Sunday, January 17, 2016
I accept that there are certain things beyond my control, like how my body reacts to these cancer treatments. But, what can I do that’s within my control? Choose joy. Choose gratefulness. Choose trust. Choose faith. Choose to walk with God and this cancer.
It might sound radical but I’m not fighting it, I’m not fighting myself. For me, it’s not a battle. I accept what my body and soul want to teach me. I have more strength than I ever thought. I have more courage than I ever thought. I have more humility, gratitude, and compassion than I ever thought.
I am strong, I am healthy, I am already healed, I am whole, I am complete and I am getting better and better each day. I have faith in almighty God. I am His child and I know no weapon formed against me shall ever prosper. God is my divine physician. He knows me best and will always help me. In Him I trust and am grateful!
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Yes, Virginia, they are annoying. I have a drain coming out from underneath each breast. Weird is an understatement and at times they tug to remind me they’re still there. I don’t even want to look at them in the mirror.
Remember that Heal in Comfort shirt I told you about?
The shirt is SO incredibly comfortable and gives my drains a place to rest inside the pockets. I highly recommend you get one! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
I wear the shower apron during my sponge bath and the drains nestle in the pouch. Super handy and comfortable, well, as comfortable as one can be given the situation. Get the apron, too!
At the end of the drains are these small, clear, football-shaped containers that collect the drainage fluid from my body. Little gross but nothing I can’t handle. My fiancé, Andy, bless his heart, empties them out each morning and night into a measuring container. At times, he has to squeeze my tubes to get the fluid out. Then, he writes down the amount collected onto a recording sheet from my plastic surgeon’s office.
Lucky me, I get my drains out in a week. Woohoo! The average time can be anywhere from one to four weeks. It all depends on your body so don’t panic if it takes longer. Everyone’s different.
So what can I say about getting them taken out? Well, my right breast is numb, so actually, I don’t feel anything as my doctor pulls it out. However, my left breast is a different story.
It doesn’t hurt. And I’d be the first to tell you if it did. It just feels like a fat piece of spaghetti is being pulled through, up and around your breast. It’s definitely an odd sensation and one that I’ve never felt before. But alas, nothing I can’t handle. Just take a deep breath.
And voila, they’re out! Good riddance!
Sunday, January 10, 2016
I really feel she prepared me for the road ahead. You can read the book from start to finish, or you can choose the sections that relate to you in real time. She covers the diagnosis, the tests, surgery, chemo, radiation, and everything that comes after.
She really gives you a clear picture about what to expect. Kind of like the book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but you’re not pregnant. And she shares her experiences in a heartfelt manner that you can easily understand and relate to, not like other books that are bogged down with clinical speak.
There are so many tips that I wrote notes like a feverish student cramming for the “how-to-survive-cancer-treatment” exam. For example, she recommends using EMLA cream, which I use and boy, does it help, especially for a pain wimp like me. As she advises, I slab it on over my port and hardly feel a thing. I also use it when I get injected with the Neulasta shot. It really works!
Speaking of the Neulasta shot, Andrea explains that it’s not as painful when the nurse slowly pushes the plunger on the injection and rubs the skin with another finger while doing it. I made sure to tell this to my nurse before I got my first shot of the hot-flash inducing demon liquid. I trusted Andrea and she was right!
Her book is packed with so many helpful hints like these that can really bring comfort to an otherwise not-so-comfortable journey. So yes, get me aboard the comfort train anytime! Woo-woo!
There are so many more examples of how this book has helped me that I could write about but this is a post and not a doctoral paper. Simply, give yourself a wonderful gift and buy this book. Or get it for someone you know that has breast cancer. You won’t be disappointed.
It has helped me and it can help you, too. Thank you, Andrea, for sharing your story.
Friday, January 8, 2016
Can I have a moment of silence? No, really, just a moment.
Losing my boobs is hard. It’s losing a piece of myself that’s been with me since the age of twelve. However, I really want the cancer out, so opting for a double mastectomy is what’s best for me. Although I only have the tumor on my right side, I choose to remove both breasts because I simply don’t want to worry the rest of my life. And I know myself well enough to know that I would worry.
It’s the day of surgery. I’m in pre-op. Lying on my bed, I’ve got the IV in my arm and Andy, my fiancé, by my side. Dr. Prati, my breast surgeon, explains what will happen to me when I’m under. First, she’ll remove the tissue from both breasts. Then, she’ll remove all the lymph nodes from my right armpit (we already know I have two positive lymph nodes). Should take about two hours.
I nod my head, and with a trembling hand, sign her release form.
Ten minutes later, Dr. Festekjian, my reconstruction plastic surgeon, draws black lines with a marker on my soon-to-be-gone-forever-real boobs. He explains how he’ll place the tissue expanders inside my chest after Dr. Prati is done. Then, I’ll have a drain placed under each breast. Should take about another two hours.
I nod my head, and with an unsteady hand, sign his release form.
After that, I meet Dr. Festekjian’s plastic surgery team followed by the anesthesiology team who review the drugs I’ll be given. I remind them how anesthesia is my worst enemy. I get very nauseous to the point that I’ll throw up for hours…and hours. (Which is incidentally what I did after the surgery. Poor me. I stayed an extra day in the hospital because of it.)
So after meeting about twenty different doctors and nurses, I’m super confident I’m in amazing hands. The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is awesome!
Although I do ask for the chaplain who comes to my bedside, “You asked for the Anointing of the Sick?”
“Yes,” I start.
“You know, that’s for people who are dying.”
“Oh.” I smile. “Well, I’m not dying.”
“No,” he replies, “You’re certainly not. But we can still pray.”
And so the chaplain, me, and Andy do just that.
The last vision I have before the drugs kick in is my love’s handsome face. He has certainly been my angel throughout this whole ordeal.
I wake up. It’s 7pm and I’m in a private room. Apparently, I’ve been out since the late morning and was in post-op the whole time, throwing up every half hour.
That night, I finally stop vomiting but I don’t eat or drink anything, not even ice chips.
Throughout the night, the nurse checks on me. I wet my mouth with a small sponge on a stick and the nurse wafts the ginger essential oil under my nose.
I don’t really feel much pain. Just numbness. But it could be that I’m so drugged up. I have a push-button remote placed near my hand that I can press whenever the pain gets intense. It dispenses a set dosage of the painkiller. My advice, press it when you need to. This isn’t the time to demonstrate how strong you are. You just removed your boobs! Give yourself a break.
In the morning, a physical therapist visits. She urges me to get out of bed. What? Lady, do you know what I’ve just been through? I tell her I’m not sure and I really don’t want to. Reluctantly, I sit up…very slowly, and swing my feet over the side. Unfortunately, and the reason why I know I don't want to sit up in the first place, I dry heave, and not just a little, but a lot! Of course, we decide it’s best for me to lie back down. Ya’ think?!
My advice, listen to your intuition. YOU are your best advocate! YOU determine when YOU will do things. You’ve been through enough!
Overall, I don’t really feel pain, just numbness, really. Did I say really enough to convince you? Besides, I’m heavily sedated, which in my case, is a good thing. I don’t want to feel an ounce of pain.
My surgery is a success. Thank goodness, margins are clear. However, Dr. Prati will have to excise a small piece of my skin for extra assurance (which I did two weeks later).
I’ll explain the drains in a separate post. For now, I leave you with this. It’s really not all that bad, minus the vomiting. I could’ve done without that. Compared to my chemotherapy, it makes what I went through after surgery look easy.
But all in all, I survive it, and so can you.