During this entire process I have been obsessed with searching the internet to find blogs and pictures of women who have had breast cancer and mastectomy’s so I could somewhat know what to expect. I want this blog to serve the same purpose for other women who are facing a mastectomy. That being said, some of this info and pictures may be TMI for some but I am hoping it will help other women in my same situation.
On March 12th I had my bilateral mastectomy and right sentinel node biopsy. I also had tissue expanders placed during the surgery, which is the beginning of the reconstruction process. I woke up very early that morning, around 4 AM. I wanted to allow extra time for myself to shower and say goodbye to my breasts. As I showered that morning and washed my breasts with the pre surgical scrub I had a bit of an emotional meltdown. It suddenly hit me that this would be the last time I would ever see or feel my real breasts, and something deep inside of me began to ache. As the tears flowed I finished my shower, dried off, and looked at myself in the mirror. This would be the last time I would ever see this familiar reflection. I stood there and looked at myself for what seemed like a lifetime, wiped the tears from my eyes, and got dressed. I had said my final goodbye. That is the last time I ever saw my breasts, I didn’t look at them again before surgery.
I honestly was not all that nervous in the pre-op area. This was the day I had been “preparing” myself for for the last 5 months and I was ready for it to be over. I didn’t even cry or get emotional until right before they wheeled me out and I said goodbye to my parents and my Lucas. I held it together hugging and kissing my parents. Luke was the last one I hugged and kissed before they wheeled me into the OR and I instantly got teary eyed. I feel like I am a pretty strong woman..except when it comes to him. I remember asking him ” everything is going to be ok, right?” to which he replied “Yes, love, everything is going to be fine.” and just like that I was instantly calm and at peace. The next thing I remember is waking up in recovery, in that foggy state of mind that only those who have been under anesthesia themselves can understand. The first thing I asked the recovery nurse was about my lymph nodes. I wanted to know if cancer had been found in my lymph nodes, to which she replied NO! I cried for what seemed like hours. Even though my family and Luke already knew that my lymph nodes were negative I just kept telling them over and over again “my lymph nodes were negative, my lymph nodes were negative.” 5 months of constant worry and anxiety had been calmed. Prayers had been answered. The cancer had not spread into my lymph nodes and I couldn’t seem to quit saying it over and over again.
My night in the hospital was interesting to say the least, but I wont go into much about that. Let’s just say that being a nurse was not in my favor while being in the hospital; I know the correct way things are supposed to be done, so when they aren’t done that way its beyond unnerving. I was very thankful that I only had to stay there one night.
The first few days at home are kind of a blur. Filled with emptying drains, scheduled pain meds, and the never ending attempt to get comfortable. I have two drains, one on each side. They have to be stripped, emptied, and the output recorded every few hours. Thank God for Luke. I could barely move my arms those first few days and he did all of my drain care those first few days. He didn’t even flinch while emptying drains filled with blood and clots. He carefully and meticulously sanitized the tubes and emptied them every few hours. He also got me up and made me do my arm exercises, which I was less than excited about, but very grateful he did because I already have improved motility in my arms. I wasn’t able to shower until 48 hours post op and wasn’t allowed to get the drain sites wet. Luke wrapped me in saran wrap, put my drains in a fanny pack that we put around my neck and helped shower me. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during that experience because I can only imagine what a hilarious sight that was to see. I am not sure what I ever did to deserve the love that Luke has for me. He is and always will be my greatest blessing. The end and the beginning to my life. He has done everything in his power to protect me, take care of me, and keep me as comfortable as possible. I never envisioned at the beginning of our relationship that he would one day be caring for drains coming out of my side, bathing me, helping me get dressed, waiting on me hand and foot, but he has, and is doing so with nothing but pure love and devotion . I am the luckiest girl in the world to have him by my side.
Monday, March 17th I got the call from my oncologist about my pathology report. The chemotherapy didn’t kill as much of the cancer as we had hoped it would but my lymph nodes were clear and we got clear margins (meaning all of the tumor had been removed and there was no other cancer found anywhere else in my breast). Even though she was disappointed with the chemo my oncologist said this was an excellent pathology report and said the words I had been waiting to hear for the past 5 months, “You are cancer free!” I will not be requiring any additional chemotherapy and will not have to have radiation! Hallelujah!
So my job now is to relax and heal. I had read prior to this that the drains were the worse part of this experience and boy were they right! Every little movement I make pulls at the drains, the sutures are constantly sticking my side and its almost impossible to be anywhere near comfortable with them in. The max amount of time they can stay in is 3 weeks which will be April 2 but I am praying they can come out sooner.
This is how I have been sleeping every night. 9 pillows. Yes, 9 pillows. Note Luke’s one pillow next to my mountain of pillows. We laugh about this every night, as I am not even able to see him laying next to me. I am glad he and I can always find the humor in any situation.
The next picture is of my left breast incision and one of my drains. The right side of my body looks the exact same.
This is how I carry my drains around. I’m bringing the fanny pack back! And don’t be jealous of my ever-stylish outfit either 😉
I will see my plastic surgeon when its time to take the drains out and they will begin to expand the tissue expanders as well. They will inject saline weekly into my expanders until I am at a size I want and then I will have the surgery to switch out the expanders for a permanent implant.
I am not great at explaining things so here is a visual at how the expanders are filled.
I am beyond blessed to have one of the only breast surgeons in area that will perform a nipple sparing and skin sparing mastectomy. Meaning the only thing removed is the breast tissue itself, not the skin or nipples. The tissue behind both nipples was biopsied to ensure there was no cancer in the nipple and they both came back negative!. Looking at me you would never know I had a mastectomy, other than the bruising, incisions, and drains of course 🙂 I honestly don’t look much different than I did before and am very confident that I will look even better than I did once this process is all over!
I am going to end this entry with this exciting news..not that I haven’t already told everyone in the tri-state area:)
Luke proposed to me on March 1st!!! It was without a doubt the best moment of my life. Already starting the planning for the wedding which will likely be in August of 2015!
THANK YOU for all the prayers over the last few months!!! They have been answered and I am one blessed girl! I am ready to take my life back and FINALLY close this chapter.
So, here’s to health, life, love, happiness, and……. KICKING CANCER’S ASS!!!!