One week till surgery

One week from tonight I will be resting (comfortably, I hope thanks to some heavy-duty drugs) after undergoing bilateral mastectomy.  WEIRD!  I really can not wrap my head around this at all.  I know it’s necessary.  Chemo did its job and killed a good amount (maybe all?) of the cancer.  My images look great.  But there is always a chance that some little itty bitty cancer cells that we can not see remain.  So yes, even though my images look good, we are going down the mastectomy road.

I had my long “teaching day” at the hospital last week in three parts.  First, a nurse from my surgeon’s office kindly  went over details of what to expect on surgery day and recovery instructions.  She sent me home with two heart shaped pillows – one for under each arm to provide support in the weeks after surgery.  These are made by a group of women from a Lutheran church in Brookfield for women going through this surgery.  What a blessing!

Next, I had my pre-admin appointment at the main hospital.  They went over the normal health history questions, list of medications, did the routine blood pressure check.  They also gave me a packet to fill out with advanced directives.  Yes, that is something I definitely need to fill out.  My prayer is that is will not be needed, but I guess the possibility is always there.  So, yep…that was a weird moment.

Finally, after lunch, it was more nurse teaching.  This time, from the plastic surgeon’s office.  We learned all about the drains that will be dangling from my sides for 1-3 weeks, what they do and how to care for them.   I received 2 camisoles with pockets to hold the “hand grenade” part of the drains.  More post-op instructions.

Chris and Mom were with me the whole day so they could learn how to help and take care of me.  One of the nurses said that the patient usually remembers about 40% and the caregivers will pick up on all the patient either forgets or blocks out.  All in all, it was a longish day, but I handled it better than I anticipated.  I only cried once, just during the first nurse teaching appointment.

People have been asking how I’m doing.  The truthful answer is mostly good.

Physically, I feel awesome.  Being off chemo is glorious!  I still get a little tired or run down after a lot of activity.  That’s normal.  They say give it time, be gentle with myself, don’t expect too much.  My body has been through a war of its own.  Give it at least 5 months  – the same amount of time I was on chemo – to return to normal.  It’s kind of like the “9 months to put it on, 9 months to get it off” baby weight analogy.  (Except in my case, it’s been waaaaay longer than that.)

Emotionally, I am up and down.  Overall, I am HAPPY.  Truly happy and feeling blessed.  And throughout the happy, it seems the tough moments find their way in.  Quite possibly a little more often than usual.  I know the surgery is necessary and the right thing to do.  I know that someday I will look back at all of this and it will seem like a little blip on the radar screen of life.  But in the now, I am scared and I am sad.  The scared is just that I have pre-surgery jitters, so I try not to think about it too much.  This is my first ever surgery.  I have great doctors and I feel very confident in my team.

But it’s the sadness that seems to overshadow the scared part.  Everyone is different and for some women it might be easy to say “cut them off” and move on with the show.  I am definitely ready to move on with the show of life.  I don’ t know that I’m ready to move on to the show breast-less.

Sometimes people point out the perks – at the end of all of this, I will have great boobs, I can pick my size, they will never sag, etc., – and that is all true.  I know people are trying to be positive, say something nice, find the good within the bad.  And, yes, I am able to find a little humor in this.  After all the craptasticness of cancer, I might as well come out with nice looking boobs, right?!?

But, what is also true and the part that saddens me is that I will never again have sensation in my breasts.  I will not have nipples.  I will not feel my children’s heads on my chest when we hug or cuddle.  Intimacy with my husband will be different for me.

When my final reconstruction is done in most-likely February 2015 (yes, this is a very long road), I’m sure I will have gorgeous boobs.  My plastic surgeon is A-MAZING!  But right now, I am mourning the loss of a body part that fed and nourished my babies, for a combined total of almost 5 years…gone.  It’s just weird to be gone.

I’ve had several emotional breakdowns in the last two weeks.  Chris has assured me that although things will be different, I/we will just adjust to something new.  One again, a new normal.

The last few days have been good compared to last week.  On Friday, I met with our pastor for an Anointing of the Sick.  We had a chance to talk, cry (me, not him), and pray together.  Over the weekend we went to Ella’s basketball game and my nephew’s 3rd birthday party.  Chris and I painted our dining room – something that I have wanted to do since we moved in 2 years ago.  Today, Mom and I (but it ended up being only Mom) painted Owen and Eli’s room.  Cross 2 things off the list of “I want to get done before I have limited use of my arms after surgery”  YAY!

