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Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

April 11, 2018

It’s been the kind of week that requires regular calendar checks if one wants to know what day it is. Up until yesterday (I’m assuming thanks to my pain medicine), I was on a pretty regular nap and go to bed early schedule. While this was good and necessary, it meant that I spent most of my time working to decipher reality from dream world. I was had a lot of crazy and/or unpleasant dreams which meant I woke up feeling weird. And every time I woke up, I had to re-remember what I had just gone through. What my new reality is.

I can’t even remember how many times during those first few days I said or thought “I can’t believe my breast is gone.” “I can’t believe I only have one breast.” I still can’t believe it. I don’t know how long it will take to get used to seeing myself in the mirror. Or until the rest of my family is used to seeing me with one breast. I think all the girls have seen “my boo boo” but none want to see it again.

(My mind has been kind of mushy for days, so I’m trying to remember what’s been going on.)

I remember feeling several major disconnects. The first one was the disconnect between having my breast removed and having cancer. I have to keep remembering why I’m doing this. The mastectomy has become the main thing in my mind for several weeks now, and, for better or for worse, has drowned out the cancer thing. But I have to bring them back together for this loss to make sense.

The other disconnect is a little different. I feel disfigured, but I know I don’t have to look like this forever. There are a lot of good options when it comes to reconstruction – ones that I think I will be able to feel comfortable with. I started looking into some of them, and the type I will probably get, where they take tissue from another part of your body and rebuild your breast, is really extensive up front, but in the long term, it can be much better than an implant. So I looked on some website to see what was involved in the surgery. It was too much. Too many days in the hospital. So much recovery. I can’t even think about it right now. (I haven’t even met with a plastic surgeon either to know what my situation would be like, so I have to keep that in mind as well.) So I have to somehow keep in mind that I won’t always look like this without dwelling too deeply on what it’ll take for me to not always look like this…

On a more practical note, the healing has been going really well. I’ve had more use of my right arm from the beginning than any of us would have thought possible. The incision is clean and looks healthy. I was able to get one of the drains out Monday afternoon and the other came out this morning. I’ll spare you the details, but the removal was not a blessing. If it had lasted about 5 seconds longer, I might have thrown up.

I saw Dr. G this morning. She said that she’s taking my case to the tumor board on Friday (pathology reports usually come back sooner when a tumor board is waiting), and will call me this weekend. She is optimistic that I won’t need radiation. I know the pathology results can change that, but it was still encouraging to hear she felt that way. We’ll see Dr. Z on Monday to hear what he thinks as well.

Since the drains were out, I was able to take a shower this afternoon. And though it was glorious, I cried a lot. It’s hard seeing my body this way. And though I know how I look doesn’t affect how Jonathan loves me, it’s still kind of hard being seen. Like I said, I do feel disfigured. (I’m wondering, though, if it’s easier for those around me to maintain the no breast = no cancer, therefore no breast = a good thing connection in their minds.) I cried because I’m sad for what I’ve had to go through. And then I cried because I have someone who loves me enough to shave my armpit for me.

I stopped taking the prescription pain stuff yesterday. The label said I might die if I mixed alcohol and the medicine, and I was ready to have a glass of wine. I never really had much pain, but I don’t know how much of that was because it was managed so well or if it just wasn’t there. Any pain I have is usually in my armpit. I can sleep on my back or my left side (which is getting old), but as long as I’m able to keep space between my arm and my body, I’m pretty comfortable. (I have a squishy pillow that was given to me after my lumpectomy that is perfect for that job.)

I realized this afternoon as I went outside and was tempted to do things in the yard, that it’s going to be a struggle to give myself time to heal. It’s hard to wait and it’s hard sitting around. My right arm works pretty well, but it doesn’t take much for me to realize I’m overdoing it. So for now, I’m going to continue practicing delegating and as my cousin said, channeling my inner Cleopatra 😉

Our children have been cared for in a way that is going to have them hoping I have another surgery soon. They’ve been taken away to spend time with others and we’ve had help here at the house. I’ve had little twinges of feeling bad because I’ll see them so little this week, but thankfully, we have gotten some little moments first thing in the morning or at night where they will be still and snuggle against me and I can enjoy them without fear of them hurting me.

This morning on the way back from the doctor, we stopped by Rev for some coffee. We actually saw a few friends, which was really nice. But it felt strange to be in public after being so out of it this week, and also strange that I was so different, yet no one really knew. I admired some of the art on their walls, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when Jonathan came home later with this:

Give yourself grace – Kristen Ramsey Art

He had the perfect idea to hang it over our front door so this is the last thing you see whenever you leave the house. It’s a good reminder for me right now as I deal with physical limitations, grief, fear, healing, etc… but it’s something we all need to hear all the time.

So go on, regardless of what you’re dealing with, give yourself grace tonight.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ruth Petersen permalink
    April 12, 2018 07:10

    PTL for Grace…I’m praying for you and I’m very thankful your healing process is going well…Please don’t rush it, relax …((hugs)) and much love, give that wonderful husband of yours my love as well…Ruth

  2. April 12, 2018 13:41

    Hi Grace! Kim and I are continuing to pray for you. I am struggling with my own cancer decisions and the sharing of your journey is very helpful. I finished my chemo-radiation daily treatments four weeks ago with an “excellent response.” The surgeon, however, does not want to do any follow-up tests to see if I have achieved a “clinically-complete response” (cCR) to the treatment. He just wants to go straight to a radical resection of my rectum. That is major abdominal surgery with all its attendant risks. Given my current status, I believe I have about a 50-50 chance of a cCR status and believe we should do the follow-up tests to see. So, I’m looking for a second opinion on all this.

    • April 13, 2018 10:12

      Andy, it’s good to hear from you, though I’m sorry it’s because we are both dealing with cancer. I highly recommend getting other opinions. Especially since you are facing such a major surgery. I’ve definitely learned you have to advocate for yourself. I have also switched almost all my doctors since last fall and am really happy with that decision. I have also found that a good doctor doesn’t mind sending you to someone else for a second opinion. Push for the test and if you can’t get it through your current doctor, find one who will. I’m sure your insurance company would rather pay for more testing instead of a major surgery. We will be praying for both of you.

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