Thanks for stopping by for another post. Today is August 30 and a little over 6 weeks post-surgery. Everyone keeps checking in on me and asks how I’m doing. I really appreciate it when someone reaches out to ask how I am. I’m doing very well. Still not 100%: I get tired easily and I’m feeling sluggish. I got winded the other day grocery shopping. But it’s a process. I’m an active person and this is weird for me. I got cleared by my doctor to start resuming normal activities. I’m back taking classes at SoulCycle and lifting weights. I plan to start practicing yoga again very soon.
A common question people keep asking after surgery is “What’s been the hardest thing?” To be honest, surgery was a breeze and I feel almost guilty for saying that. Recovery was smooth and I feel like I’m bragging for saying that. But I know I put a lot of work leading up to it: eating healthy, cutting out sugar/alcohol and working out up to 6 times a week. I also know I’m very fortunate to have a strong support system. My manager and my team told me to not dare check email and not worry about work. I was able to take it easy thanks to my parents and sister. For 2 weeks I enjoyed recovery, not working, being babied and focusing on me because I don’t do that everyday. I also know the next surgery is not going to be easy. It’s much more invasive and will be a 4-6 week recovery. So I enjoyed it while I could.
The hardest thing about recovery was something I did not see coming. It was the death of my grandmother, Mary Palacios. I was so focused on me that I almost detached myself from the real world. My grandma was one of the reasons why I decided to have genetic testing and get this surgery. She had breast cancer twice and beat it both times. She had one of her breasts removed in order to save her life but didn’t have it reconstructed. That gene, along with her big heart, is something that was passed along to me. And I’d take that trade-off any day to have experienced the love of such a wonderful woman.
I was at home on August 4 when there was a knock on my door around 9:30pm. I was stunned to see my 7-year-old nephew there. My sister had driven from San Antonio because she didn’t want to tell me the news over the phone. My grandma wasn’t doing well and hadn’t been eating. She was barely holding on. “I think she’s waiting to see us,” Mel said. Caught off guard and shaking, I packed food for Finn and we left in a hurry. I thought I had no time and just wanted to get there fast. We made it by 11:15pm then went straight to her house. My grandma lay in bed. She was sleeping and her breathing would stop once in a while. I went over to touch her face and hold her hand. I was preparing myself to say good-bye to my last grandparent. I stayed at her side until 1am.
The next day, I wanted to get back to Austin. I had no medicine, no clothes and my breasts were red and itchy, which the doctor said was normal because they were healing. I forgot the topical ointment and was flared up. I had only been back at work for a few days and knew once she was gone I was going to be away again so I wanted to close out some tasks. I went back to her home one last time. I was so sore because I had to lean over her bed to hug or kiss her and this was pretty painful. I leaned in and whispered in her ear, “I love you so much. You taught me well. I’ll be okay. Go be with Grandpa.” I was planning to come back on Thursday but I knew that was the last time I’d see her alive.
I was right. My grandmother passed away on Wednesday, August 7, exactly 3 weeks after my surgery.
My grandmother was the best person I knew. It’s because of her I cared about my education and left home at 18 to pursue a college degree. I think my grandma saw some potential in me and she encouraged it. When I was 3, she signed me up for this pre-school prep program called AVANCE. We went to classes together and she worked on her GED while I learned to read. That program set up a foundation and love of learning that put me on a strong path up to earning my master’s degree.
During the funeral, one of the most difficult things was not being able to get a real hug. I kept having to put up my hands to shield myself so people wouldn’t hug me too hard. Can you imagine going through the loss of a loved one, receiving condolences and not even be able to get a hug of comfort? I wrote a eulogy because I wanted to pay tribute to her and tell people about this wonderful and selfless woman I was lucky to love. I kept it together most of the time but I broke down the moment I walked up to her casket to say my last good-bye. The last time I’d ever see or touch her face. The last time I’d ever get to say I love you.
She had severe dementia and the last time I saw her she didn’t even recognize me. After my grandpa died last year, her health rapidly declined and I feel like I slowly lost her until she faded into a shadow of her former self. I wish I had the chance to talk to her and tell her about my surgery. I know that had she been her healthy self she would’ve been supportive, babying me and coming over to my parents home to check on me. I saw what she went through with cancer and she would’ve been proud of me for taking action.
The world without her already feels different. A few days after her funeral I was at the mall and I heard this little girl calling out excitedly, “Grandma! Grandma! Grandma!” I realized I was never going to call out to my grandma ever again and tears fell fast and unexpectedly. My grandma was gone.
My grandma wouldn’t want me to be sad or grieve. I have so many wonderful memories to carry me on and she prepared me for this. She told me when it was her time she wanted me to rejoice and to have faith that we’d see each other again one day. And to live my life and be happy. I have an angel looking over me as I go forward and get ready to face this next challenge. My grandmother once said to me, “One day it will be my time and I’ll be gone from this Earth. But just because I’m gone doesn’t mean I will ever leave you.”
I feel her presence and know she’ll be at my side every step of the way.