For the next week, I am just enjoying life!  I’m looking forward to the Moms Group meeting at church.  I have a few visits with friends lined up this week.  I plan to finish off more (hopefully all) Christmas shopping, wrap presents, and decorate our house for Christmas.  We’ll see how much actually gets done.  Somehow I always over-plan and underestimate time required.

One thing that WILL get done is to pick up and hold, chase, tickle, snuggle all my kids as much as I can while I can still FEEL it.  I LOVE to cuddle with each of them, but Eli is one that I’m holding a little more this week.  I missed out on a lot of his toddler-y moments while I was in a chemo haze.  I really want to enjoy these last days of being able to lift him when he runs up to me and hugs my leg saying “Mama” while looking up expectantly for me to hold him.  He’s my last baby and he’s growing fast.  He doesn’t want to be held too much anymore.  I just want to savor the feeling of him when I hold him.  Because all too soon, the feeling part will be different.

My prayers this week are to remain healthy and for my body to be strong so I can recover complication-free.  I am also praying for my mother-in-law Penny who is fighting off bronchitis; Father Tony, who is recovering from shoulder surgery; Grandma Helen who is recovering from heart surgery; and prayers of thanksgiving for all of YOU who read this and send your prayers and support to my family.  May God bless us all!

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13 Responses to One week till surgery

  1. Penny Clay says:

    Super excited for your NED news! Keep up the great work! Thoughts and prayers for a lifetime of cancer free! Love, Penny

  2. Jamie says:

    Bonnie, you are so right and I appreciate your perspective. I am so glad that I was able to nurse my children and my breasts were there when they were needed most. Thanks for the thoughts and prayers.

  3. Liz Allbright says:

    Praying with you, mourning with you, and celebrating a new normal future for you with your beautiful family. Love, Liz

  4. Bonnie says:

    Jamie –

    I wish I had something to say that would make those feelings go away. Sharing those feelings of having nursed my children, I can imagine the grief of losing my breasts. Hopefully you can take comfort in having had them when you needed them most and when your children needed them the most as well. Your loving arms and your heart will still be there for your children and Chris.

    Thank you for sharing your story and insight with all of us. You have probably saved more than one person without even knowing it.

    I’m praying that your surgery goes smoothly and your recovery is quick and easy.

    Love, Bonnie

  5. Jes says:

    Jamie, you are brave to have gone through all of this, and brave to share it with all of us. I am sorry you have to lose part of yourself. Thinking about you and hoping for a speedy recovery.


  6. Paula &Joe says:

    Jamie I admire your strength through this long journey. Your faith has helped you and your family. You, Chris and the kids are always in our prayers and thoughts. May God bless you and watch over you in the coming weeks.

  7. Tom Ostrenga says:

    Jamie, your faith and your courage are awesome! You remain in our prayers and especially this week and next week’s surgery. Below is a Bible verse that came to me that might be helpful. We love you! Uncle Buckwheat

    …The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
    He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
    He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
    Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young people stumble and fall;
    but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
    They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
    Isaiah 40: 28-31

  8. Eileen R says:

    Jamie You have inspired me so much during your journey & prayers continue for you for a bright & cancer free road ahead. I admire your tenacity & love of life & your beautiful family will embrace you through all of this..hugs & prayers thru these next few weeks.

  9. Amanda Dwyer says:

    Thankful for all the people you have in your life helping you through this, Jamie. Sending you warm wishes and hugs!

  10. Jen Eklund says:

    I thank God for you Jamie-O. What an inspirational person you are, not only to yourself as you continue to roll with this with great humility and grace, but to the countless number of people you are helping through your journey with your candid-ness and optimism. I have always felt that although life deals us some challenging cards, the best outcome is the opportunity to help and inspire others through your struggles and you are doing that!!!! I wrap my arms around you during this time and will continue to do so in the weeks to come.

  11. Jen Pulvermacher says:

    Oh Jamie, I can SO appreciate your mixed feelings about this surgery. The sense of loss you are anticipating. I wholeheartedly agree that you are making the right choice. I will continue to pray for you and hold you in my heart. And, thanks for the update because I was thinking about you last night wondering when the surgery would take place. Love to everyone in your family…xo Jen

  12. paula says:

    Thank you forc sharing I keep you in my thoughts and prayers daily

  13. Dana Barrow says:

    Jamie, I am praying for you! What a journey you have been on…and will continue on. Can I just say that you amaze me? You are a beautiful woman inside and out. Please let me know how I can help.

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