Current situation: Feeling mostly better, but still pretty sore, trying not to be depressed, clinging to gratitude, going back to work on Monday.
On gratitude, here’s a list….because I am a list-lover and they help me:
- My steadfast husband, whose love, patience, and encouragement are getting me through this year.
- A breast cancer prognosis that’s beyond positive.
- Certainly not worried about uterine cancer anymore.
- Skilled doctors and caring, gentle nurses and technicians.
- A life that largely shields me from having to compromise on the care and procedures I need. I have good insurance. I can afford to take a cab if I need to.
- My friends have stepped up in ways that are truly humbling. My coworkers are genuinely supportive.
On feeling depressed, I’ve really been struggling. This round has felt like a big slide backwards on the physical progress I’d made up to September 19th.
Seriously: Fuck these limitations, side effects, stitches, scabs, swelling, and scar tissue. And walking slowly among people who don’t notice or care. And feeling like I can’t do anything especially well right now.
Well, that sure felt good.
Had my first post-op appointment with the plastic surgeon yesterday.
Bandages and plastic wrappings were gently removed, along with some stitches. My surgeon thought everything looked good and that someday soon, I’ll be done with this round-the-clock sports bra routine and won’t need a bra at all because “your breasts aren’t going anywhere.” Hell, yeah.
He cautioned that I should keep wearing compression something something on my abdomen and legs to ward off swelling. As I’m ready to burn the itchy, stained abdominal binder I’ve been sporting 24/7 for the past week, I was a little disappointed.
“Do you know Spanx?” he asked.
Dude, please. Every woman in America knows Spanx. Say what you will about capitalizing on the DIY behavior many of us had been doing for years: snaps to Sara Blakely for her tenacity. And of course I have some Spanx shorts things in a drawer somewhere.
But now that it’s really, truly fall I think what I need are leggings. Only…high-waisted ones that would cover my incisions. Is that a thing? I don’t really do leggings. But I was already that lady wearing sweatpants in public. And had 2 hours before my next doc appointment. And Nordstrom is a half mile from Northwestern.
So I nervously crept through crowds of clueless shoppers who DNGAF about the less-mobile among them (high sign to all the elders creeping along, too—nice work with that cane-slash-weapon, ma’am) until I reached leggings nirvana on the 3rd floor.
So I bought some. And am wearing some now. But not as pants. Never would I ever.
Been a rough week. Lots of napping and wincing and gimping around.
I no longer require Mike’s assistance to get up, but every sneeze, cough, and laugh issues a cruel stab of reality.
Have also developed a serious love/hate with the freaky-deaky world of compression garments.
Squeezing in a quick post before the norco kicks in to report that everything went as planned, I’m home again, in hella pain, and Mike is the dearest man in the land.
Also, I’m stuffed into compression garments and wraps from sternum to kneecap. Feel like a tied pork loin. Sexy!
Can’t sleep, which for once works in my favor: no liquids allowed after 4 a.m. Until then it’s clear liquids only, including coffee if you take it straight up. Which I do.
Might stay overnight at the hospital. Might not. Slipped a toothbrush and the extra-long iPhone cord given to me by a thoughtful coworker into my tote just in case.
Check in is at 5:45. Need to chug some water. But first, I’m finishing my coffee.
Just because I haven’t posted recently doesn’t mean things haven’t been simmering. Trying to maintain normalcy (exercise, work, dates with husband and friends)—but feeling pretty far from normal, to be honest.
Surgery is scheduled for September 19th. While I do love the thrill of anticipation, am not exactly checking the countdown clock for this one. Breast reconstruction and hysterectomy go together like nuts and gum in my book.
On the one hand, I’m ready to say goodbye to this bulky, pokey, very uncomfortable tissue expander and start on the road to a newish body.
On the other, I’m feeling pretty anxious about having a hysterectomy. Lots of parts up in that there region and the list of “what-ifs” from my gynecological surgeon was long.
Just learned of a side effect of Tamoxifen from the pre-op physician: A reduction in the ability to store iron in the blood. This in turn lowers one’s hemoglobin to suboptimal levels, which increases complications during surgery and often requires a blood transfusion. (And I thought hot flashes, insomnia, hair loss, joint pain, and fatigue were causes for concern.) All of you blood donors out there: thank you, thank you, thank you.
After some initial healing, I’ll be back onboard the PT train. Hoping to continue the rapid progress I’ve made with arm function. Also praying there’s minimal need for pelvic floor physical therapy. Yes, that is a thing (gulp, also for men!) and it can be life-changing but that stuff is no joke.
So, Mike and I have been stocking up on household items, loading the freezer, and going out to dinner before a couple of weeks of forced hibernation.
Went back to work this week. It was…scary and wonderful. Apologies to my kind-hearted colleagues for cringing at every “Welcome back!” hug. Accolades to those who brought in doughnuts, offered to carry my laptop, and understood when I needed to work from home.
Reconstruction surgery has been scheduled for mid September.
With Mike as my witness, the plastic surgeon told me not to lose any weight until then. He wants as much blubber as possible for “fat harvesting” during his rebuilding effort. Pretty sure he’ll have plenty to work with. My early morning exercise routine shall not cease.
Bonus: Hysterectomy will happen during the same surgery! I do love a bargain.
Met yesterday with both my surgical and medical oncologists.
Word from my surgeon: See you in 6 months.
From my medical oncologist: Do no harm.
We finally have the final pathology report and the results of the Oncotype DX test, which examines the genetics of breast cancer tumors and ranks the likelihood of cancer recurrence on a scale of 0 to 100. This governs the recommendation of what type of treatment is needed.
My score came back at 8, which is all kinds of incredible. My form of cancer is not aggressive. No chemotherapy is needed.
To help prevent what appears to be a very slim chance of recurrence, the only form of adjuvant treatment I’ll need is a daily dose of anti-estrogen. For 5 years.
Because my form of cancer is hormone-receptor positive, hormone therapy will limit estrogen’s effects in the body, which will in turn block cancer cells’ ability to hitch a ride with estrogen and spread destruction. Starting on tamoxifen soon.
Where do I see myself in 5 years? This is the only time I’ll even consider answering that vapid interview question: Not taking hormones, thank you.
SO…we’re off the hook in a big way. Mike and I are relieved and filled with gratitude.
But still not off this crazy train: Physical therapy twice a week for the next two months. Expansion sessions at the plastic surgeon’s office once a week. And we need to make a plan for exchange surgery, IUD removal, and possible hysterectomy.
Feeling relieved, anxious, sore, and optimistic over here.
Met this week with the radiation oncology team. After a lengthy examination and detailed breakdown of pros and cons, it’s not recommended that I go through radiation treatment. Given the long-term risks of being zapped repeatedly by X-rays, I’m 100% willing to accept this guidance.
Also started physical therapy. I have a long way to go before my right arm is fully functional, but I’ve been cleared to do any physical activity as long as there’s no pain.
Except for swimming. Still have a gazillion stitches.
Three weeks out from surgery and am still pretty sore and numb and generally uncomfortable.
And I feel pretty vulnerable out in public. Like, more than the usual sense of panic whilst among people. Gentle hugs and big thanks to girlfriends who’ve been getting me out of the house to ease back into circulation.
Am getting used to the complexities of this new body order. Went to the dentist yesterday, just in case there’s chemo. Might need a hysterectomy due the fact that the IUD currently treating uterine complex hyperplasia is a no-no for my type of breast cancer.
Physical therapy, tissue expansion, and radiation oncology consult tomorrow. Treatment plan should be mapped out next week.