Thankful for Shitty Silver Linings
My name is Erin Windmassinger. I’m a 31-year-old daughter, sister, aunt, fiancé, step and dog mom from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and I’m going to die.
I was diagnosed on Jan. 9, 2018 at age 30 with Stage 1B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with lymph node involvement. I had a unilateral mastectomy with expander. Port insertion. Eight rounds of chemo. Twenty-five radiation treatments. An oophorectomy, a mastectomy revision and a hematoma operation. Had it not been for my decision to remove my ovaries, who knows how long it would have been until we found out it spread. Unfortunately, we’ve since decided I’ve been stage IV since diagnosis. My left ovary lit up on my initial scans, but then portrayed itself as a collapsed cyst. I didn’t ask for a biopsy, and they didn’t think I needed it. My breast cancer is now in my spine, pelvis, sternum, joints and “rib 8.” As well as my left ovary, but those are in the trash now, along with my right breast.
Morbid humor when you’re terminal -- it’s not for everyone, but it works for me. I often make little jokes that I’m sure make others squirm.
“How are you?” “Well I’m dying, but besides that I’m great, thanks!”
*spills something* “I’m not cleaning that up, I have cancer.”
I was recently told there’s a lifetime “upgrade your ring” policy for my engagement ring. While the clerk was explaining it, I whispered to my fiancé not to worry, there’s only so many times a terminal woman can update a ring, right? We shared a quick laugh that the clerk didn’t quite get. (For the record, I’m not upgrading, I love my ring). Moving on.
My journey with cancer has been a never-ending train of bad news. Every time I end up at the doctors, it seems they have something worse to tell me. Sometimes I feel like they’re offering me a few shit sandwiches, and forcing me to pick one, over, and over, and over again. Which leads me to my latest trip to the hospital.
I decided to do my first breast cancer walk this year. I had just finished up and needed to use the bathroom. We all know how lovely and roomy those porta johns are. I’m maneuvering myself out of my skeleton onesie (it’s October after all), and I feel a bit of a burning sensation on my chest. Thinking it might be my brand new sports bra, I reach down to feel. My right “breast” is rock hard, and for lack of a better word, THERE. I finally got a hold of my mom (those walks are loud), and told her we needed to leave immediately and go to the hospital.
She later asked me if I was really that desperate for attention. (Joking of course, we’re all a bit morbid now). I had just had a mastectomy revision you see, so I had no breast. Yet here I was, staring at something that resembled one. For the sake of space, I won’t tell you the whole story of my awful ER visit. But the shining moment had to be when a stranger walked in on me in the bathroom (I pulled the string, but no one came to help) mostly naked (my gown wasn’t tied, and was falling off), dripping blood and fluid all over myself and the floor, and literally screaming that I needed pain meds. And also, that I really had to poop, but I was scared to. I was told they’d give me something after surgery to help with that.
I had recently started mets meds. And like most cancer meds, they cause either constipation or diarrhea. Lucky me, I’d been constipated for days. I’m not sure about you guys, but unfortunately sex with cancer has been difficult for me. I’m menopausal (no longer have ovaries, and I’m on hormone suppressors), and things haven’t been great in that department. My poor fiancé, he’s been a saint. Now here’s where the fun begins. I’m awake and in my room for the evening. The doctor comes in to let me know he’s prescribed a medicine to help me poop (I’ve never talked about poop so much until I got cancer). The nurse will be in shortly to administer it, and lucky me, it’s a suppository. While I’m standing there, ass out at the nurse (Can you even have modesty AND cancer?), I blurt out “my fiancé’s going to be so jealous” (she laughed, he was, and man did that suppository work like a charm).
I’m two weeks out from my latest surgery. I had to stop taking my mets meds to heal, so I’ve enjoyed two glorious weeks of pooping like a “normal” person (YAY for silver linings). I’ll miss these normal poop days once I start back up. But I try to be thankful for all the silver linings, even if those silver linings are literally shit.