Monday, July 16, 2012

Round Two: Go Big or Go Home

I made it through my surgery!  It's not that I had qualms that I wouldn't make it, but my worse case scenario could have been days unconscious, MERSA, being unclaimed in the hospital recovery room...all sorts of options.

I was surprised to hear this was an outpatient procedure, since the surgery was scheduled for five hours.  Lucky for me, my surgeon was done in three and a half.  Luckier for everyone else, the affects of the anesthesia were still on full display, and I was chatty Kathy.  I remember waking up and thinking, "I know I need to go home.  It's outpatient surgery and they don't want me here."  So instead of indulging in the sleep-induced haze I was in, I fought it every step of the way.  I asked my mom if she watched the Wimbledon finals; if wearing all-white is required at Wimbledon; if everyone was happy that Serena Williams pulled off a victory.  I kept wanting to touch everything to see how I felt - is my port gone, how big is my new chest, what are all of these undergarments?  The best though, is when I got out of bed for the first time.  I have been known to get sick from anesthesia, so I have to watch how aggressive I move for the first day.  Plus, vomiting when you are wrapped up like a mummy is not comfortable.

So, I meandered out of bed, only to hear my nurse and my husband become actively engaged in a conversation around her mortgage.  I heard the terms, "ripping us off", "keep calling me" and knew it had taken a turn for a deep discussion when Brian started talking about specific rates and saving thousands of dollars.  My mom was left to try to keep me from passing out - which I didn't - and vomiting - which I did.  But like Brian said later..."I'm just passionate about it".  Touche.

The fat-grafting is definitely causing more soreness than the chest reconstruction.  Due to my radiation, more fat is needed in my left-side, since it doesn't accept it as well.  My right side, on the other hand, is perfectly happy to accept, store and produce fat.  I am pretty bruised up and down my torso and along my outer hips and thighs but am happy that I am finally able to sleep on my side again at night.  I can't wait to be able to sleep on my stomach!

Evan knows that something is up; he is pretty used to me picking him out of his crib, carrying him with me around the house and toting him in and out of the car.  He just squats on his bum when I won't pick him up and refuses to walk with me.  I crave cuddling with him but most of the time I try to sit with him, he ends up digging his elbows in to use as a platform to spring off to his next adventure.  I am looking forward to being able to pick him up in two more weeks and just hope the time goes fast.

I am amazed at how Playboy-bunny-ish I feel, from one simple attribute.  Obviously, there is a lot of swelling to adjust to but I don't think I've been this perky since I first hit puberty.  I can't wait to participate in the world of pretty shirts and strapless dresses without worrying about ill-fitting strapless bras.  I'm pretty sure this is the positive side of breast cancer, and I intend to enjoy it!

I will have to have one more surgery in December, similar to the surgery I just had.  There will be more fat-grafting to build up the left side, where I had radiation.  But now I know what to expect and hope to get through that and just move on.  It feels amazing to slide my hand over my clavicle and not feel my port; I'm a real person again!  Not a sick person!

Thank you for all of the well-wishes, e-mails, cards and surprises in the mail.  It's not only nice to know I'm being thought about, but it's wonderful to share with my amazing caregivers.  Nana Moni has been staying with us since Tuesday and Evan is now crawling up her leg, instead of mine.  I'm so lucky to have such wonderful friends and family.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again

Tuesday, July 10 marks the day of my second reconstructive surgery.  It is also a very poignant time in my journey; I have finished chemo, radiation, and my double mastectomy.  Now, it's time to put me back together again!

I have been looking forward to my surgery for some time; not only will the rock-hard tissue expanders be removed, but my port will be taken out (this is the plastic plate inserted under my chest skin where they administered chemo). My surgeon is going to do some adjusting under my arms and I am hopeful that some of my nerve damage will be alleviated. Getting over this hurdle signifies that the heavy lifting is finally DONE.  The physical heavy lifting, that is.  Emotionally, I think it is going to take a little bit longer to recover from the trauma.

When I head in to surgery, I am not nervous for the pain or the results.  I have an amazing plastic surgeon - the best, in my opinion.  Dr. Ewa Timek is in plastic surgery to better women's health and research how to make lives with breast cancer easier.  She spent ten painstaking hours in my last surgery, doing delicate, intricate work on my lymph nodes.  Due to her precision and care taking, I have never suffered from lymphedema.  I trust Dr. Timek's intuition and artistry to "put Humpy Dumpty back together again"!

I am nervous for what impact this will have on Evan.  During my last surgery, he was five months old; he didn't raise his arms up at me to lift him off of the floor; he didn't cry "Mama" to get him out of his crib; and he didn't expect me to get down on the floor to play with him.  Now that he is almost fourteen months old, his expectations have changed.  Nothing gets to my heart faster than seeing his big crocodile tears fall down his face when I am not able to do something for him.  It's going to be tough to not be able to lift him on demand.  For those of you that know Evan, he isn't much of a "sitter", so I don't think he will even want to let me cuddle him.  Maybe I will have Brian put him by me when he is sleeping, so we can spend a few quiet moments together.

Brian and I spent some good quality time at the grocery store yesterday, preparing for the next few weeks, since I won't be able to lift groceries.  It felt like we were stock-piling for the next Y2K disaster.  When we got home, Brian asked me if 4 boxes of Frosted Mini Wheats were really necessary.  What can I say?  Cereal is a comfort food for me.

I am excited to feel like my body is "mine" again, instead of belonging to medicine and doctors and examinations.  It is going to be a great feeling to not have tissue expanders stitched in to my chest wall; so going forward when I move, they don't have to move with me.  Evan probably won't realize that laying against me while he is eating, can be comfortable, since he can only remember the rock-hard structure that sits atop my chest right now.

My surgery is scheduled for five hours, give or take.  This is a huge improvement from the last surgery, which was twice as long.  Brian told me when I came out of the last surgery, it was traumatizing for him because I looked like I was dying.  He said my skin had no color and I was completely out of it.  I don't remember that much, but it makes me excited to come out of surgery this time with some witty comment to surprise him.  "I have fake boobs!" might have a nice ring to it.

I'll be sure to keep updates on my recovery and all of my excitement that I am anticipating!  Turns out all the kings horses and all the kings men are actually one person, named Dr. Timek.  And she is going to put me back together again!