Man, I thought my first post about being diagnosed with breast cancer was hard but today I’m drowning in tears from my own emotions. Since the diagnosis I’ve been extremely upbeat and optimistic, knowing with God by my side that I’ll get through anything. I’ve had an amazing support system, fantastic doctors who’ve helped me to understand my cancer(s) and the different options available to me, I live in an incredible place and I’ve been happier than ever. Even post surgery, those around me have been pleasantly surprised by how well I’ve been dealing with the whole situation. Immediately after I came out of recovery, my girl friend Cynthia commented at how shocked she was to see me so alert and upbeat, like I hadn’t just gone through a major surgery.
I was really rather surprised at myself. I woke up in my room in a fog. I don’t remember much of anything from the recovery room. I’m not even sure who was in the room when I woke. I recall Cynthia walking in at some point and sitting down to chat with me. Pulling up my gown, we both looked in amazement to see that I had cleavage – REAL CLEAVAGE – after just having a bilateral mastectomy and the plastic surgeon immediately placing expanders. I knew he would begin to fill them with saline but I really didn’t imagine I’d have what appear to be B size cups. Needless to say, it certainly felt like a step in the right direction.
I had some minor discomfort in the hospital which was controlled with pain medication and a whole lot of anti-nausea meds. I’m queen of having reactions to any type of narcotics. I can’t even take half a Vicodin for wisdom tooth removal without puking my guts out. When the nurses tried to get me up to go to the bathroom the room immediately began spinning. Luckily they made it in time with the barf bucket.
I was released the following day with full restrictions on my movement. Doctors ordered me to sit still like a T-rex and not move my arms away from my sides. Cynthia had already reprimanded me for swinging my arms around in the hospital. She said, “Don’t be so Italian.” Do you know how hard that is for someone like me? 🤌🏽
My sister and my mother brought me home from the hospital. That was an adventure in and of itself as my mother had taken my clothes home the night before and forgot to bring them back. What the hell am I going to wear home from the hospital? I have no pants!!! Luckily, one of the nurses offered to get me a second hospital gown to wrap around, closing in the front so my rear end would be covered up. Hey, at least I still had my sense of humor.
I’m beyond grateful that my sister came out to Nashville to be my caretaker following surgery. My parents and my best friend Cynthia have been amazing but my sister sat with me for hours on end, set timers for all hours of the day and night to remind me to take my meds, woke with me when she heard me stir or to make sure I was taking my meds, helped me empty and measure the fluids in the four hand grenade looking drains draped from my bra several times a day, helped me get dressed, eat, drink and get whatever I needed, washed my hair, gave me a massage and cried with me. I don’t know how I would have gotten through that week without her.
Needless to say, the day after she left, when everything got quiet and I was forced to deal with ME, the emotional breakdown of epic proportions occurred. I spent two straight days sobbing endlessly. Another factor affecting me so deeply is that I still have these drains in, dragging me down, unable to shower (Shh, don’t tell my doctors but I actually showered from the waist down last week because I just couldn’t stand it anymore – plus I got tired of looking like Madonna with hairy armpits so I shaved as best I could without getting near any wounds). I have one stitched up wound under each armpit from where the lymph nodes were removed to be tested for cancer. I’ll receive my pathology report tomorrow when I see the cancer surgeon so at that point I’ll have a much better idea of my prognosis and if I’ll need additional treatment. Because lymph nodes were removed I’ve been getting sharp pains on the back of my left arm if I move it too far back (which I was specifically told NOT to do but again, I’m Italian and I use my arms and hands a lot!). But I digress…
Back to my emotional state. I’ve had so many people reach out to me, especially since I’ve gone so public with my story. Several people have told me they decided to get their mammogram done because of me. Others have told me how much my story has touched them because they still have never had a mammogram and are scared. To that I say, “Be scared but please go do it anyway! And if you feel for any reason (like they tell you that you have dense breast tissue) DEMAND an MRI.” Don’t settle for excuses or having an ultrasound ordered. DO NOT sit back and let the doctors give you orders. You have got to take things into your own hands. I know that I’m helping others by talking about the reality of breast cancer and I’m grateful for that. This disease is ugly but I’m lucky that it was caught when it was. I’m blessed that my cancer surgeon, Dr. Lindsay Keith is such a knowledgeable doctor. She’s only 38 years old but has vast knowledge and experience in the field as a fellowship trained doctor. You can read more about her here: https://lindsaykeith.com
Today I’m a bit calmer than I have been but my patience is wearing thin and I’m drained from all the crying. I’m so ready to get back to living again! Sitting back and watching your friends and family live life as you’re stuck to a recliner/bed/couch and unable to move is challenging. It eventually takes its toll.
Logically, I know that one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) this battle will be behind me and I’ll be back to living my best life and flourishing in a city I love, but in this moment, I’m slowly being sucked in by the quicksand. Thank goodness for God’s grace! People tend to either not know what to say at all or to say, “Everything’s gonna be OK.” I appreciate all the warm thoughts of love and support but sometimes you just need to sit in your sadness and let it all out. I will say, one of the greatest things my friend Ryan Weaver said to me was, “You’re a f**kin fighter” and “You’re a beast and this is a mountain to climb. Chin up.” Leave it to a military veteran (one of the toughest I know) to say just the right thing to keep pushing me forward. My ex turned best friend Joey has also been a HUGE support to me from listening to my tears to promising me that I’ll still be ALL woman the way I’ve always been even after surgery. He’s been my rock.
As of today, the drains are still in and not looking like they’ll come out until Wednesday at the soonest. The sooner they come out, the sooner the doctor can fill the expanders to the C cup size I want and the faster I can have the reconstructive surgery to have those “gummy bear” implants put in. It’s time for me to get back to the land of living!