Looking back.

Hey there. This blog post is a bit hard for me to post but one I feel passionate about and one I feel needs to go live. It is about cancer, recovery and ‘going flat’. Last year, on June 21, I had bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. And as you might imagine, my thoughts, feelings and memories are swirling around me this week and it is time to let them go.

My treatment protocol dictated that I have neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor and get cleaner margins), surgery and radiation. In some ways neoadjuvant therapy is a blessing because it gives you time to think through your options. And by options I mean, needing a mastectomy and deciding what type of reconstruction or lack thereof . Surgery is often the first thing women (and men-men get breast cancer too) have to go through after finding a lump- and at that point everything is happening so fast that it can be daunting to make a decision that is right for you. So I had some time to think and to decide what would work best for me.

I chose against reconstructing my body for so many reasons, the number of surgeries, failure rates, and the fact that there is no sensation and that reconstructed breasts are reported to ‘look good in clothing’.  Luckily I found photographs of another woman whose body I could relate to and who made it seem as though this would be a choice I could wrap my head around (they are beautiful photos). 

One year ago today, I still had my breasts. I miss them, I grieve the loss of my breasts. Do I regret my decision? No. Is it an adjustment? Yes. 

Why am I telling you all this? First and foremost, because I bet there is a woman out there who is making this same decision, and I want her to know she is not alone, this does not suck, we are a tribe. Beside which, this decision is just as valid as wanting to reconstruct, no matter the societal pressures related to femininity, breasts, appearance and gender. In facing this anniversary, this change to my body, I want to acknowledge the particulars and to release my body past.

Tomorrow my new body will be one year old. Welcome! I live in a world of firsts right now, first anniversary after surgery, the next treatment related anniversary will be one full year out from my last radiation (August 25) and boy are these welcome. It feels good to move away from active treatment, to put time between me and the immense pressure of active treatment. Thank goodness. Glad that’s over. 

I like being flat. I like owning my choice, my body. I am amazed at how resilient the human form is and I prefer to stay centered in this new place. This new landscape. This new me. So let’s celebrate!

Tomorrow I will choose the winners of my book, Dreaming from the Journal Page related to this post (I have been remiss in doing so and tomorrow seems a good day to give stuff away).

Phew. Thanks for reading this far.

And hey! I gave my mother her Jelly Roll quilt this weekend, looks great, huh? Very beachy.

Jelly Roll gives Soul.

We bought a couch. For years we have had chairs, or more recently a sofa and none of them were flat out comfy or inviting. After I was diagnosed I started thinking about the ‘nesting habit’, and I began thinking how very important having a comfortable, let it all hang out, home is. Then I started thinking about what I like in hanging out with my Man. And the bottom line is Snuggle Time. At night we watch rented movies and TV shows and we love nothing better than putting our heads in each others laps and getting strokes and attention as we watch. 

With Jelly Roll peeking.

So when I walked over to a furniture store near us, I had criteria for a smaller couch, one that could be laid-on with a flat surface, one that could take a flop and a nuggle. You know, you see couches in the movies and they look so lush and comfortable. This ‘couch’ is really two chairs-I think it is actually supposed to be a ‘sectional’, we could have bought them in a single color, the delivery guys were quite confused, but why not have a multicolor couch? The pillows are fabulous too, they are sturdy and they act as arm rests that are more comfortable than the back rest pillows. And the open end? Fabulous for a small apartment.

Back of Jelly Roll Quilt showing.

When I gathered up the fabric for my Jelly Roll Quilt, I was super happy that it pulled all the colors in our living room together. This is the first time in my life where I feel like our home matches our intentions. And it is so good to have a throw that ups the Nuggle Ante. I had enough fabrics to piece a back, so our Jelly Roll is two sided, I am not sure which I like better! In less than 3 week, I made the top, sandwiched, quilted and bound this easy and fun quilt. It made me fall in love with quilting again. In fact, I love this brainless project so much, I think we might need another throw. A pile of them.

But, Mom gets one first.

Melly’s Jelly

Jelly Rolls. Who knew? I for one am ignorant of these things. I rarely shop and I have come to understand that I am a quilter like I am a fish out of water. Yes, I quilt, but I don’t deal with 1/4″ seams, commercial fabrics or the latest new ‘thing’. 

So when I went over to Lisa Chin’s blog and watched a link to a woman ‘tutorialing’ (her word), Jelly Roll quilts, imagine my surprise in finding myself smitten with the idea. It helps that my Man and I will receive a new couch this week, I mean who wouldn’t want a pretty throw draped over a comfy couch? I am really taken by the blue in this line from Benartex. And I love the pattern on pattern effect. The color is somewhere between these two photos.

And the idea just snowballed.

I have to say, using an entire line of fabrics together sure does take the guesswork out of creating a palette. And when they say you can race to the finish and create a quilt top in no time flat? They mean it. This project made me want to do a Jelly Roll race! That sounds like super good fun, especially if I get a quilt top out of the whole deal.

Piecing the back may have taken longer than strip piecing the front! It isn’t complete yet, but it is really close and I started this on Sunday! Amazing. Thank you Lisa.