I had my first post-op scheduled six days after my bi-lateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. My sister, being my caregiver for the week, helped me into the car, put my seat belt on me gingerly, closed the door, and off we went back to Seattle. Anticipation grew in me the closer we got to the hospital
After these first six-days, I finally started feeling a little more normal. I was still sleeping in the recliner, had the drain tubes in, and could not move my arms like I use to, but I was feeling more like myself mentally. My sense of humor was finally coming back to life. I would hope that this appointment would be the turning point to start gaining my physical life back.
As we walked into the exam room, I was not ready to have the blood pressure cuff put around my arm, opting for my ankle instead. It wasn’t much of a shock when my blood pressure was sky high – having it taken at the ankle is not very accurate at all. My sister helped me out of my top and into a gown. When the surgeon came in, looking over my fluid output record for the week, he was glad to announce the drain tubes could come out. What a relief! Those are not the most pleasant piece of equipment to endure for a week. Besides, my skin was retaliating with huge fluid-filled kidney-shaped blisters under the bandages supporting the drain tubes. Once removed, the blisters reduced quickly.
After opening my gown, the doctor immediately saddened. I knew what was next; I knew it was coming. My nipples did not survive the surgery and needed to be removed. I was disappointed to say the least, but glad to finally hear what we thought for days. After asking how soon surgery was needed to be scheduled, he said, “tomorrow.” This would just be another bump in the road, nothing I couldn’t handle.
Sitting down talking, we discussed how there was a second surgery; my recovery schedule now would be restarting at day one. This was simply a skin removal surgery, but it would set me back a week. My arm exercises would not be starting like planned because of the possibility of opening up the new sutures. In addition to the change of my recovery due to the added surgery, my pathology report was back. As the doctor was reading the results to us, he briefly touched on my DCIS, but no residual DCIS was located in the breast. However, there was Stage 1 Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. What!?! My sister and I looked at each other, and then looked at the doctor. “Wait? Did you just say I had cancer?” This was definitely a shock to my system.
Not only was I told I needed a second surgery, but my whole life was about to change again. My treatment plans could easily change with this new diagnosis. I was not looking forward to having this conversation with the oncologist back home. Then the realization hit a few minutes later. I had cancer! Thank you, God, for leading me in my chosen path of treatment. This mastectomy just may have saved my life.
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