Drains.

When I had my mastectomies in December, I took my drains out before I could get in to see my doctor. It was really no big deal. I thought it would be at least painful, but it really wasn’t. It made a slurping noise, but there was very little pain at all. The last abdominal drain I have now can’t come out until Thursday, and I’m struggling to wait that long. Nothing is quite as bad as the last remaining abdominal drain.

For reference:

you can see how angry and red the tissue is and also that it is sutured to my skin so it doesn’t come out. This is actually better than the last drains I had as they were sutured with a flexible metal suture, so it was more like a piercing that I didn’t ask for. The difference with those is that they were near my breasts. This one is in an area that gets way more action, so is constantly bumped and pulled on and occasionally the tubing catches on things and I yelp in pain. It sucks.

I’m also wearing an abdominal binder that interferes with the drain and makes it even more painful.

Overall though, I’ve been very active. I’m doing my best to get up and move. Today I walked over 6 miles! I’ve still got a long way to go, but I am committed to becoming fit as soon as I can. Being inactive is hard, but I also get tired easily.

This has been such a difficult journey. But now I know how much fight I’ve got in me 💪!

Long, Strange Trip

I’m actually very lucky. I was sitting back just last night and thinking about it. I’ve had a lot of time to think this last week.

About a year ago my life was turned completely upside down. Within that time, I’ve had to endure multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, mastectomies, radiation and finally reconstruction. After all of my procedures, my insurance company has spent nearly half a million dollars on me.

Within that same period of time, I’ve gotten to know what it feels like to be so very loved. I’ve become closer to my family as most of them have reached out to help multiple times with thoughts words or deeds. My parents spent a week caring for me and my kids after surgery, so I didn’t have to worry. My Mother and Father-in-law took the littles for a couple of nights so that Brad could take a breath and I could heal at home (he is headed to the cities to pick them up now!). I’ve learned how awesome my community really is.

I’m still in some pain but haven’t taken narcotics for at least 4 days or so. The most difficult piece of healing right now is my abdomen followed closely by my ribs.

I wear an abdominal medical wrap to minimize swelling. My doctor has let me know that I should plan to wear it for a couple of MONTHS! It’s like Spanx, but slightly worse since it’s padded. I also still have my abdominal drain which will likely be removed next week sometime.

Just this week I scheduled a physical for myself and for the kids. It was super weird to make appointment for myself that wasn’t cancer related. Similarly weird, at Beckham’s last annual well-child check up is where I found out my cancer had metastasized.

This has been an exhausting journey. I can’t believe it’s almost over.

A Brand New Pair

Well, I’m 6 days post-op from a bilateral DIEP flap reconstruction. I have felt a bit like Minnesota’s road construction season for the last year. You know, the unending, full of potholes, constantly repairing but never replacing type.

Just today, I was trying to remember my last thoughts before surgery. I remember being introduced to some of the staff that were getting me ready, I remember moving myself to the surgical table that was way, way, way smaller than I thought it was gonna be. I remember meeting with my surgeon that morning and I remember meeting my anesthesiologist. I remember seeing my mom and dad that morning and the heart ache that I felt leaving them with my children. I also remember the way my chest looked. Without breasts, full of scars, a patchwork of colors from radiation and my summer tan.

That’s about it.

I’m starting to get used to my new breasts. The weight of them and the size of them. They have mysteriously been put back to where they should’ve been pre-pregnancy.

I’ve stopped taking pain medication during the day, and started to walk as much as possible. Napping has become a priority. Which has never ever happened in my life. I currently have three drains and likely will have two removed on Wednesday. The third may take another week or so.

All of my recovery is taking place during some of our biggest life moments, Father’s Day, Brad’s birthday and our anniversary. They all happened this year within 5 days.

I can’t say that I’m feeling great, but I can say that I’m trying hard to feel like a woman again.

Homeward Bound

Wow! The past few days have been really challenging and rewarding.

I’m sitting in a chair, minutes after one of my doctors came to visit. This doctor was my mastectomy surgeon back in December, but she came to see how I was doing after Tuesday. This woman is amazing. We connected the first time we met about a year ago and she is actually the one who explained DIEP flap to me after my diagnosis. She was also the one who had to call and tell me the lymph nodes she took were full of cancer.

This woman, with her no-bullshit attitude and her intelligence and grace make her one of my heroes. Her skilled hands and her education saved my life.

Today I’m going home. I get to celebrate life because of the doctors and nurses I’ve been surrounded by and the collaboration of their educations and their choice to do good always.

Today I’m going home a woman. I have hair, I have breasts and I have the rest of my life to love this body.

Today was the longest day ever. Of course, half way through, the power went out during the storm, so that doesn’t help.

I did a ton of busy work to pass the time. Cleaned out cupboards, finished up laundry and organized the pantry. After the rain stopped, I got out for a nice, long walk.

As I was heading out of town, a friend stopped me on the side of the road. His mom was in the truck with him and they stopped to wish me luck tomorrow and to tell me her story. I stood at the side of the road and bawled while she let me know she had the same diagnosis as me. Stage III breast cancer, and she has been cancer-free for 10 years. She was incredibly kind and very generous with the compliments, and in that moment I was so thankful for her.

I went another few miles, just thinking about tomorrow and the upcoming weeks. I thought about my family, friends and coworkers, and all of the support and encouragement, love and generosity I have gotten from them all.

Just a few blocks from home, I looked up to see a beautiful young woman on a bike. I said “hello” and smiled, and she smiled back and said, “good luck on your surgery!”

I am so thankful for my little town.

Big Deep Breath

Well. The time has finally come. In about 40 hours, I’ll be heading into surgery for hopefully the last leg of this marathon.

These past couple of weeks, I’ve been a wreck. I can’t sleep, I’ve lost all patience with my family and I’m stressed to the max. I’ve begun to isolate myself as much as possible. I prefer to be in my own thoughts or listening to a podcast than talking. I feel like all I want to talk about is the surgery or what has lead me here. It’s all that’s on my mind.

These past few weeks have been really hard. We’ve had some get togethers with friends and family and I have felt so much like I don’t belong. I want to. So bad. But how can my peers understand?

I’m having so many menopausal symptoms. They had been tapering off, but I had to stop taking one of my medications to prepare for surgery, so my hormones are WAY out of whack. At least that’s my excuse. It’s probably why I want to be alone.

I’m planning to be in the hospital for 3 nights. Visitors are tentatively welcome after the first day.

Baggage

I started packing my bag for the hospital today. Nine more days until reconstruction. I’ve never been more ready.

Surgery should take 8-10 hours and I’ll be staying in the hospital for 3-5 days depending.

The surgery I’m having is called DIEP Flap surgery. My doctor (magician) will take my excess abdominal tissue (he swears I have plenty😫), and after hours of magical microsurgery, he’ll open both of my mastectomy scars and make “breasts” out of the harvested abdominal tissue. I won’t have real nipples or real breast sensation, but I will feel like I’ve been put back together.

I can’t wait to hug my kids without them running into my ribs or to wear summer clothes without judgement or stares. It feels very similar to that “has she eaten too many cookies?” phase before your friends know that you’re pregnant.

We have a busy week ahead with some last minute friend get togethers before the big day, my nephew’s graduation party, scrubbing down the house and getting ready for our last camping trip for awhile. I’ll be down and out, hopefully honing my skills in a new craft or reading amazing books while I recover.

Still hard to believe it hasn’t even been a year.