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Drugs, Hugs, and Losing My Jugs: A Breast Cancer Journal - May 15, 2015 - Physical Therapy

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Editor’s note: this post contains a graphic post-operative photo.

This is the first entry in a 31-day Breast Cancer Awareness Month exclusive series featuring the real journal entries of breast cancer survivor, Jessica Sliwerski.

Once upon a time my calendar was stacked with business meetings. Now it’s full of doctor appointments, playing with Penelope, hanging out with friends, writing and rest — something I still struggle so hard to get the hang of.

I have a therapist, a psychiatrist, a breast surgeon, a plastic surgeon, a nutritionist and now, a physical therapist, who I will see three times a week. I am quite excited about physical therapy because:

1. It is the closest thing to a gym for me right now.

2. It gives me something new to do.

3. I get my boobs rubbed by a very attractive Indian woman.

Say what?

Yes, that is correct. Today at physical therapy I disrobed, laid down on my back, closed my eyes and just let the therapist play with my fake fun bags.

I am still quite numb from surgery, especially my left arm where the lymph nodes were biopsied. The nerves are trying to regenerate and my plastic surgeon has instructed me to massage twice a day. Though you may think this is my favorite part of each day, this is not the case. I hate it.

Jessica Sliwerski mastectomy
Mastectomy scars and drains: This was the first time my bandages were removed. I still have drains, which you can see under my skin. Now that my drains have been removed, I can do physical therapy.

I hate touching this new, nipple-less, foreign part of my body that isn’t actually my body. I don’t even like looking. So it came as a huge relief to be able to simply close my eyes and let someone else do the work. (I’m quite good at this, as it is how I approach all household tasks as well.)

It is entirely possible this is not actually how physical therapy is supposed to go. Lucky me.

The doctor gave me two exercises to work on between now and Monday morning when I return. Both require me to lie on my back. In the first, I lift both arms over my head as far as I can and hold them for 10 seconds. Then I lower them back down to my side and repeat ten times.

In the second, I do a chest fly, again holding for 10 seconds at the bottom of the movement before bringing my arms back together.

For someone who used to dominate barre class, it’s quite the ego bust to barely be able to do either of these exercises. She suggested I take a warm shower before to relax. At that point I decided she was most definitely trying to start something with me. But that’s fine because apart from redheads and black men, I’ve also always had a thing for Indian women.

And yet I married a man who looks like he could be my brother. Perplexing, I know.

The physical therapy office specializes in breast cancer and lymphedema. Fortunately, I do not have the latter. Unfortunately, in case you may have forgotten, I do have the former.

The office is feminine and chic. It looks like C Wonder met Jonathan Adler before C Wonder went bankrupt and disappeared.

The robes they give you aren’t the shitty paper robes other doctor offices give or even the standard issue hospital gowns, but rather soft cotton floral robes. I contemplated stealing mine because deep down I have kleptomaniacal tendencies.

I just made that word up, by the way — klep-tow-man-eye-i-call. I like when people have attention to detail. Truly. I notice it and appreciate it and it makes me feel good about that $25 copay I’m spending.

This breast center is similar, minus the sweet robes. It was designed to feel calming and peaceful, much like a spa. And its founder (she’s Swedish) is also super hot. So basically, I continue to establish a very smart, very attractive, all female medical team. The founder isn’t on my medical team, nor is she actually treating me, but since I practically live at Dubin I think it’s completely fair to pretend I know her and that she herself is somehow directly curing my disease.

The office also has a gym, which I didn’t get to see because I can barely lift my arms. I have to earn the gym, you see. So in the meantime I have been striving to make sure I get my 10,000 Fitbit steps each day.

I should have mentioned that’s another thing that occupies my otherwise boring ass life right now. I am really irritated with myself on days that I don’t get my steps. I’m like, “Seriously? You couldn’t even get 10,000 steps in today? And you weren’t even resting? What the hell is the matter with you?

Jessica Sliwerski reading to daughter.
Reading with Penelope. It’s hard to hold Penelope because of the pain and discomfort from my mastectomy, but we can still read. This is my favorite story to read with her right now.

It’s not easy not working, and then when I fail at my fake work, I really feel like crap. So I am determined to excel in physical therapy.

I will fucking dominate physical therapy because I am a ninja. And that is what ninjas do.

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All photos courtesy of Jessica Sliwerski

Originally published: October 1, 2017
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