Tag Archives: mastectomy

The Road to Recovery

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Some of you may know that for the last few months I had been dealing with some medical issues.  The silicone implant I got when my reconstruction surgery was done 5 years ago, ruptured and was causing me pain.  I had it removed in December, but then I was lucky enough to get a staph infection which left me in the hospital for a week.   It hasn’t been a very nice start to 2016, but I am finally drain free, and IV through my port free!  It feels great to be able to sleep on both sides, shower normally, and wear my normal clothes.

I am also excited to get back to posting everyday.  Currently I am reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  It’s a big book at 973 pages and I am only on page 304.  I am enjoying the story line, but it is wordy at times which annoys me.  I want to scream “Get to the point!” when reading those areas.  It also doesn’t help that because I still have to be on pain medicine, I get sleepy, and reading those small words tends to relax me after 10-15 pages.

I have many books on my ‘To Read’ list that excite me.  I love the feeling of having so many options of new adventures, new characters to meet, and new topics to think about. I feel that is the best part of being a true book lover. The anticipation as you hold your next book. The questions that swirl through your head such as ‘Will I like this book, Will I grow to love this main character?, Will this be a journey I will always remember?’ All of these things and more make reading such a fantastic way to relax, unwind and unplug from today’s world with all its problems.  In a good book, you can escape to a better time, or immerse yourself in an adventure you wouldn’t have the courage for here in reality.   I love the escapism reading gives me.  While I am in the story world I don’t have cancer, I am not in pain, and all my fears go away.  That is the best part of reading.

I have learned to be patient with my recovery process.  The Dr. told me it would take 6-8 weeks to feel myself again, and another 6 months for my skin to look and feel good over my chest wall. I have had three major procedures to the area and it is going to take some time for my body to heal, especially with my weakened immune system.  Reading this long, chewy, book is helping me recover and teaching me patience at the same time.  I hope you are all reading something for yourself.  Not anything work related.  Something for pure enjoyment.  Let me know what you’re reading in the comment section.  I am always looking for new titles!

Barb

Rolling With the Punches

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The battle against my staph infection rages on.  This morning at 8am I was wheeled into surgery once again to remove another abscess and remove every last bit of infection remaining in the pocket.  This time I have stitches, not just glue, but I have another drain to deal with.

Drains are the bane of my existence.  When I had my original mastectomy, I had a latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction.  They removed a large piece of muscle from my back and used it to support the side of the implant. I had 3 drains that time. One was on my left breast which was healthy but made smaller and lifted.  That was out in 2 days.  Then I had one for the right breast which was now just a saline spacer.  This was removed in 8 days.  The one in my back was the stinker.  I made a new record because that sucker was in for 11 weeks!  Not days, mind you, WEEKS. Talk about a nightmare.  In July of 2011, the silicone implant was inserted and again I had another drain.  This was only or 5 days or so.

I never had any infections or problems with any of them. Now I get the ruptured implant removed on 12/21/15, deal with another drain, have that removed on 12/31/15 and the bright shiny new year starts with a high fever, aches and pains, and my chest well red and hot.  So here I sit in my hospital bed, in my private room which is very nice, hooked up to another drain.  It feels like a class reunion in a weird way.  Please send up a prayer, a positive thought, healing white light,  or light and love that things go smoothly from now on.  No more infection, fevers, and when this drain is removed that there will be no infection or seromas, and I can move on.

Life throws a lot of punches at you.  It is constantly trying to beat you down. Our job is to fight back.  It’s how we learn, adapt, and become stronger.  The people who fight back the hardest are the strongest.  Those who barely try to fight, become slow, dull, and sickly. The ones who do nothing, die

Learn to roll with the punches.  Don’t be an Oak that never bends, but stands firm;  be the Willow.  It bends and sways and gracefully accepts what life throws its way.  Flexibility is the key to balance and happiness.  Embrace it.

Thanks-

Barb

What I know

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The older I get, the more I realize how much I do not know. When I had the ruptured silicone implant removed on 12/21, I thought I would be sore a few days, and then feel better.  Well, It started out that way and I did feel better.  Right up until the day they took the drain out.  That was on 12/31 and my husband said they took out 3 ft of tubing.  3 feet?  How was that possible?  Where was it?  The tube entrance point was on the side of the breast by the rib.  Where the implant was, was maybe 4 inches away.  Where did all that tubing go?

The next day I woke up with a high fever and in more pain than I had with my original mastectomy and reconstruction surgery in 2010.  I called the surgeon, but since the entrance site of the tube was not oozing, swollen or hot, then I most likely just had a virus.  So I suffered through until I noticed Saturday night that while the small opening from the tube had healed nicely, my entire chest wall where the implant had been was very red and burning to the touch.  Sunday morning I called my surgeon back and he put me on a strong antibiotic 3 times a day for 10 days.  I finally began to notice some improvement at 3am this morning. (Yes I was still awake!)  The infected area was a lighter red, not as widespread, and not as hot.  I had a fever late this afternoon, but they are farther apart.  I am hoping this is a turning point.

