how small. There have been times when that has been a good thing because I have had moments where I was completely overwhelmed by everything that was going on around me and everything that was being said and I spaced out and couldn’t remember what was said after the fact. Having that support person there can be a huge blessing. Not only are they helping to support you emotionally, but they are a second set of ears and eyes. They may catch something that you missed. It does not make you weak to have someone with you through this journey. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without my husband, cousin, and Mom.
    Also..I had a port-a-cath inserted into my chest for my chemo, and I freaked out the day that it was inserted also. Even though I had already had a bilateral mastectomy, this port being inserted into my body just made the whole chemo part more real and very scary.

  16. I have just finished reading your blog. I am not sure how I got to it but I guess I was meant to find it. I was immediately drawn to your words. I have recently had a double mastectomy and my first round of chemo. And much like you have tired to go through this journey with grace and dignity. Your words have inspired me as I prepare to shave my head today. Thank you kindly for sharing your journey with the rest of us you follow. This shit is soooo real.

    Love and light to you as you continue on kicking cancers ass.

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