It has been 2 months since surgery, I have been back at work full time now for 3 weeks and I had my first week of radiation this past week.
Just to recap a little, I had a double mastectomy August 15th, at the time of surgery my plastic surgeon sewed expanders to my pectoral muscles in between the muscle and the skin, she also filled the expanders with air. Week 1 of recovery my surgeon called to say they found stage 1 invasive cancer and I would need to undergo further treatment. Week 3 Infection struck, thankfully the infection cleared within a couple of weeks. At the beginning of week 4 my plastic surgeon removed the air from my expanders and refilled them with saline. At this time she also released me from all restrictions. FREEDOM!!!
Week 4: Expander Fills
Watching her do the fill was one of the strangest experiences I have ever had. She found the valve of the expander with a magnet and marked the spot with a sharpie. Hanging a bag of saline beside me, she hooked up a syringe to a tube and needle. Emptying the syringe of air she pushed the needle straight into the spot she had marked on the right side of my chest. I have no feeling in my chest, but looking down to see a two inch needle sticking straight out of your skin turns your head a little upside down. She then pulled the syringe out and quite literally deflated the right side of my chest. It went completely flat within seconds, she then hooked the syringe to the hanging bag of saline and pushed 300 cc’s of Saline, slowly filling my right side. She repeated the same process on my left.
Within the appointment, she repeated several times, "your chest is going from air to a liquid, it is going to feel heavy and that is normal". We had expected the process of filling the expanders to be delayed because of the infection but we left the appointment elated that the infection was continuing to clear and that she actually did the fill on schedule despite it. I have no feeling in the skin of my chest, but the muscles underneath and the nerves that are re-growing took on a new battle that day. I continued to sleep long hours the rest of the week but I wanted to attempt to get off of the pain meds over the weekend.
Saturday was a really good day, so Sunday I attempted to go 12 hours without the pain medication. That’s me.. the extremist, don’t try and ease your way off…just go cold turkey, It will work out! Right?!? Wrong!…My chest felt like it was on fire, continuously burning, by evening it felt raw. With the new weight of the expanders my pectoral muscles felt bruised with the constant pressure. I have found when in pain, my body just shuts down and I cope by sleeping or getting sick. Fortunately that afternoon it was sleep. I had learned my lesson, wean off the medicine slowly.
So throughout the next couple of weeks (recovery-week 4 and 5) I weaned off of the pain medications and returned back to work part time. By week 6 most of my energy was almost back to normal and I could work full time. Now 2 months post-surgery we have started radiation.
Many people don’t know the difference between radiation and Chemotherapy because we so often hear about them being done together. The easiest way to describe them is Chemotherapy is a holistic treatment for your entire body and radiation is a spot treatment of a targeted area. Thankfully I will only need to undergo radiation, the lesser of two evils! 33 treatments all together.
For 6 ½ weeks, I will go to Wesley Long Cancer Center for 30 minute appointments where I will be under radiation for 10 minutes or less every day 5 days a week. Side effects vary from person to person, but they seem relatively minor compared to recovery. The skin that is being treated; the right side of my chest, can turn red, and blister and I may experience some fatigue. I will not likely start to see any side effects until I am 3 weeks into treatment.
I’m going to continue to work full time unless the side effects become worse than I am expecting. I’m hopeful that life can continue on and that I won’t need to take another dramatic pause. I have loved returning to work and going back to church, seeing friends and feeling like my life for these past couple of weeks has not revolved around cancer. It has been so encouraging talking to everyone who has been praying for us throughout every step of this journey.
After Radiation is complete I will have to wait 6 months before we do the other half of my reconstructive surgery. They wait to give the skin time to heal before putting it through another aggressive surgery. The expanders that I currently have in my chest have become my new normal, they still freak me out from time to time just because it’s basically like having water balloons under your skin. If I turn on my side they ripple and move like a water balloon would. My scars have completely healed at this point and I have no pain. Praise the Lord!
The hardest part of this is the additional time added to the process. Our original goal was to be leaving to do full time mission work among the Yanesha People in the jungles of Peru in just a few months, January of 2020. But with all of this the timeline has been pushed, its looking like we will be here at minimum another year. Many who know me, know that I have been prayerfully walking towards moving to Peru for close to 5 years now. With Caleb by my side, we are excited to go and do whatever the Lord calls us to and for now he has called us to invest here. It seems hard for many to understand why it is harder for us to stay than it is for us to go. With two amazing loving families so close to us, friends that are as close as family, and a great church ministry, why would we go??
Because of the great love from which we have been loved we cannot stay while there are people around the world who are passing away without knowing the name of our precious savior.
We love our life here. We love our family, we love our friends, but there is a greater call on our lives than what this life offers us in seeking comfort in all of these things. Jesus stepped down into humanity. God himself walked this earth. He left the comfort of heaven where he was living in complete and total perfection, where there is no pain or tears in order to live on this broken decaying earth and take on the pain of all who follow him. Why? Because he always was and always will be the Redeemer. He came to undo the brokenness of this world. He healed the sick, he lead the blind to see, he ministered to the poor, He made the lame walk and revealed the depths of who He is. As he lived and walked on this earth he gave us a small glimpse into eternity, where those who believe in him as the only way will live in perfect relationship with him. Where all pain and sickness will be no more. Our imperfections will no longer separate us from him because he paid the cost.
He gave his perfect life in exchange for the millions of times I have chosen my way over his, for every time I have selfishly loved myself or my friends or my family over loving him. For every time I have made the wrong choice and hurt someone. He took on the penalty of every wrong I have ever committed or will commit and gave me his perfect spotless record before the almighty, all knowing, all powerful God. He loved me enough to step down into this earth and give me eternal life simply by trusting and believing in him as the only way to come to know the Father.
For that reason we desire to go, with the great love from which we have been loved! He is in the business of redeeming lives and until every tribe, tongue, and nation have heard and know that he is king of all kings and lord of all lords there is still work to be done. We know He will use us no matter where we are and we will leverage the time we are here, but our heart is to go to the places where the name of Jesus has never been heard. To tell the world of the treasure we have found and the life he offers us here on this earth that will continue into eternity.
We simply want to be a part of the work he is already doing in redeeming the broken, the hurting, the outcast. It’s harder to stay because the good news of Jesus is accessible here to anyone who desires to know him, but in other places around the world they can walk 50 miles in any direction and not find a single believer. He is teaching me that He does not need me in Peru to accomplish His work. He will accomplish His will, with or without me but our desire to go continues to grow, not because of anything we have to offer in and of ourselves but because of who He is.
We truly have been so blessed to see the Lord fill in the gaps of this broken world through the generosity of so many. Through your prayers, through bringing us food and helping us financially. We have had the gift of witnessing the deep care and love of so many friends and family . We are so grateful!