#charcoalattebcatributes - Kari Johnson

October 8, 2019, I received a call from the radiologist that did the biopsy of the lump in my breast and read the diagnostic mammogram that I had two weeks ago. She told me that the biopsy was positive and I had breast cancer. They had to do more testing to tell the specifics but she needed to get me in to see the breast surgeon and an oncologist. For some reason, I suspected that I had breast cancer and I wasn't very surprised at the news. I always thought that I would have breast cancer because I had huge breasts from the beginning of 6th grade and my family has a lot of history of breast cancer. Because of the death of my aunt from breast cancer I made my decision to have a bilateral mastectomy without any reconstruction before I saw the surgeon or oncologist. A lot of information was thrown at me the day of my first appointments with the breast surgeon and oncologist. I told them what I wanted in terms of a mastectomy and they both supported my decision but wanted me to do chemotherapy before I had the mastectomy. I agreed and started chemo two weeks later. I lost my hair after my first treatment and suffered many nasty side effects. I had AC and Taxol. I had to stop the Taxol 2 treatments early because the neuropathy was causing me to lose my balance and causing my quality of life to diminish rapidly. My bilateral mastectomy and total hysterectomy, due to BRCA 1, was done on April 8, 2020 and was successful. I had a severe allergic reaction to the absorbable sutures used and my incisions started reopening and then I developed seromas. I had to have more drains put in and then in June I spent a week in the hospital due to infection that developed underneath the incisions. It was staph and strep infection and my surgeon ended up taking me back to the OR again and opened up both of the mastectomy incisions and clean out the infection. I had 2 huge holes in my chest that he left open to heal from the inside out. I had to go to the wound clinic several times a week and learn how to dress the wounds myself. By October of last year I still hadn't healed completely from the infection and surgery. I was placed on a wound vac which I only had to be on for 2 weeks and it closed both wounds considerably. They got to a certain point where they would not heal so I was back to packing the wounds every day. In November 2020, I got COVID-19 and was sick for over a month and that also put a stop to the healing. I lost my dad to COVID-19 while I was still suffering from COVID. During November 2020 to February 2021, I lost 10 loved ones due to various causes. I was able to start back with my surgeon for wound care but my wounds were stagnant. In May 2021 he took me back to the OR and resected the left side wound. Things went well until they didn't. It healed to a certain point and it was back to the beginning. In August he took me back to the OR and resected the right side. Different sections of that incision started opening up. I was left with 7 smaller wounds. In September 2021, he took me back to the OR and cleaned out the 7 wounds and put on a wound vac. He combined 2 of the wounds so I had 5 wounds. I'm still on the wound vac and have to go Monday, Wednesday, Friday to get the dressing changed. I have allergic reactions to the drape adhesives which result in blisters, tearing of my skin and burns. I have 2 larger wounds that "tunnel" and they aren't healing but getting worse. My surgeon has had to cut them open more so that they can get the sponge in for the wound vac. My niece is getting married in Puerto Rico in December and I love swimming in the ocean. I told my surgeon that I'm swimming in the ocean whether I'm healed or not!! Through it all I have tried to be strong, especially for my mom. The mastectomy has changed my body and it has been a hard adjustment and I'm still working on that. I had huge breasts and struggled with that since the day that they developed. I played supports and wore multiple bras to try to get more support. In a way I was so glad to get rid of them and not have to wear a bra anymore! I love not having to wear a bra anymore.

I struggle with finding clothes that fit right and I look like I could be pregnant with the shift of where things used to be and where they are now. I look like pooh bear. I have struggled with my weight for forever and this just makes things even worse. I have a lot of different mental health issues with depression being the worst. I have fought against that for over 20 years and this journey is wearing on me, especially these nonhealing wounds.

I have been admiring your charcoal drawings and am in awe of your talent. I would be honored if you could do one of me. I don't know what you need to do one of me. I have been able to get this far with support of my family and friends and most importantly, the Lord my God. He has given me the strength to keep on keeping on. I have beaten cancer and am a survivor of 2 years today.

Thanks for letting me share my journey. Don't stop using your talent to lift up all of us travelers on this difficult journey!

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