Thursday, October 27
I had a radical mastectomy on October 7th. Prior to the event, I was terrified of dying during the surgery. I was afraid of having general anesthesia, and could not make peace with the decision to have surgery. So many loving people carried me through the experience. My father came a day or so before and spent hours with me, comforting me, loving and encouraging me. My husband was absolutely dedicated to helping me manage each day- indeed, each hour. His constant love and reassurance was a blessing.
My pastor, my friends, my family all expressed love- everyone was so accepting of my fears, listened, and patiently offered the support that gave me the courage to make it to the hospital. Dawn, my nurse advocate, my mother and my husband accompanied me. My pastor gave me a small cross made of olive wood strung with a pink ribbon. When she put it in my hand a sense of calm flowed into me. I wore it through the surgery.
I had a nerve block as part of the anesthesia, a painful process where needles delivering painkillers punctured a length along my spine- I cried, blood crept down my back. I recall being taken to the operating room, looking at the lights above me… Next, I woke in a bright room with nurses calling my name. I was deleriously happy to have survived!
My torso was wrapped in a foot wide compression bandage, it felt extremely tight. When I tried to move, the pain was overwhelming. The problem with pain management was that my body is very tolerant of opiates- it was hard for the doctors to get the dose right, as I already take a daily course of narcotics. The first day I had pain meds every two hours. Chad stayed with me overnight, a cot was set up for him in my room. At one point I got up to use the toilet and was overcome with searing, uncompromising pain- all I could do was gasp and scream through tears. Chad held me until the nurse came, the meds were adjusted, and the pain was less challenging.
I went home after two days to stay with my mother in Camden. A visiting nurse came every other day to check the incision and monitor my blood levels. As I have had a clot in the past, I am on a blood thinner. My blood was sluggish, it was hard to get it to the correct level and I had to give myself shots in the belly for about a week, in addition to the medication.
My mom drove us to Scarborough to have my bandages and drains removed; I was aprehensive to see my scars. It was challenging, but my mother was with me and the medical staff was very understanding. My mastectomy scar runs from near underarm 7 inches slopingly, horizontally across my chest.
The surgeon removed an unexpected fist sized cancerous mass from under my arm: this tumor was hidden behind the muscles, it showed on the scan only as a lymph node infected with cancer. As a result of surgery, the area under my arm is sort of concave, with little hills on either side, a bit scary looking. It feels very tight, but I am using my arm and fortunately, there is no swelling as of yet.
The surgeon got clear margins on all the tumors! I am home for a couple of weeks, the next step is 5-6 weeks of radiation, which will begin November 9th. I will again stay with my mother in Camden and treatments will be daily, in Bath, about an hour from her home. Transportation will be arranged through a community ride service.
Meanwhile, my energy is returning. Creative ideas are flowing and I’ve begun a project of collaging my bedroom dresser. I’m excited to be working with bright colors and patterns! Friends have been by, and we’ve been treated to delicous foods- chowder, home-made bread, apple pie…!! I’m so glad to be here, enjoying my husband, stepson, friends and family. Dear friends spent a day with Chad cleaning our home from top to bottom- the place looks and feels so comfortable. I feel blessed.
Before going into surgery I felt like a soldier going into battle, I pictured putting on fighting gear and painting my face, picking up my weapons and going forward into the unknown. Now, I feel like a person home from a war, able to breathe peace, to appreciate the things that make life sweet. I am surrounded by spiritual messages of stength and hope. XX C