My Bravado Is Back! 

I have owned it.
I’ve identified with it.
I am Proud.
And I Celebrate.

In parallel,
there are still times
it almost seems like
it happened to a different person.
A universe on a lateral plane.

I see myself on a video screen…
It does not look like me.
It doesn’t feel like me.
It feels like someone
totally separate from me.

Sometimes I wonder,
who is this woman
who looks back at me?
I am proud of her.
I am in awe of her.
I am amazed
she is me.

She stands
before humanity,
completely exposed.
Emotionally.
Spiritually.
Physically.

Openly sharing the scars
that burned her soul.
Displaying the indelible
Purple Heart
slashed across her chest.
The remnants of
relentless mutilation.

Where was the turn?
When was the shift?
There was a time,
she could barely
have her husband look upon her.
Even the mirror
was her foe.
Now she’s poised
before the world to behold.

She. Me. Her. I.
broke through a protective barrier,
without even knowing it,
until stepping through the debris.
Brick by brick,
the Dividing Wall
melted away.
Almost imperceivable.

The Phoenix has risen,
soaring through
the majestic sky,
over the mountaintops,
to new heights,
and a breathtaking view!
Panoramic landscapes.

No more hiding.
Like a long lost friend,
my bravado is back!

Nancy L. Baskin Michlin
May 14 – 16, 2015
Poem #396
STRIPPED: Deconstructed + Reconstructed

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Inside Out

Many Cancer Conquerors are faced with an emotional trauma which is peripheral to the cancer itself: Infections. I had to combat that ugly beast. I want to share some of the writing I did during that raw time. Being on the other side of that mountain, I hope what I’ve written let’s others know that they are not alone. Most importantly, please know, you are always beautiful! Your inner beauty and strength shine from the inside out! You will rise from the ashes and soar through the horizon as gracefully as a Phoenix!

Before I share what was written the, here’s a little background to lay the foundation. Throughout my breast cancer journey, I’ve had a total of seven surgeries. Four of them were entirely due to a deadly infection, pseudomonas, contracted during my first mastectomy. The infection invaded my body and pitched tent like a squatter in an abandoned building.

Since bacteria likes to attach to foreign objects in the body to evict the unwelcome vagrant, my doctors switched out the expander first, but the infection still raged on. Eventually they had to remove the expander. It took about two months for my body to clear the nasty bacteria. Once the infection was gone, they put in another expander. At this point, both implants are in.

Of the seven surgeries I’ve endured, the very worst one emotionally was the one where they had to remove the expander and leave one side of my chest flat. Words cannot express how that felt. Enter a couple of pieces I wrote during that time.

Players in my story below: Lola and Roxy were my left and right breasts respectively before their individual nipple sparing mastectomies. Lola was replaced by Lexi, who for a short time became Level. Roxy was replaced by Rylee.

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Please Be Gentle With Me

Most of my writings are positive and full of humor. Optimism and laughter not only keep my spirit strong, they also help to heal my body. There are the moments when the enormity of the situation stare me in the face and mock me. This is one of those moments.

On this journey, I want to help anyone I can, in whatever way possible. Because of that desire, I am stretching myself beyond my comfort zone, and sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Below you will find an open door to my current despondency told with robust and bare honesty.

I just looked in the mirror for the first time since the fourth surgery. I am deformed. After the first surgery, I looked better than I thought. Not bad at all. In Lexi’s eye, I could still see traces of Lola.

The second surgery was just a little skin removal, no big deal. Lexi looked good. She was still working her show girl magic.

The third surgery was not good. Lexi was a little smaller, because the infection was already working against her, but still had remnants of Lola around her. It was Rylee that looked deflated. Sure, Roxy was still in her wink, but she looked like a misshapen tire that had lost half her air.

The forth surgery was the worst. It was easier with lack of pain and physical recovery, but it was the most horrible emotionally. It wasn’t even the cancer that caused this massacre. It was a damn, unnecessary infection. You can bet, even with my positive spirit, I am mad as hell that I got this damn infection, which has only further deformed and deflated those sacrificed in this battle.

I feel like I am walking in place, trying to run forward, and not only am I not gaining any ground, but I am being catapulted backwards by leaps and bounds. This infection has not only disfigured my body, it has also kept me running in circles, focused on a peripheral problem and has distracted me from the real combat before of me.

The vast majority of the time, my attitude is optimistic and I feel strong. At this moment in time, discouraged, disheartened, and dejected do not even cover how I feel.

