As if getting diagnosed and going through chemo was not enough, now it was decision time. Do I get a lumpectomy, mastectomy on the cancer side, or a double mastectomy? It is definitely not an easy decision to make.
What defines us
As a woman, you may not be defined by your girly parts, but they are a big part of who you are. People say things like, “you are still the same person,” or “your breasts don’t define you,” but the truth of the matter is, nobody really knows how it feels until they are put in that position. I stayed positive, I said prayers, I researched, and I spoke to my family and friends. I did everything I thought could help me make the decision, and help me be in the right mindset for that decision. Little did I know exactly how difficult it would be.
My final decision based on my type of cancer, high risk for recurrence and many other factors, was a double mastectomy with delayed diep flap reconstruction. I thought knowing that I would get them reconstructed would make going through the process easier. That was not the case.
No turning back: Time for the mastectomy
My mastectomy was scheduled for February 28, 2019. As the day was approaching, I would cry more and more thinking about what was going to happen and how I would be able to cope. The day came and I recall being a complete mess. The nurses took me to an area where they stuck me with 4 needles in 4 different areas of my breast. That was the moment things really took a turn for the worse.
I became extremely anxious. As I was laying in bed in the waiting area, the nurse came to put in the IV, they couldn’t get it in, so in came an older nurse that put it in my hand. She was not the nicest person and it hurt very much. As my anxiety grew and the area the IV was in was still hurting, I began to scratch at the IV. I couldn’t stop. I was at a point where I was bawling. They finally called the anesthesiologist to come in and give me something to help me calm down. After that, I think I felt better, but honestly, I can’t remember much after that.
I had heard that Nolan broke down at school the day of my surgery and he just cried most of the day. Nolan is so very sensitive. It makes me feel terrible as I feel like I am putting them through this. My head knows that I am not, but there is always that thought of what could I have done to prevent this. I would give anything if my boys and daughter did not have to watch me go through this.
My surgeon had previously explained to me that in the operating room, they would remove three lymph nodes, and in real-time, check to see if there were any cancer cells. If there were cancer cells, they would remove the entire lymphatic system from my right side. Well as it turns out I found out after surgery, they did remove the entire lymphatic system.
After I was awake, things felt okay. I had binders around my chest, so I did not really notice a huge difference. It was the moment that the nurse came in to do the first check that set all the emotions flowing. I could not look. I realized that I could not feel anything. They had cut the nerves and I was now feeling the difference of pre-surgery and post-surgery. I spent four days in the hospital before I finally went home.
When depression hits, it hits hard…
As the days progressed, depression set in. I had three drains that my mother would empty multiple times a day. I stayed in bed with covers over my head wishing I could disappear. It came time to try and shower and I have to say that was the worst moment of this entire journey. I took a shower, but guess what? I could not even take my clothes off. That is right, I showered with my clothes on. I cried the entire time. Yes, I cried a lot during this time!
For the first month after surgery (here comes the bad hygiene), I took only two showers and both with my clothes on. It was so hard. I would talk to my good friend Vero and we cry together on the phone. She just listened to me get the emotions out and encouraged me with her supportive words. Friends and family wanted to come see me, but I did not want to see anyone except my husband, kids, and mom.
I had really pushed Santos away because I felt so disgusted with myself. I finally asked him if he would be willing to look at the area for the first time with me. He said, “yes” without hesitation.That was the first time I saw myself and it was one of the most emotional moments of my life. I had literally lost a part of me.
It was a friend from church that sent me a text with a link to a devotional that changed everything. I read the devotional and something just changed. Do not get me wrong, it is not like I just embraced my new body. I just had a change in my mindset, at least enough of a change to get out of bed.
One day, I asked Nolan if he wanted to go for a walk with me, so we grabbed my walker (yes, I had a walker because of the neuropathy in my legs from chemo and the imbalance issues I was having due to the mastectomy) and off we went. It was slow, but we made it around the block. It was the first time I had gone outside.
Laughter is the best medicine
From that moment on, I used my humor to get through. I know that my kids had a hard time seeing me like I was and understanding why I was not the same person I used to be, so I had to make some changes. I knew I was going to have a diep flap reconstruction which is where they remove your lower abdomen and build new breasts with those “flaps,” so I began referring to my new breasts as Stoob 1 and Stoob 2 (my stomach boobs). Everyone laughed with me.
I finally received my pathology report from my surgery and I found out that I still had active cancer in both my breast and my lymph nodes so I was going to have to go through a third round of chemo. This time the chemo would be a pill so I would not have to travel back and forth. I would have to be on this chemo for six more months, but first…radiation.
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