All things considered, it has gone extraordinary well. Well…that is putting it mildly. The words blessed, lucky and loved come to mind. I am not saying it was all without incident, it definitely was. But the following Wednesday when my doctor phoned me it was the first time I heard excitement in her voice. A happiness in her tone I had never heard considering every time over the past two years I have spoken with her it has been that of very concerning news. But this time I could almost see the wide smile on her face as she spoke. “Good news! The lymph nodes are clear. There is no more cancer. I do not think your oncologist will recommend chemo at this point. Congratulations!” There have been many great days in my life. This was one of them.
Grant it this surgery is a major life-changing thing to be going through. And it took me several weeks to get used to the idea of what I had to do often joking that I was going to catch the next flight to Hawaii. Of course, you cannot run away from something scary inside you. I do not regret my decision with my doctors to do this even with all the pain, discomfort and inconvenience to my family and myself it has brought on. Knowing that the cancer is gone and had not traveled beyond the original area has left me with a new sense of peace and relief I only wish upon others who have had the misfortune of it to have spread and have to deal with the tough treatments that follow. When diagnosed the first time in January 2010 I honestly thought the lumpectomy and radiation would be the last I would have to deal with it. When it came back I decided I wanted to make it so I would not always have the idea of it coming back hanging over my head. So I decided on a double mastectomy instead of just a single where the cancer was. Besides, there were benefits to the reconstruction phase when choosing this option and insurance was required to pay for both.
Although I will talk about the entire procedure and recovery in a more detailed blog later in an effort to help other women facing the same surgery, I will attempt to quickly share the reality of this adventure in short for now. I cannot lie. I have had many surgeries, but this has by far been the most painful and invasive. I awoke after almost six hours of surgery to four suction drains going into raw, open holes two underneath each arm as well as a tube going into my chest from an OnQ pack providing numbing medication to the surgical area. This was in addition to all the other usual IV's, oxygen and connections needed in any major procedure. The pain required me to have my own morphine pump to at least take the edge off. Pain radiated, and still does, across my chest and down my right arm and searing all the way through to my back. My arm feels like it constantly has a terrible deep sunburn that goes all the way into my bones. The skin is literally sore to the touch.This is because of the lymph node surgical area which often causes people to also have pain and numbness down their arm and in their hand. Since these are symptoms I already deal with on a daily basis with fibromyalgia anyway, I am not alarmed but mainly just very uncomfortable. There is no way for me to sleep but slightly sitting up on my back. Laying on my side is impossible due to the drains. I was lucky enough to have two of the drains and the OnQ pack removed this past week which has brought a tiny bit of relief, but the remaining drains are still bringing a lot of discomfort. I am unable to lift anything or even try to twist a cap off a bottle as it immediately becomes painful. My job right now is to basically let others help me as much as they can as I stay on track to heal and become strong enough to enter the second phase of the reconstruction process. I have been blessed with an amazing family and support system who has been caring for me. This I can assure you has made all the difference in the world.
I honestly believe all the things that I have practiced for so long now in the way of diet, special supplements, and chiropractic adjustments made this a lot better than it probably would have been. When I had major surgery last year, I was not avoiding gluten or taking the right supplements and I had very difficult time restoring my system to some sort of normality for months. I am happy to say that even though I am still far from complete recovery, I am recovering much better than I have in the past. I sleep a lot and the pain requires I rest a lot, just keeping my arms propped on special pillows to allow it to subside. Despite my trial and errors, I have had to continue with strong pain medication mostly due to the spasms, deep irritation and pain that continues as I heal, especially where the drain tubes go in.
But even though right now there is no escaping the discomfort, I am happy. Today when I snuck out for just a few minutes (I have to be driven everywhere, will be a while before I can drive I guess) with my Mom to do a few errands I put my arm around her and said I was happy and felt lucky and at peace. She said that I definitely dodged a major bullet. I have never been so grateful in my life.
So this Thanksgiving, my family and I have a lot to be thankful for. And it is my wish that those of you reading this little blog find hope in my story. For those of you who are healthy, be thankful for your health and never take it for granted. For those of you fighting for better health, I wish you all the strength and good karma you deserve in getting there.
For now, I wish you a peaceful, loving and healthy Thanksgiving however you choose to spend it. I will be writing real soon in detail about my procedure so I can try to throw some helpful hints out there and share my stories to those who might find it beneficial. I am thankful for my positive outcome from this surgery, my amazing family and friends and for life itself. Blessings.