Lexi, now Level, is worse than flat; she is deformed. Deeply mutilated. I know, I know, “Work in progress.” She will rise again like a Phoenix out of the ashes. Intellectually, I know that is true. Right now, emotionally, the intellect is not helping me. My vision is blurred by what I see before my eyes.

I love that my husband consistently reassures me about how beautiful, gorgeous, and sexy I am. But I am having a hard time believing that he really thinks I am sexy right now. How can that be true?

For the first time in my life, I do not want to look in the mirror! The mirror used to me my friend. She is not anymore. Now, she taunts me. She makes me feel deformed, not beautiful. Mirror, mirror, on the wall, please be gentle with me.

I don’t want to look. I don’t want to see what this disease has done to me. I don’t want to see what this infection has taken away from me. I don’t want to see any of it.

I’ve always loved being naked. I don’t want to be naked anymore. I want to stay covered up. At home, I used to bare my body freely. Now, I’ll stick with only baring my soul to the world. Right now, my soul is all I want exposed. My chest should be covered up from everyone, especially me.

Moments like these happen on an expedition like this one. You can be certain though, I will bounce back. I will rise again, just like Lexi, the Phoenix. My spirit is stronger than any disease or infection ever can be. I will be friends with the mirror again. I. Will. Survive.

As Melissa Etheridge, a fellow survivor sings in her song, I Run for Life, “They cut into my skin and they cut into my body, but they will never get a piece of my soul!”

Nancy L.B. Michlin, M.Ed., C.H.C
Friday, May 11, 2012

INSIDE OUT

One Moment.
My bravado
was deflated.
My mind’s eye
brought neon lights
to my scars.
All attention was on them.
Ripped apart,
exposed,
fully vulnerable.

The world sees
what is expected,
a full bosom.
What’s under my shirt,
is no secret;
yet Scarecrow Stuffing
keeps the illusion in place.

With one,
the facade is removed.
He sees the truth.
When he gazes upon me,
my breasts feel like they are burning
a deep crevice
straight to my heart.

Two sets of eyes.
Two different views.
One from the inside out,
the other from the outside in.

His lenses have a rose colored hue,
mine are clouded,
tangled.
When I look in the mirror,
I still see my beauty,
yet I also see the deformity.
My former girls
look like a 90 year old man,
who smoked his whole life,
with a sunken, croaked smile,
and a protruding chin.
The Demon
is starring me down.

My husband sees
the me
a mirror cannot show.
His eyes paint my glory
over the seams
of disfigurement.
He sees through the scars
to my heart and soul.

His eyes may be
from the outside in,
yet he see me
from the inside out.

I need to look through
his eyes for a while.
The strength of my spirit
shining through,
healing my flesh,
disarming the Demon,
winning the stare down.

A kaleidoscope
intertwining
inside out
and outside in.
Reflecting
Inner Grace.

Nancy L. Baskin Michlin, M.Ed., C.H.C.
June 17 & 18, 2012

The Phoenix Rises!

The Phoenix Rises!

Mirror, Mirror on the wall.
Are you friend or foe today?
Bandages removed,
a battlefield uncovered.
Armageddon.
Angry gashes
marring sacred land.
Shrieking out,
vying for center stage.
Spotlights targeting
every gouge.
Utterly exposed.
Fully vulnerable.

Eyes piercing
delicate parchment.
Aghast.
Magnifying the ruins.
A band strikes up,
lights are flashing,
the Carny trumpets,
“Step right up! The Sideshow is open!
We’ve got quite a Single-O Attraction for you!”

When the lights fade,
the fanfare diminishes.
Yet echoes linger.
Reverberating
in the darkness.
Projecting on
an interior screen.

Obscured reflections.
Distorted.
Visions clouded
and tangled.
One moment.
One split-second.
My bravado
was deflated.

Recalibrate.
The Funhouse Mirror
of disfigurement
is shattered.
Tents rolled up.
86’ed.
In the still of the night,
a Circus Jump ensued!

Lacerations alleviate.
Dissections mend.
Soften.
Metamorphose.
Remnants emerge
as relics.
Branding an indelible
Purple Heart.

The Phoenix rises,
soaring through
the majestic sky,
over the mountaintops,
to new heights,
and a breathtaking view!
Panoramic landscapes.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall.
Reflect my heart
and nothing more!
The strength of my spirit
shining through,
healing my flesh,
disarming the Demon,
winning the stare down.

A kaleidoscope
intertwining
inside out
and outside in.
Reflecting
Inner Grace.

