December 25, 2021
Today I am five and a half weeks post final chemo. It’s Christmas morning and I am also 4 days out from having a partial mastectomy on my right breast. The morning of surgery I had wires implanted into my breast to mark the areas to be removed and visited my plastic surgeon to be marked for reconstruction. I was told my surgery was 5 and half hours long. It took one hour for my surgical oncologist to remove the tumor’s scar tissue and the calcifications. She removed a large area. I learned in preop going over the paperwork that though we discussed surgery as “lumpectomy” the paperwork had “partial mastectomy” on it. The other 4.5 hours were spent with my plastic surgeon reconstructing both breasts so they look alike. I am ecstatic that my surgical oncologist only took 2 lymph nodes and they were both negative! These are the small victories that give me so much hope!! I am feeling better than I expected, anticipating the next phase of treatment (6.5 weeks of radiation) as quickly as possible to keep moving forward. Before I can get there, my pathology results must come back with clear margins or I will have to have surgery again with a full mastectomy. I have to wait about a week for the final results and continue to pray a lot. Every day I wake and am thankful to God that I am feeling better than expected. Every day He is with me and I talk to him. Every day I beg for a chance to get my life back. Every day I wonder what He wants me to learn from this journey and how He wants me to help others. This is the TLDR portion of my blog post. You can quit here knowing you’re up to date, or read further if you want feelings. 🙂
I was told chemotherapy is the hardest part. No doubt it is very difficult, but for me, surgery is the hardest part. My body is my temple. Going under the knife is terrifying for me. I saw my surgical oncologist 5 weeks prior to my surgery, upon returning home from our Thanksgiving trip to plan the next steps. The entire first phase of treatment, my mind envisioned a lumpectomy, the quickest path to my freedom and wellness–the only way out the least unscathed. I was told I would most likely need a mastectomy. I only needed to get rid of the right breast, but who needs unbalanced breasts? It’s easier to take them both and start over so they can look the same. I was very distraught that day having learned everything I had fought for and envisioned was suddenly taken from me. That was the day I shared publicly all I had been going through because I could no longer hide this and I no longer wanted to hide. I received an outpouring of love that I had not expected from family, friends, and strangers in both my home and work communities. Calls, cards, thoughtful gifts, and words of encouragement flooded in from everywhere. I needed it so SO much to get me through and lift me up to get past surgery.
My breast surgeon had ordered an MRI of both breasts to see the results of chemotherapy. While my tumor had disappeared, I still had to deal with calcifications in my upper breast and it looked like they had grown. To be sure, she ordered a biopsy of the breast tissue close to the chest wall. As I waited for the results which took several days, I had to now wrap my head around having a double mastectomy. I talked to women who had been there and revisited my plastic surgeon all of who gave me comfort. I was prepared for the worst, but my breast surgeon came back with the good news that we will try for the lumpectomy and pray for clear margins, but to be prepared for the possibility of a second surgery. I spent the next two and a half weeks preoccupying my mind and trying not to second guess myself. I cleaned and re-wrapped honeysuckle vines in my yard, threw away and decluttered my bathroom and clothes, exercised, shopped, anything to take my mind off surgery.
So you know, a lumpectomy with radiation carries the same risk/survival rate as having a mastectomy. For me, having radical surgery is not worth the mental and emotional scarring of amputation that women must face. The anxiety alone of fighting cancer for the rest of your life is enough to face. When people say, “You kicked cancer’s ass” they don’t realize that just because you made it through treatment and have no evidence of disease today, that you continue to fight daily. It is constantly in the back of your mind and the battle is never over. When a survivor says they are 1 year out, 2 years, 5 or more, it is a miracle to them. They fight every single day from the day of diagnosis. So here I am fighting while still going through it. I felt a HUGE sense of relief the morning after surgery. It took a LONG time to come out of anesthesia and when I did I was just so happy to be through it. I felt like myself for the first time since May! Dr. Hansen, my surgical oncologist said I was delirious, and I told her, “This is my personality! You just haven’t seen it because I’m always fighting bad news!” She thought I was hilarious. Haha.
Today, I will enjoy being with my beautiful children grateful to be in their presence because they give me so much hope. I want to say thank you to everyone who has provided support to me. I feel loved by so many people and I am so grateful. I feel the lion in me regaining her strength and spirit. I will be back stronger in 2022 and I will find the why to all this, somewhere in all of this battle is a reason. I’m not sure what it is yet, but I’ll find it. God is with me every day. I hope you too find Him beside you especially on this Christmas Day. Merry Christmas.