It never ends

As a previvor, you know your deadlines. You know the recommendations in and and out (at least when they are solid). You want a neat, precise plan.

Mastectomy 10 years before the youngest diagnosis.
Ovaries out before 35 (or 40).

Once you get up the nerve to take one or both of those steps, you really want to move on with your life. You want to be able to answer those questions on all the cancer surveys:
"How often do you think about cancer?"
"Oh, never, survey, never! Knowledge is power and I did what I needed to do."
(That's not usually a choice, but I prefer to fill in the 10-25% bubble at the most.)

But it's never that simple.

Christina Applegate spoke for 90% of us when she discussed writing the BRCA mutation and mastectomy into her new show:

"I think about it every day," she says. "Girls who go through this, we say to each other, 'Yep, it’s been 10 years,' but you’re never not aware that that’s something you’ve been through. Everything looks different. You have to shower and you’re like, 'Oh, there they are. That happened.' "

So this Saturday when Lefty started to feel worse than normal, I knew something was wrong.

You see, Lefty here has a been a bit of a problem child since 6 months after my initial direct-to-implant mastectomy. She developed contracture early and two revisions later, it still isn't resolved to my vain satisfaction. So much so that I finally had a consult with a new surgeon in April to see what I can do differently if I pursue yet another revision surgery.

When the contracture started to be more painful on Saturday afternoon, I thought I must be wearing a tight sports bra for too long. I must have worked out too hard (HA -- it had been a while since I worked out due to traveling). I must have laid on it wrong.

When we got home, I started to feel run-down, waves of nausea and I realized Lefty was warmer to the touch than Righty. But there was no redness, a key sign of infection, so I took some Tylenol and tried to sleep it off. Pain throughout the night pushed me to Urgent Care in the morning because I still didn't see redness after my shower. By the time I saw a physician in UC, the telltale redness was there and it was obvious. I got light headed, clammy. My sister had to rush me to the ER because my husband was manning a soccer game, a recital and a birthday party.

We waited far too long in the waiting room because I chose to go to Penn, where my new surgeon at least knew my story. Recital time edged closer and closer. I felt worse and worse. I finally got into a room and relatively quickly was told I'd be getting IV antibiotics and likely admitted overnight.

I cried. I cried from the pain. I cried from the itching from the antibiotics. I cried mostly because I missed my baby girl's first time singing her heart out with a live mic and the daddy-daughter dance.

A visit from McDreamy later, my giant growth of a foob and I passed out from Benadryl.

I still can't believe it happened. It's been more than a year since I had any surgery. I haven't been sick. My germ bucket children haven't even been really sick. Why now? One theory about contracture is that it is caused by an infection (which I never had any signs of 2 years ago either) so maybe it is latent in my body. I'm not sure we will ever know, but I do know it could have been worse.

Everyone should know the signs of infection: swelling, warmth, redness and overall sickness feeling. Don't dismiss these feelings. Don't dismiss your gut. I knew the night before that something was wrong. I don't know how seriously I would have been taken without the redness, but maybe it wouldn't have gotten that far. For now, I'm on antibiotics for what seems like forever, following up with plastics in a couple weeks and hope this doesn't derail my other surgical plans.

In the end, I missed a big moment in my kid's life, but having mom pass out backstage because of an infection is probably worse, right? That's what I'll tell myself.

At least I got to see dress rehearsal: