Unexpected News From Surgery
Well I am 12 days into recovery from my surgery that was on the 15th and to be honest it has been a really bumpy road. I don’t know what I expected, I think more than anything I tried not to think too much about recovery simply because of the amount of unknowns that lay ahead, but here we are. The first couple days after surgery were a breeze. I was eating Chick Fil A in my bed by evening after my surgery, responding well to the medication and all in all doing better than I think any of us expected. Two days in though, I started getting sick from the Oxycodone, the nausea was a never ceasing battle that consumed all of me.
Monday morning I received a call from my surgeon..(it is never a good sign if he calls). After both my lumpectomy and this surgery he had instructed us to call for the pathology results the Tuesday following the surgery and both times he called Monday instead. The news was not good, he said that one of the spots located prior to surgery was invasive stage 1 cancer that could possibly require further treatment of radiation and chemotherapy. Over hearing the call that my mom had placed on speaker, I buried my face into my pillow and cried. I thought by doing the double mastectomy we were curing the cancer. After all the doctors had said there was a 99% success rate of being cured by double mastectomy. But once again I was falling into the 1% margin. He explained that knowing everything they do now the double mastectomy was the right choice and all the lymph nodes that they had taken out were clear which was good news but with the invasive cancer being so close to the surface of my skin meant that they could not get clear margins without radiation. There could be cells within that skin. This news on top of the nausea left me in a pretty rough spot. I fought to not get sick successfully until Tuesday, 5 days after surgery. That morning was the last straw, after getting sick I slept most of the rest of the day and all through the night. I stopped taking the Oxy and simply stuck to the Tylenol for two days. The pain wasn’t unbearable until I had 2 of the 4 drains taken out on Thursday.
We went to my first scheduled appointment with my plastic surgeon Thursday afternoon exactly one week post-surgery. She looked over all of the incisions and ensured everything was healing well.
Since surgery I have had 4 drains, 2 on each side. With 4 tubes stitched into my skin under my breast. To remove the first two, she cut the stitches holding them in place and pulled out the tube that was located 6 inches within the remaining chest skin surrounding the expanders that she placed at the time of surgery and filled with air(if you missed the last blog I talked in detail about the reconstruction process at the bottom of it, follow this link if you want to know more). The removal of the first drain on the right side was quick and painless. I tried to watch but she told me not to, she pulled it out in less than a second. The one on my left she cut my skin trying to cut out the stitch and it got slightly snagged on something as she pulled it out so it wasn’t as seamless but none the less I felt immediately lighter with 2 of them out.
The drains have probably been the most painful part of all of this, from the beginning the nurses at the hospital taught my mom and Caleb how to milk the drains to prevent clots and empty the bulbs. The first 3 days milking the drains was a pretty traumatic experience. For some reason the suction created during the process felt like the tissue within my chest was being ripped out of me with it. I can’t deny there was a lot of tears, yelling and wishing the whole experience could be over. To start with we were emptying the drains every 4 hours including all hours of the night. But with this being the only process at the time that was excruciatingly painful, all in all it was fairly tolerable. Three days in I took over the milking of the drains instead of my mom and Caleb with it being easier for me to hurt myself than for them to hurt me because I could know when to stop and when to continue. It all got easier with time, milking the drains ceased to be painful for the most part and we got to a point where they only need to be done once a day.
Now I have two drains that could possibly be taken out tomorrow or next Thursday depending on the fluid levels. We are really hoping they come out tomorrow!Once I have the drains out I will be able to move more, sleep less cautiously, and hopefully resume some normalcy to life.
We met with my Oncologist last Friday 8 days after surgery. Overall the meeting with him went really well, he is the favorite of all my doctors. He takes time to explain everything holistically not just his part of the puzzle and he cares about how I am handling everything. He has sent my cancer off to go through an Oncotype test. This test measures a group of cancer-related genes in the breast tumor tissue. The test gives a recurrence score result, which provides information regarding the chances of the cancer returning and the likelihood that chemotherapy will or will not help treat the cancer. My Oncologist believes that my cancer will not be affected by chemotherapy and at this time with all that he knows, before the test results, believes that I will not need chemotherapy.
My dad came with us to this appointment and voiced to my doctor what we have all been feeling. “That my doctors high hopes are great but we don’t put a lot of stock into them.” From the beginning of this we have heard from the doctors you’re probably fine and that the worst case scenario is not likely, and over and over I have fallen into the opposite of my doctors expectations. Ten months ago “the Lump in your breast is likely nothing but a cyst we will watch it, come back in 6 months and we will see if anything has changed” to 7 months later, you have DCIS breast cancer…Two months ago “removing all of the tissue will cure you of cancer and is highly likely to prevent any recurrence” to present “we found stage 1 cancer you will likely need radiation and possibly chemotherapy.” Over and over we have been caught up in the whiplash of the wrong expectations of my doctors, so at this point we simply wait for the test results and take the doctors opinions with a grain of salt.
We will receive those test results within a couple of weeks. He completely understood where we are coming from and continued to reassure us of what he does know. He explained how my cancer is estrogen and progesterone positive meaning it thrives and grows off of consuming estrogen and progesterone, but it is Her2-negative(honestly I don’t really know what that means) So once I have recovered more he will start me on an estrogen suppressant to starve the cancer and prevent it from growing any further. He explained that I have a slow growing cancer and that it has probably been growing for 2 to 3 years. For this reason it could be in other parts of my body which is the other reason for starting the hormone therapy of the estrogen suppressant. Even though I have removed the cancer from my breast we want to treat any other cancer that may be residing in my body. So after recovery I will start the estrogen suppressant hormone therapy. It is a pill I will take every day for the next 5 years. We will get the test results back in two weeks from the oncotype test and see if I need any chemotherapy.
After I have recovered a little more we will have appointments set up with my radiation oncologist to see if I need radiation. Wednesday of this week my case will be represented at conference, meaning all 20 of my doctors will meet and talk through my case along with many other cases that are currently on going. This is where everyone will present their piece of the puzzle. My surgeon will present everything he found in surgery and my radiation oncologist, and my oncologist will present the best plans of attack based off of the current information. I will meet with my surgeon “the puppet master” on Friday afternoon for the first time since surgery. He may provide us with further clarity on what was found and what was shared at conference but he will likely refer radiation questions to my radiation oncologist so I don’t expect much clarity on that yet.
These past 12 days have had highs and lows, the first week of recovery all in all was honestly pretty dark. My mind was fairly consistently clouded by drugs, nausea, or pain and I found I stopped talking with God which left me in a pit of self-pity. By Thursday morning, I broke down and cried out to him, I feel alone in this, hopeless with a mountain in front of me that just continues to grow…Lord where are you? He answered “I have not hidden myself from you my child, you are running from me.” I had isolated myself. He has and always will be there with me from the moments when I am in the pit of despair to the moments of peak elation. He is there with me, my suffering holds purpose, every moment I walk in this trial he is refining me. He is using this fire to burn away all of the impurities and to refine me like gold. Every day I grow.
There is nothing like suffering that makes you realize how human you are, how easily I can fall into frustration, self-pity and entitlement, and start to believe I don’t deserve this and if I stop there, I get stuck in a hopeless cycle. But the reality is that my savior lived and endured far worse than I have. He endured starvation not eating for 40 days and 40 nights, he was rejected by his closest friends, he was beaten within inches of his life and ultimately betrayed and endured the humiliation of being nailed to a cross, naked and outcast by the people he created. My savior who endured all of this and so much more without ever cursing the name of the father or asking “why me?” but instead walked through every tribulation knowing his purpose knowing his life was to be given in ransom for mine and yours if you have chosen to believe in him as the way the truth and the life. My savior who endured all of this is not calling me to ask “why me” but instead “why not me”.
He has chosen me to walk in this trial to be refined by his loving mercy. By his overflowing grace daily, as I lay down my desires for His, I grow to see that the beautiful eternal purpose he has proclaimed over my life is not that I be cured of cancer in this moment but that I seek him and lay down myself whether I have cancer or not. He is teaching me to be humbly content in exactly where I am and over joyed to know him as my friend, my savior and my Lord. In the pit of despair I lost my sight, but only for a moment, because he won’t let me stray far. He picked me up and he continues to show me who he is every second of every day, which is far more valuable to me than if my cancer were cured today or tomorrow because I know who holds my heart no matter the circumstance.
I have shared a lot about me, but the reality is that many have been affected by this. I am nowhere near alone. My mom has been with me every step of the way. Daily she has fed me, bathed me, brushed my hair…etc. she picked up mom mode as if she never left it, taking care of my every need every step of the way and trust me my needs seemed limitless. When you can’t do anything for yourself you realize how needy you really are. I am so beyond thankful for her and my dad. My dad has been here every morning and every evening caring for me whenever Caleb has been at work or mama was getting ready. He has said numerous times “baby, can I take it, can I take the pain, let me have it.” Wishing endlessly to endure this instead of me, my parents have taken up their parenting roles in full force throughout this, and it is such a gift. My dad continuously wishing to bear the pain instead of me, profoundly strikes my heart as an image of my savior on the cross taking the pain I deserved in my place. As my dad wishes to take my pain I can rest in the reminder that my savior ultimately did take all of my pain.
Caleb has continued to be my rock as he clings to romans 8 throughout all of this, he has now seen me in the pit of loneliness and self-pity and he has seen me rest in my Lord and throughout both he has lovingly asked me questions and helped me to wrestle with the enemy of my flesh, not allowing me to stay stuck within myself, but lovingly praying over me and helping me through each day. My friends have gone to doctors appointments with me, they have sat with me while I rested and received bad news, they have talked with me in my hopeless moments and my joyful ones. And there are so many of you who have lavished us with food, flowers, gifts, and words of encouragement; I cannot tell you how thankful I am for the continuous reminder that you all are in this with us and that there is an army praying over us. Thank you, thank you so much, it is because of your continuous prayers that the Lord continuous to restore me day by day. He is healing me, comforting me and encouraging me through all of you! Thank you from the deepest parts of my heart thank you! We are taking it one step at a time and I know you all are helping us to take those steps physically, spiritually and emotionally.
So much Love,
Till next time