Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mamma got a new rack

Well, it has been just over two months since I had a double mastectomy. I can say that it has been the craziest two months in my entire life. I feel the need to write down not only what happened but my progress since then, as I intend to use this blog as my diary of sorts.

I can remember double dosing my Xanax the night before my surgery (per my surgeon's suggestion) and thinking more about potential complications that might occur than the fact that I was having cancer cut out of my body and my old breasts removed and replaced with new models...Why was I so concerned about complications? I'll get to that blog another time, but it has to do with my brother dying from complications to elective surgery.

But my husband, mom and dad stayed with me while I had my surgery...well, in the waiting room. I remember being brought into the room and being woken afterward that the surgery went well, followed by the most searing pain in my chest. I told the surgeon I was glad that things had gone well, but that I really hurt and wanted to not hurt.

I don't remember much about the hospital after that. I remember worrying that I wouldn't be able to get around, like I couldn't after my 3 c-sections, but I was surprisingly mobile...outside of the fact that I couldn't get my hands over my head, literally, but I could move around surprisingly well!

I remember trying all sorts of pain medications because nothing seemed to cut through my pain. The nurse was so patient and told me to try some pain management consistency...she was also not surprised that my cocktail of pain management choices caused me to vomit...but I felt fine after that.

I do remember walking the hallway with my husband the day after the surgery with a huge smile on my face. As much as I had loved my breasts and was sad to part with them, I felt no remorse at all afterwards. In fact, I was smiling from ear to ear because I was so happy to know that the cancer was gone...until I started looking around at the other women and talking with them. Those who were there for their second or third time didn't talk in terms of not expecting to be in the hospital again, they were just there for some other procedure, cancer removal. I thought, "Holy shit! Not only did I have something in my body that could have killed me (was kind of in denial about that), but this might NOT be the end of it." That's why the nurses wouldn't agree with me when I said goodbye and I would never see them again. All these women on my hospital floor probably felt the same thing I thought when they left for the first time. I pray to G-d that I don't have to see that hospital floor ever again, but seeing the other women there made me feel less certain.

But, I got past that and was very excited to come home two days later. Four drainage tubes coming out from under my arms, and flatter than I was at the age of twelve, I came home. It was very hard to come home, emotionally and physically. I still couldn't lift my arms over my head and couldn't really hug my three little kids or pick them up. When my 3 1/2 year old felt the drainage tubes, she seemed confused. I tried to be very open and matter of fact that they were no big deal. I asked her if she wanted to see them. I only showed the bottom of the tube which hung by my waist...she was totally freaked out for the rest of the night. It was very depressing. I couldn't help myself or console my daughter. Not great. Then, a few days later she told me she didn't like me anymore. I told her that I was sorry to hear that but that I still loved her very much. Oh, didn't that kill me.

Plus, I'm drugged out from pain killers, I have to have my husband drain my tubes twice a day, I cannot find a comfortable place to sleep at night, I have foreign material in my chest (chest expanders) that felt uncomfortable AND I was unable to take a shower for two days after the drainage tubes came out and I had just come home from the hospital! What a nightmare! AND i was trying to pretend that I was okay and everything was was rough.

Thankfully, I had my drainage tubes taken out just 6 days after surgery and was able to take a shower two days later. Still, barely able to get my arms anywhere over my head, after doing my exercises 5 times a day, I not only took my first shower, but I somehow ambled my arms over my head enough to wash my hair. I looked like crap but I was so proud of myself!

By a month I was able to put my arms entirely over my head and by six weeks I was picking up my kids and doing everything pretty much normally. Sleep is still a little rough on my sides, but I can remember thinking that I'll NEVER be able to sleep on my sides again. Only two months later, I can do it!!!

When I talked to the surgeon a week after my surgery, she was very optimistic that they had gotten rid of all of the cancer. I had a small invasive ductal carcinoma, 9 mm all in, and it had not spread to my lymph nodes. My cancer surgeon said they were waiting for some other test results to come back, but she was fairly certain I was not going to need chemotherapy based on the size of my cancer.

But my cancer was smart. And I passed a test I would have rather failed. I tested positive for Her2Neu...some protein that tells cancer to grow like the 6 Million Dollar Man - stronger, faster, harder - I was going to need chemo. The thought wasn't that I did have cancer still in my body, but if, on the off chance a microscopic cancer cell got into my bloodstream, it would land somewhere and grow like weeds.

When I got that news, I was devistated. I could handle new boobs, but poisoning my body with chemo, I just couldn't deal with. I didn't want to lose my hair and look and feel sick. I have three small kids, I don't have time for this! Well, more about this later, but here's the positive spin as I can see it:

1. I never have to wear a bra again (unless I want to). These ladies stand upright and, while I don't have the final implants but just expanders, they do look quite nice, and nicer than I had expected!

2. I don't have cancer in my body and I don't have to be paranoid again that the cancer will come back in my breasts because there is no more breast tissue for cancer to return! Yes, I still have to worry about a microscopic cancer cell, but I no longer have big pieces in my body.

3. I don't have to wear a bra ever again and they already look good!

4. I will be around to dance at my grandchildrens' weddings!

5. I will be here to bug my husband forever and ever!

I count my blessings for how well things turned out if they had to with having cancer:

Having the miscarriage I had last fall was not only a sanity saver (4 kids under 5 would have been nuts for me!) but a life saver. I would still be pregnant today with a tumor growing if I had not had the miscarriage...and I would have put off taking care of myself for at least a few more years while I was taking care of a newborn...who knows how big the tumor would have been by then!

My husband losing his job with money in the bank was a godsend. He has been the family's rock since this happened to me. He wasn't thrown into this quickly, he had been home a few months to know our routine and make sure the kids were well adjusted during this time.

They got all the cancer out because there wasn't much there to get!

I ask myself daily what I did wrong to deserve this. I know I will never know but I still feel like I pissed off g-d and now me and my family have to suffer, but I also know that I cannot go back but go fowrard and I hope that by doing so strong and with my head held high, at least I'll come out on the other side a happier and better person than I had before...

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