The past three weeks since my initial surgery have been eye opening. I’ve discovered that my body does not like being cut on … not much pain … but the tiredness, oh my Lord … @ times I feel like a baby. Oh, it gets better day by day, but a 2 hour outing requires at least a two hour nap.
Friends and family have rallied around me, which makes me feel warm and loved. But being taken care of is something foreign to me after being independent for so long. Someone cooks, another cleans, still another helps me take a shower and dress the drains. As a parent, it is extremely hard to be dependent on your children … there are times when it just gets to be too much. As I’m standing in the bath or laying down for wound care, I feel exposed … not just physically, but emotionally. Sometimes the tears just come. But this is a war for my life and in the big scheme of things, these are just small skirmishes, so you just keep going – you power through. Prayer helps.
Last Tuesday (Sept 17th) I had multiple doctor appointments scheduled (one of THOSE days!). I was a little nervous because I thought I would get the schedule for the start of chemo — remember Dr Washington (oncologist) had told me surgery would be a breeze compared to chemo? Well, the first appointment was with Dr. Powers, the plastic surgeon. The mastectomy wound is not healing to her satisfaction, so we’re going back to surgery to remove more skin, clean out the entire area and make it a little tighter so my body is not overcompensating in trying to fill the space with fluid (one of my drains is still in place). Surgery is scheduled for Friday morning @ 7am, two hours. But it’s day surgery so no hospital stay – yay! I guess there’s always a silver lining … strike one.
Dr. Washington is next. She’s already consulted with Dr. Powers, so chemo is delayed until the wound heals, but with the new surgery they are thinking two – three weeks out. She says chemo will start immediately, just as soon as it’s healed, 5 or 6 months of TCH, along with 52 weeks of Herceptin. Since I’m hormone negative, no long term pill taking. Side effects of TCH: hair loss, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, risk of infection, tiredness. With the Herceptin, extreme tiredness, but at least none of the other stuff. Something to look forward to. Another bonus, get a flu shot before we start chemo. ANICO insurance doesn’t cover it (we get them free @ work, but I’m out on leave) so out of pocket cost … strike two.
Next is Dr. Silva (surgeon). She had also consulted with the other doctors and agrees on the additional surgery to be done by Dr. Powers. She brought my case before the tumor board (all specialties review current cases and make recommendations) regarding the micrometastases in the sentinel lymph node (detection of very small areas of cancer in the first lymph node in the chain – the rest were clean). I now have an appointment with the radiation oncologist – yay again! Radiation was one thing I was hoping to avoid; you can recover from surgery (sometimes very slowly) and you can flush poison/chemo from your body, but burns are mostly permanent. I’ll know more after speaking with Dr. Hatch, but it seems the radiation would only be to the armpit area where the lymph nodes are which to me is much better than across the chest exposing muscle and tissue and heart. Oh, well … any of this occurs after chemo, so plenty of time (5-6 months) before this would start. I meet with Dr. Hatch in mid-October, so should have a better idea @ that time … strike three.
So, as far as days go, Tuesday kinda sucked … but I have to remember it’s all short term … I have to look to the future when I get past all of this “two steps forward, one step back” kinda stuff. I need to humble myself and accept help graciously, no matter how hard it is to do so – and it is really hard, trust me!
There are some positives … I’m HER2+ and Herceptin is the miracle drug for that. I’m early stage, so that’s good also. And, I’ve met so many survivors, so many women who have already traveled this path and they have survived many years – you would be amazed @ the number of women – young women – who have had breast cancer … statistics are 1 in 8. Most of the time, most days, I am very positive and when I do start feeling sorry for myself (yes, I know I’m allowed) prayer definitely helps.
Oh, another bonus … my vocabulary has definitely increased … not sure how I’ll fit some of my new words in to day-to-day conversation, but hey, one of my former mentors had this posted on the inside of his office door and recommended it to me … “learn something new every day”.
Surgery is Friday, September 20th, @ 7am. Prayers are always welcome – may Our Lord guide the surgeons and assistants and watch over me tomorrow.
See you on the other side!
ps: This morning’s surgery was successful and much less stressful than the last one. Surgery finished @ 9:30 and I was home by 11am. Slept most of the day … but not nearly the side effects from the anesthesia or narcotics from the mastectomy & reconstruction. Was able to retain the expander … so hopefully no more surgeries for awhile. Some pain, but meds help with that … time for bed again … rest & laughter are the best medicines! Thanks for everyone’s prayers and support – ❤