My life, as I knew it, became dramatically different nearly seven months ago when I received that dreaded phone call. I have had many hurdles laid out in front of me over the past few months and have done my best to take each one as it came, focusing all my energy on crossing that one specific hurdle, before looking onward to the next. It is the only way for me to do it - the only way to survive without being swallowed up in a sea of overwhelming worry and fear of the unknown. Taking one day at a time is the way I try to live my life now. Worrying about the next hurdle in my way only deters me from living in the moment and enjoying this day that God has given me.
So, when people ask me if I have been a nervous wreck about my upcoming surgery, the answer is definitely "no". I have not been worried or scared or fearing surgery. I have been busy doing a million other things and enjoying feeling good throughout these past few weeks since I have completed chemo. But once again, my life as I now know it, is about to undergo another major change. And now that this change will be taking place in less than 24 hours, I would be lying if I said I wasn't starting to get a little nervous about it.
I knew chemo would make me feel crappy but that would eventually pass - and it did. I knew losing my hair would be traumatic but that it would eventually grow back - and it did. I knew that losing my eye lashes and eye brows would look weird, but that they would grow back - and they did - although they are now falling out again! Darn it. ;) But there is no turning back with this. This is the first real permanent step. When it's done, it's done - and there is no coming back. I am nervous about how I will look, how I will feel, how I will adjust psychologically to losing such an obvious part of my body. But what I really keep thinking about is, "Will it ever feel the same again when Mike hugs me?" Every day before Mike leaves for work, he gives me a hug while I lay in bed - every evening when he gets home, he gives me a huge hug as soon as he walks into the house. It's the way we have always been. And now I fear that the numbness and loss of sensation that accompanies this procedure will rob me of fully feeling my husband's embrace every day. Logically I know that it's not the end of the world if I lose sensation across my chest - but I have learned to really cherish the little things, like the tight squeezes from Mike -and the thought of those hugs never again feeling the same, makes me sad.
Tomorrow morning I will be undergoing a right modified radical mastectomy and a left simple mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction. I won't go into detail about the actual surgical procedure but if you would like to read more about what a mastectomy is, please click here, and to learn more about reconstruction, click here. The surgery will last about 4 1/2 - 5 hours which will involve my breast surgeon, Dr. B performing the bilateral mastectomy followed by Dr. M, my plastic surgeon, coming in after her to start the reconstruction process. There are a few reconstruction methods available, however a few of those did not end up being viable options for me. I do not have enough abdominal tissue to use my own skin, fat and muscle for the reconstruction, which is what occurs during a TRAM flap procedure - the most common type of breast reconstruction. Therefore, after discussing all options with Dr. M, we have decided that the best course of treatment for me is reconstruction with implants. The process is a long one, and not without risks but we are confident that this is the right path for me. To give you a better idea of what will be taking place, here is a rough outline of the steps involved:
Soooo.....do you see what I mean about taking one day at a time? It's just too much to think about otherwise. There are some definite risks to all of this, especially once I have radiation. There is about a 20% chance that the radiation could cause the tissue expander to fail which means I would have to have surgery to remove them and my only available option for reconstruction at that point would be a much more invasive and difficult surgery. Although I am very confident in my decisions and feel in my heart that this is my best course of treatment, it is not without risks and fear - I hope and pray everything goes as well as possible and that we can stick with our game plan.
I am asking once again for all of you to rally around us in love and prayer, just like you always do. Please keep all of us in your prayers - not only for me to come out of surgery safely, but also for Mike, Mom, Doug and Jeff as they will no doubt be worrying while they wait to make sure I am okay. Please say extra prayers for Dr. B, Dr. M, the anesthesiologist, nurses, and all other staff that will be part of my surgery and recovery.
Thank you so much for the frozen meals, comfy clothes, cards, and well wishes that so many of you have sent during these days leading up to surgery. I truly feel your love and support all around me and that's what will get me through this.
ps. Today is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day...there is still such a long way to go to research a cure and more effective treatments for this disease. To get a small glimpse of what metastatic breast cancer is like for the 155,000 of us living with it in the U.S please take a look at this short video
I was hoping to leave you with some gorgeous fall pics of my neighborhood but sadly yesterday's rain washed most of the leaves off of the trees. So instead, here's a look at my festive porch :)
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