I am long overdue for an update. After the good news from my last post, I’ve been doing the hard work of recovery. I’ve passed the three week mark. I still have 1 abdominal drain remaining and, as of yesterday, have cut out all meds except Advil. I hope to have the drain out by Wednesday at the latest and have a glass of wine with my Thanksgiving dinner. It is AMAZING how far I’ve come in three short weeks.
A quick summation of my journey thus far:
Surgery: The most traumatic and horrific event I’ve ever been through. The emotional and physical pain was intense.. and my family was put through the wringer. I will never look at someone facing surgery or a health crisis the same way again.
Pain Meds: They’re incredible, and once we fine-tuned mine, I had a lot of relief. My pain initially manifested as nausea which was AWFUL. If I didn’t take the pain meds at regular intervals, I’d be crippled by pain.. and it would just come out of nowhere. When you’re in that moment, it’s unfathomable to think there’s a time when you won’t hurt.. and that the pain will end. Terrifying. I’ve been in a drug fog for the last 3 weeks. It feels like I’m only now just re-emerging. I missed Halloween. Fall colors. And a lot of rain, I hear! 🙂
I’m experiencing a lot of numbness in my chest, abdomen (along my hip-to-hip incision) and in my right arm (where 30 lymph nodes were taken). It’s such a strange experience trying to figure out if the pain is going to last..? Is the feeling ever going to come back..? Am I ever going to be able to return to the physical and psychological state I was in before the cancer and surgery??? What new challenges await? Will tamoxifen (the recommended hormone therapy I may be on for years) cause mood disorders, depression and immediate menopause? Will I have to deal with lymphedema outbreaks for the rest of my life? Will it limit my exercise? The what if’s are endless it seems and make me fearful. I am NOT a fearful person, so this flurry of concerns is hard to get past on a daily basis.
I’m trying to focus on being whole again. I’m getting used to my new body. And reminding myself I’m loved and safe. Seems pretty basic, but these simple steps are taking up most of my waking hours.
New Body: Getting used to my new body is my biggest focus. My breasts are way higher than they should be at 48 and I have a flat tummy. It doesn’t look like me.. but then it kind of does. SO STRANGE. I found that rubbing lotion into my chest and tummy and arms not only helps reduce the painful hyper-sensitivity most people experience after mastectomy and reconstruction.. it’s also helping me get acquainted with my body. My breasts still look like my old ones (the freckles and moles are still there..) but I don’t have nipples and I have a lot of stitches. Since my breast reconstruction used my abdominal tissue and fat instead of implants, my breasts are pretty soft, but still swollen and hard in places. They feel kind of alien in some ways because parts are still numb. I’m not sure if feeling will come back everywhere when the swelling decreases or if I’ll just have to get used to the numbness. Wearing a seatbelt is strange. I’m aware of the pressure, in a dull kind of way.
Re-entering Real World: I had a lot of re-entry experiences over the weekend. I drove for the first time. I went to a birthday party for a quick appearance. I went to dinner at a friend’s house. And now, I’m sitting in my house alone for the first time in 3 weeks. It feels good to be considered well enough to be on my own again. I start back to work today. It will be a slow week, so a good time to get back up to speed.
Thanks and Reflection: My family has taken such good care of me in the last weeks. I’m sure I wouldn’t have had such quick healing if it weren’t for them. My sister, Hayley, was my own personal nurse for 2 weeks, and my Mom and Dad and Jay were doting caregivers. I think having family care for me made all the difference. They were all over me not to overdo. They gave me medications at the specified times.. delivered in a pill cap like nurses do. Latex gloves were donned, drains were stripped, shots were administered. It was a professional operation. I called them my “Tit Crew”.. (get it..? Like Pit Crew?) My family members were selfless in every way. I am deeply thankful. And so glad they may not have to worry much longer as I am healing well.
I’m also thankful for my early diagnosis, my medical team, my family and friends and vast support system. Not having to have chemo or radiation is incredibly lucky. I know I will be thoroughly happy with the results of my surgery in the end. Right now, I’m still in shock.. and just finding my way. Reminding myself, “I can. I will. I am positive. I’m strong.” And adding to my mantra these words: “I am whole. I am safe. I am loved. I am grateful.”
Love to you and yours this holiday season. Thank you for the amazing outpouring of support and kindness you’ve shown me and my family. It is precious beyond words.