Cancer has been an experience in learning.  You learn new words, new treatments, and new things your body can do that you never were aware of before.  I know myself better now.  I know how strong I am because I’ve had to be.  This journey has been so hard and there are times I am ready to just go to sleep….. But I have the love of my husband, my daughters, and my friends to give me support and that is why I keep waking up.

Facing The End

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Last February when it was discovered I had a tumor on the base of my brain, and then 2 months later another one on my frontal lobe, I was forced to face the inevitable that I was going to die from cancer.  I always knew I would, but when it was only in the lymph nodes I could fool myself that it would just stay there and I could live another 2 years.  All that changed when it spread to my brain.  Meeting with my oncologist cemented the fact that there was not much she could do.  Because my cancer was HER2+, it was very aggressive and spread easily.  There are only a handful of targeted therapies made to suppress the HER2 receptor and I had been on all of them.  My only option was to try yet another chemotherapy but they were harsh and none of them would cross the blood brain barrier.  After 5 years of being on some type of chemo or targeted therapy, of losing my hair twice, living with constant bone pain, fatigue, and nausea I had had my fill of drugs.  My body was breaking down from all of the poisons.  That’s really what they are you know, poisons that kill the cancer but everything healthy too.  My other option was palliative care which means they keep you comfortable and deal with your symptoms as they come up.  This was the way I chose to go.

I haven’t been on chemo since 12/14 and they removed the second brain tumor in May.  I haven’t seen a doctor since then.  I wanted and needed a break.  I wanted to feel like myself again and give my body time to purge the drugs and heal itself.  2 months ago, I began to have serious pain in my breast with the implant and my shoulder blade.  After some trips to the ER, it was discovered my implant had ruptured and that there was another tumor in my clavicle. I decided to switch my care from Philly to a group closer to home.  I have surgery on Monday to remove the implant and I see the new oncologist on 1/6.

I don’t feel good anymore.  I am exhausted all the time.  Walking up the stairs or even to the bathroom, leaves me short of breath.  The pain in my back and shoulder never ceases.  The pain killers aren’t helping much and I can’t eat or sleep.  I find myself staring at my three girls.  I’m trying to memorize every line on their face so I can take it with me.  I’ve left letters for them, filled with just a fraction of the things I need to tell them.  How do you say goodbye to the best gifts you ever received.  My 21 yr old Kait and my 18 ye old Erin are moving on with their lives and I know they will be ok.  It’s my 14 year old Emma that I worry about.  She is such a sweet, loving young woman and we have an incredibly strong bond.  She is the one who tells me I’m the most beautiful woman in the world.  She often says she ” doesn’t know why she loves me so much, she just does’.  I feel like its unfair that I had the least time with her.

I don’t want to have cancer anymore. I want to wake up and have my life back again. I want my dreams to be realities.  I want to finish my book and I want to go to Europe.  There are too many things I have left to do.  I want to look in the mirror and see two healthy breasts, not a deformed, hard form with scars everywhere.  I want my husband to look at me like he used to.  I don’t want to hear Emma cry “I can’t lose you mom”.  I have begged God to heal me. I guess he’s busy this time of year.

My family has lost so much in the past 5 years. My only sister was murdered by her husband on the 1 year anniversary of my mastectomy.  In that moment my life was changed.  I had to tell my parents, and my two nephews who were now orphans.  They went to school that morning and never returned to their home or school again.  We took them in.  Their father’s mother stole everything from them to pay for her son’s defense.  We had to wait 3 years for the trial, and in February of 2014 he was finally sentenced to 30 years with no parole.  During this time my youngest nephew became seriously mentally ill.  He had always had some minor problems, but they became dangerous once he lived with us.  After months of searching for answers and looking for help, he finally  had a breakdown and was committed for observation for a week at a clinic.  We were told he could no longer live with young girls around and he needed to be the only child in a house.  After two years of living everyday in fear and anxiety, my nephew went to live with his father’s uncle in Virginia.  Things returned to normal.  My older nephew, Matt stayed with us and is now away at college and happy.  My cancer returned three times from when Kim died, until her youngest son moved away. Stress caused it to come back, but I still had faith I would win this battle.

So now I am facing the end of my life.  It will be sometime in the next 6-9 months most likely.  This will be my last Christmas with my family.  There will be a lot of lasts I will have to deal with.  There will also still be firsts.  My daughter Erin’s first prom, and God willing her high school graduation.  I know I have been blessed, and I truly am thankful for each day I have been gifted to live in this world.  I just wish I didn’t have to make arrangements for the end.