Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Breast Cancer Chronicles: It's Me Again!

I'm back! At least for a little while...

First, thank you to everyone who has been supportive of me and my family through this first round of the battle with breast cancer. Your love, time, thoughts, prayers, energy, calls, texts, messages, tweets, cards, gifts, meals, and shoulders keep us going whenever things become too challenging or scary. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. I will say it again later because there will never be thanks enough.

One of my goals in dealing with this damn disease is to use my experience to take some of the fear out of cancer for the next person, or loved one of a person, who faces it. When we talk openly and honestly about things that scare us, the power that those things have begins to dissipate. If it were up to me, and frankly it should be, cancer wouldn't be able to scare or hurt any of us ever again.

As I have said before, I am lucky to have had the amazing doctors who have helped me through the first surgical part of this journey. Dr. Rock Star and his staff have been lovely, kind, gentle, and even entertaining throughout the "taking them off" part. Dr. Superwoman took the second half of the surgery, "putting them on" in the form of expanders to help my chest muscles learn how to work in their new place. The expanders kind of remind me of whoopee cushions, or empty beach balls. They go in flat and get filled every week with sterile saline until they are the size and shape that the actual implants will be. Pretty cool, right? But I am jumping way ahead. We'll come back to Dr. Superwoman and her terrific team in a little while. In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I am still on meds, so I talk in circles sometimes. (Like that is anything new! I just have something on which to blame it now!)

The surgery was three weeks ago yesterday. and I may have to tell this in installments because so much has happened in the last twenty-two days.

Day One: Surgery
I knew that the scan they needed to do of my lymph nodes before the mastectomy involved an injection, what I didn't know until the day before my surgery was that the injectionS were to go in just below my nipples without anesthesia! I had never been in so much pain in my entire life. Until after the surgery. There was no way to prepare for that! If any part of it could be funny, it had to be the fact that the doctor who came in to give me the shots was the parent of a former student! I knew as soon as he introduced himself, and I told him how much I enjoyed teaching her. Then, midway through the injection, I remember wailing, "I was nice to W...! Why would you hurt me?" He apologized and just kept on sticking. Then I was left alone for twenty or thirty minutes so the stuff he injected could get where it needed to go to be detected.

Next was Pre-Op for loads of questions, weight, BP, and an IV. The nurse or tech trying to put in my IV was midway through her second try when a lovely doctor walked in and asked, "Amy?" Instantly I recognized her as the mother of yet another former student! She said, "K... told me you would be here today! I'm not your anesthesiologist, but I wanted to make sure you were okay." I was thrilled! Then she looked at the IV debacle happening in my right arm and said, "I got this. Thanks." Not only did she numb the area -What a concept!- but she put in a painless IV on the first try into an even tougher spot! Thanks, Dr. B! I still have a bruise from the one that was happening when she arrived. After huge thanks, an update on her kids, and a couple of hugs, she was on her way. Just a few minutes later, a former student popped in to check on me. Come to find out she is a tech at the hospital and wanted to give me a pre-op hug! Love you, KH! Again I was overwhelmed with thanks for this amazing life I live.

And then it was time.

Surgery started later than scheduled. My Dream Team of perfectionist surgeons had another case before mine, and they wanted to make sure everything was right. We were  happy to know how much it mattered to them to get the little things right. The complete operation lasted between four and five hours. Through the post-op haze I remember being almost unable to breathe from the pain I felt coming back into consciousness. Baby Sis tells me that all I got out was a barely audible, "," that made them all want to cry. I'm pretty sure I was crying. Loads, and loads, and loads of Dilaudid later, it still hurt like Hell, but I was able to rest a little. E stayed the night with me in the hospital so Mom could go home to get some sleep. He made sure I rested as comfortably as I could with with four drains sticking out of me, not an easy task. That night when I first tried to get out of bed to use the restroom, I remember being so thankful that my office is on the second floor, and that I have taken the stairs up and down several times each day for the last year. That made getting into and out of bed without using my hands or arms a possibility. I'm not sure I could have done that eighteen months ago. #glasshalffull

Who would have believed that a complete double mastectomy with reconstruction only merited a single night in the hospital? Not this Betty! But that is, in fact, the case. One night only. Getting out of the hospital should have been the easy part right? Not if you know my family! Mom, Dad, and Baby Sis were all there to help. Truth be told, I wasn't feeling particularly well as I made the switch from IV pain meds to pills. I thought I was just a little light-headed and figured it would pass, but probably should have said something. The wheelchair came, everyone took a bag and we were out the door. Suddenly we entered what I was sure was the Walking Dead hospital crossway, remember? You know, the one that was so bright, where they were going to get Beth back from the woman who held the hospital. Yes! That one! The image popped into my head and as it did I heard a crash behind me, followed by an expletive or two. I twisted around in my chair (bad plan after double mastectomy) to see Dad on the floor! The man has a pair of bright, shiny, new hips, so his fall was more than a little scary for all of us! He was fine, but mortified. I remember trying to ask if he was okay, as the nurse was explaining that she needed him to go to the ER to get checked out, and then everything went black. Yep! I passed right out in my chair! I had already been released from the hospital! This had to be a joke. Right? Next thing I knew they were wheeling me back into a room, Dad and Baby Sis had gone downstairs to fill out a report and agree not to sue, since he refused to go to the ER, while I lay in a freshly made hospital bed sobbing. It was, at the time, awful. The next day, it was hilarious! And it gets funnier by the day. I'm pretty sure we have more fun laughing at ourselves than just about anything else. We crack ourselves right up almost all of the time.

I'll end this post here, but stay tuned for new ones, shorter, and funnier, and filled with hope.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. Take care of each other and be kind.



Peace from Post Op


  1. So honest...I'm sure this will help someone one day. You're doing a good thing here, my friend. Rest well! ♡

  2. So honest...I'm sure this will help someone one day. You're doing a good thing here, my friend. Rest well! ♡

  3. badass betty! i love you!! <3