Who would have thought I would ever find myself in a plastic surgeon’s office??? Well, my breasts are so big that it is best if a plastic surgeon closes. With two surgeons working, it should take 3-4 hours for the bilateral mastectomy.
It has been a time of lots of emotions, many beginning with that letter.
Frustration – Getting a surgery date has been very frustrating. It was supposed to be in early July but finding a date that works for two surgeons and the hospital is challenging. Combined with surgeons having the audacity to take vacations, and hospitals beginning to allow elective surgeries again, it has become very difficult.
And I had my third MRI. Not fun, especially with an older machine which required me to go in feet first. That means I knew my entire body was enclosed in a tiny tube. And I could feel my hips rubbing the sides. It took some mind control to prevent myself from freaking out. And I did not wear a mask! The tech doubted that I could since most people can’t. You’re face down so sinuses are draining, it’s warm, it’s tight, it’s long (upwards of 30 minutes), and it’s hard to breath in a mask. At the last minute, I pulled it down when I realized how difficult it would be. So, after isolating myself so carefully for so long, I knowingly breathed into a small cavity lined with a hard surface onto which other people did the same before me. Not a comforting thought. But that is not the frustrating part. The frustrating part is that two days later they called me to tell me something went wrong, and I had to go back and do it all again! And this time it took even longer because they took extra images.
Fear – There is an underlining fear for this whole journey, of course, but I really felt it after meeting with the plastic surgeon and allowing myself to acknowledge the barbarity of a bilateral mastectomy. They aren’t amputating limbs, I know, but it is still a big deal. The incision on each side will begin so far back, it will actually be on the back. After the surgery, I can’t move for two weeks (other than to shuffle around so that I don’t get blood clots), because you’re not supposed to do anything that will raise heart rate or blood pressure and blow out the cauterized blood vessels. During those two weeks I will need to measure and drain the liquid collecting in the bulbs attached to some tubes hanging out. (I think I need to experience that before telling you more.) And a friend who has had this said that I will be like T Rex – arms need to stay close in and you can’t raise them above shoulder level. And the nurse recommended I get a grabber in case I drop something.
A very large bill just showed up on my hospital web page. Did my insurance not cover the second MRI? The one I had to go through because the tech made a mistake? I’ll wait a while before I start panicking about that.
But my biggest fear still involves feeling that fatigue. Whenever I move, my heartrate is very high to make up for the low hemoglobin and red blood cells. I have been trying to walk, but it is slow going and one time I didn’t even make it out of the parking lot before turning around. For weeks, instead of getting better, I was getting worse. But I read that it takes two months to recover for every month of chemo. I need to be patient. Today I think I detected some improvement, so that’s exciting!
Failure – in some personal goals.
Forgiveness – important after experiencing failure, because without self-forgiveness, one would never get up again. The Benedictine motto resonates with me: “…and we begin again.”
Cancer in the time of Covid-19, Part 4
A friend just texted: “As hard as it is to have cancer during a pandemic, it kinda is also a good time because you aren’t missing out on much.” Good point!
No tumors are visible in the MRI images! Not in the breast or the lymph nodes. That means the chemo did its job. It was worth it. Thank goodness. (The original plan of surgery and radiation is still in place to deal with the pesky little cells that are not visible…)
It’s finally official: Friday, July 31. Way later than it should be medically (oh well) and I will still be recovering when school starts. I guess I better get my act together and prepare now.