PTCD – Post Traumatic Cancer Disorder

Every fall, it’s time for my annual mammogram and blood tests, so in usual fashion, I procrastinated a couple months and finally made an appointment.  This was my third mammogram since my cancer/chemo/ reconstruction/ reduction, so I really didn’t think much of it…at first.

I went in, did all the things (and I only have to do half a mammogram these days, so it’s only half-horrible now!) and went home – no problem.  Then the call came. “We need you to come back in because there are some abnormalities we’re seeing and we need to take a second look.”  Holy crap.

Now, I typically have to go back every single time I get a mammogram because I’ve had “dense tissue” in my breasts all my life, but this time the announcement rocked me to my core. I didn’t really talk about my fear to anybody because this was a normal thing for me – I was just going in for a second mammogram – same ol’ same ol’.  But I had a hard time sleeping, I started crying spontaneously a couple times (this usually happens in the shower) and I had a hard time focusing. Clearly, I’m no longer very spiritually mature in the area of second mammograms!

I did the second mammogram – even tighter and squishier than the first – and went back to the waiting room while the technician (who was so sweet and made the process as easy as possible) spoke with the doctor.  She came back a billion hours later to say they needed a couple more shots, so I endured a few more even-more-painful boob squishes and went back to the waiting room a third time with a cold sweat now breaking out, my anxiety on a bender.  When she came back, she asked me to come into the room again and sit down (cue the shakes), where she told me…everything looked clear and I was free to go.  Whaaaa? I just about melted into my chair.

Relieved, but still experiencing PTSD (or PTCD, as I’m terming it) symptoms – flashbacks, distress, fear, inability to focus, shaking, sweating, numbness – I drove home and collapsed into bed, crying like a baby.

Cancer is a horrible disease that ravages the body, but it’s also an insidious mind-fuck, which took me by surprise this time. So I’m working through my PTCD day by day, year by year. Will my mammograms bring flashbacks every year?  I’m thinking maybe so…but I’ll be a little more prepared after this year’s experience.

The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage. -Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness

The Journey Continues

My life post-cancer

So to recap the last year, here’s what has happened:

In October 2016, we had the unforgettable experience of taking grandson Loren to Disneyland. We love going as adults, but there’s something magical about going with a child!


November 2016, I turned 50. Tina, against her better judgment, threw me an amazing party (with lots of help!) to celebrate. It was a unique experience for me to see all my worlds come together – I had my family there, my friends from Sacramento, my colleagues from work, my Vistage confidants, my church family (including both Pastors) and my neighbors all together in one house.


In December, we spent a beautiful white Christmas with my family in Lake Tahoe.


In January, I traveled to Ashland for the birth of my second grandbaby. When I got the call that Brie was in active labor, I hopped in my car and sped up I5 as fast as I could…only to wait a week while she went in and out of labor, and I finally went home because I needed to get back to work!

Then in February, Genevieve Oreta Brown made her entrance.


After needing to borrow cars to go to Tahoe and Ashland in the winter weather, I traded in my cute little (impractical) Miata for an all-wheel-drive, automatic transmission (because I would not be able to use my left arm for a while after reconstruction) Audi A4 with enough room in the back seat for 2 car seats.

Breast reconstruction: Diep Flap Procedure (more on this in my previous post):



In April, we visited the grandbabies again for Easter:

I got permission from my surgeon to be able to hold Genevieve if I sat down and someone handed her to me!

In May, we went to Disneyland (our happy place) again:


In June, we got Loren for a whole week!


Then (still in June) I had my right breast reduction (so that they would match).


In July, we went to Sisters, OR to spend time with the family at my brother’s vacation home – it was fabulous!


And I went to the Gray Family Reunion in North Carolina (for the first time)!


In August and September, we helped move my parents and Mama Ladd into new homes – 7 weekends in a row! Thankfully, there was lots of help, including these two:


Then in October, we went to Ashland for Loren’s 6th birthday (and Stace’s 31st).

Which brings us to November 2017.  More to come soon!