Nancy L. Baskin Michlin, M.Ed., C.H.C.
September 12, 2013
Poem #381

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Behind The Scenes Magic

Enter Day 5. Glad you are here!

Mr. Sandman is still pretty elusive. He comes in for awhile, hangs out, and plays. Until Ms. Discomfort comes in and shoos him away. She is a bully, and he is somewhat of a wimp. Mr. Sandman just won’t stand up to her!

I saw Dr. Hodges yesterday. I must say, having Tegaderm (waterproof bandages) ripped off of The Girls was not a pleasant experience!! “I was stuck on Tegaderm, and Tegaderm was stuck on me!!” Ouch!!

Dr. Hodges was pleased with my current healing. He wants me to continue the current protocol: staying home bound. I have the same restrictions: no lifting more than five pounds, no reaching higher than my head, and no driving. I have to sleep on my back, with both arms elevated, wearing a post surgical bra (hence the cat and mouse play of Mr. Sandman and Ms. Discomfort)!

I cannot walk outside yet. Dr. Hodges does not want my heart rate up. He also does not want the sun to hit the massive bruises/swelling on my thighs caused from transplanting fat cells for the sake of The Girls. Liposuction is not for the weak! For “exercise,” I get to walk from room to room in our home! Woo-Hoo!

The very best part of the visit was getting the drains removed!! Yay!! They are so uncomfortable! While it’s not fun getting them removed, it’s totally worth it for them to be gone!!

As most if us know, after any surgery, our bodies are filled with residual chemicals/toxins from the anesthesia. Additionally, our bodies have increased inflammation. I have been using food to get rid of the nasty residue and reduce the inflammation. Some of the foods which are helpful to my cause are as follows: onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, artichokes, parsley, kale, red cabbage, celery, beets, dandelion greens, my daily bee pollen, black and cayenne pepper, lemon water, limes, olive oil, coconut oil, rose green tea, soluble fiber powder (absorbs toxins), and organic berries.

I was also given several rounds of antibiotics. We did not want to take the chance of any infection invading my body again. We got rid of those squatters once, and they were not welcome back!! While antibiotics certainly serve a purpose, they also have a negative side effect of removing probiotics from our guts. Probiotics are critical for good health. Instead of taking a supplements to get my gut balanced again, I am using…yes, you guessed it…food, food, glorious food! Fermented foods are fabulous for increasing probiotics. My fermented foods of choice are fresh sauerkraut and kombucha tea.

Lots of work to do today! While on the outside, it appears like I’m doing nothing, as I sit on the couch all day; behind the scenes – 24/7 – my body is working hard at healing! Don’t pay attention to the women behind the curtain! She’s working her magic! Bring on the continued healing Day 5!

Nancy L. Baskin Michlin, M.Ed., C.H.C.

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Geared Up!

Geared Up

One week from today. My anxiety and I are still locked in a face-off, staring each other down, waiting for the other to faultier. I will win the showdown. I am actively preparing my body, mind, and spirit for a successful surgery and a smooth recovery. My armor is impenetrable!

As I continue to gear up and train for championship condition, I have been asked to share my story publicly again. Dr. Laidley, my Breast Surgeon, has set up a foundation which is dedicated to helping under-funded families receive excellent breast cancer care. http://www.laidleysladiesfoundation.org/   She has hired a marketing team to revamp her Internet presence, and I was asked to share my story to help her efforts! I was interviewed for over an hour. Dr. Laidley has been such a guiding light for me. I am thrilled to aid in her cause and bring women in need to her exemplary care!

At the clinic where I get my Vitamin C IVs, two fellow patients are also writing a book. Theirs is focused on alternative testing to diagnose cancer early. They have asked me to share my story for inclusion in their book! I am honored to share my story to help others walk their own journey, hand-in-hand.

This week is dedicated to continuing my vigorous training and savoring all the movements, mobility, ease, and comfort we all take for granted!

As I strengthen my shield, sharpen my sword, and polish my amulet, I appreciate any and all positive and healing thoughts and energy, prayers from any religion, love, angels, and any other white magic you can conjure up!

Geared Up (pun intended) & Ready!

Shirt Caption: Yes, They’re Fake. The Real Ones Tried To Kill Me.

Shirt Caption: Yes, They’re Fake. The Real Ones Tried To Kill Me.

Shirt Caption: Yes, They’re Fake. The Real Ones Tried To Kill Me.

Shirt Caption: Yes, They’re Fake. The Real Ones Tried To Kill Me.

Nancy L. Baskin Michlin, M.Ed., C.H.C.