Next week, I will be undergoing my reconstructive surgery- reform and reshape the tatas is the goal. These next steps sprung upon me quicker than I had thought. After 16 rounds of chemotherapy, followed by 6.5 weeks of radiation, and experiencing the condition I was in, I really thought I would be waiting at least 6 months before this step would happen.
I make a plan, and once again, g_d laughs.
Again, a double mastectomy is not a boob job. It is not a welcome to the plastic world of being perfect or a big Boca Raton welcome billboard. It is a VERY difficult decision that has been decided by my multi-modality team of Doctors at the Lynn Cancer Institute and myself as next steps of healing my breast cancer journey. There are several different ways to reconstruct a breast after a total mastectomy, but with any surgery, there are risks, challenges mentally and physically to consider before making the best another decision for my breast cancer journey .
A little history of my story of the day I met with my reconstruction surgeon for the first time. He was the 5th Doctor I met in one day of what I felt was the 100th. My nerves were shot, as you can imagine, as I was only days out from my initial diagnosis. In the middle of his conversation, the nerves got the best of me that day and I ran to the bathroom – the fastest I’ve ever gone – to throw up. That was the first and last time I have ever had that experience, but it happened and everything he told me on that day was a big blur. Except one golden nugget of information.
He said, “There is a chance that your cancer has been caught early enough. If this is the case you will be a candidate for a single step double nipple sparing mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.”
Translation: Your cancer did not spread. Clear margins and Pathology. Yay! You can receive immediate implants and the chemotherapy and radiation are at a very low risk- which means I don’t think I’ll have to ever go through this life-changing experience again… as of now.
This hopeful sentence I dreamt and prayed and prayed hours upon hours for. This is what I spent days, weeks, months away from my babies for, that this would be how things would play out for me when I opened my eyes from my surgery.
Fast Forward, one month from this appointment today, where I in February 2018 I was in for my double mastectomy surgery that lasted over eight hours, I would be closing out that memory for a healthy set of tatas. I remember the moment back in February when I woke up from anesthesia, foggy, and still drugged from all the anesthesia. My throat was sore from the tube that was stuck down it for the past eight hours and the energy drained from fasting all day. I did my best to communicate to the nurses and my only slurred question was, “Excuse me, do I have expanders or implants in?”
I did not receive an answer, but was so out of it, maybe I did and did not remember.
However, what I do remember was seeing my husband after (for him the longest 8 hours of his life) and It only took me one quick glance at his beautiful watery green eyes to know he was about to tell me something that would change my life forever. For him to this day, this was his hardest part of this entire journey he has been on with me. We still go back to this memory and now think about how one moment puts our hearts stillness scared of what was to come. Isn’t it amazing how time heals, but can also be etched in your memory forever?
In his cracking, shaking, teary eyed voice alone in a room together. In a room, at the same Boca Raton Regional Hospital, so similar to this one where we birthed our two beautiful daughters. Where we shared the unknown sex of our daughter. He dreadfully had to look me into the eyes and tell me. You have tissue expanders in. Your cancer has spread and you will need chemotherapy and a high change of radiation.
Let that sink in for a moment. As I need a moment to myself as I get these off my chest and disconnect to take in this experience.
Ok, I’m back. My tissue expanders have led to the most physical pain I have experienced in the past eleven months. Emotionally, the worst feeling would be the hair loss and watching my children cope, but physically I have not been able to be able to hug my husband since my double mastectomy.
Forget about not being able to have feeling or touched. I have held in instant tears when my young daughters just wanted to cuddle on mommy’s chest for a hug or extra loving. Those thoughts go away with the mere joy of being alive. However, physically and emotionally the pain has been overwhelmingly draining.
The only way I can explain the feeling of a tissue expander is to take one brick block, tape it to your chest, and feel the pain it causes your entire body to walk around for one minute let alone 11 months. That is the feeling I have had since my double mastectomy. This tissue expander was put in my body to stretch and prepare my skin to allow for what is now coming, a successful reconstruction surgery.
I have spent countless hours in a library and at home reading about reconstruction surgery after double mastectomy . Staring at books of women’s photos of all different breast reconstruction types. I wonder about each one of these brave heroic women stories. I want to know it, sit and talk to them about their journey and how they got through it. I want to pray with them that they heal and their journey is as blessed as mine has been.
I now pray for a safe surgery for myself to have no risks or complications or no more pain. For no future risks. For my life back. Maybe it is my way of an unmeasurable desire to want to connect with all young women and mothers that will or have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Maybe it is because I have made it my passion to want to help anyone that will endure what I have been through.
Compassion. Empathy. And love.
I know reconstruction sounds like a happier time of this journey. It is, in some ways. It Gives people a little more pep in their conversation to me and brings humor as one can joke what size lemons do you think you are going to receive? These are not a free “boob job”. I would do anything to have my pre- cancer boobies back with every sag, imperfect stretch mark, wobble, crinkle, and sensation back, if I could. As I do appreciate a good joke or two… as laughter is the best medicine. I do take this next step very seriously and emotionally as well.
It will be another part of healing, as I get this off my chest today, I want all women going through this to know; you are not alone. Getting these off our chest and next steps is another decision in this journey, we called life, I can’t tell you what tomorrow holds. I just know that at this present moment, the gift I am receiving is life.
Thank you to all of my followers for being there for me and still being here for me. That is one gift that has made this journey bearable along with showing me light at the end of this very long, dark tunnel.