I just got off the phone with my physicians assistant at the plastic surgeon’s office. I have an appointment on the 28th to HAVE MY DRAINS REMOVED! One of my best friends offered to drive me to Charleston to see the doctor. And though they don’t require me to go I could tell they were very happy that I was choosing to drive back to see them. It will be great to have them removed there in the office. It will also be great to be able to be “checked over” by the doctor and let them see how my healing is going. I am very grateful for my friend offering and we might be able to have another friend or two come along. We are going to make the most of it and spend one night there as well. I am so excited!
February 21, 2012 by Julie
February 20, 2012 by Julie
February 20th…getting so close to being a month out of surgery. It feels so strange. Time passes so slowly while I sit at home but yet I look at the calendar and 20 days have passed since that early morning before my surgery.
Yesterday I was blessed to have a friend pay for a massage therapist to come to my home. She spent over an hour doing healing work with her hands on my body. She mentioned more than once the word “trauma” in reference to my surgery. I hadn’t ever really thought of it as trauma because that word conjures up thoughts of a terrible accident or something that is done to you without your permission. I had given consent for my body to be sliced and diced and rearranged. But if my body has a viewpoint I could see my body feeling like it had a “trauma” done to itself. She helped my body to relax. My muscles are constantly tense and spasming. I don’t know what is “normal tightness” and what is just my body being tense. It’s a new normal completely.
The best part about the day was that after the massage I felt my heart take a turn. I felt positive for the first time in a while. I gave myself permission to be happy that my donor site wounds seem to be healing nicely. I fixed myself some lunch while my mom was massaged (thank you to my friend for including her as well). I was independant for an hour…all by myself and I felt “normal” somewhat. I haven’t really needed many pain meds and last night I found an entirely different way to sleep with many pillows that didn’t encourage swelling in my chest. I would call these times of healing. It really gives me hope for what another week of recovery will hold. I can only imagine how great I will feel when THESE DRAINS COME OUT!!!!! I’m planning a return trip to Charleston with a friend for the grand removal.
February 17, 2012 by Julie
I’m going a little stir crazy I think. I’m turning into a grump. I’m not used to being at home and not being able to do much of anything while I’m here. All my friends know how I love to have a project and I have none. I keep walking around the house thinking about how much I need to repaint the walls in the hall and how I want my bedroom to be repainted. I wish I could be working. I sit in my recliner and stare at my backyard which is quite a nice place but in the winter it’s just not that pretty…needs mulch and a mow. I have several things I want to get framed and hang on the wall. I want to rearrange the computer on my desk. I want to fix my broken desk chair. I’m home non stop so I’m noticing every imperfection in my flooring and cabinets. I want to tidy the kids rooms and find the stopper to a piggy bank that is missing somewhere in her room. I want to do. I need to heal. This is hard.
February 17, 2012 by Julie
Last night as I was lying in my bed waiting for my body to fall asleep my thoughts turned to my surgeons in Charleston. I started to think through the first time I met them.
I drove from Athens, GA to Charleston, SC with the Mister so that we could visit the city and see if these were the right doctors for me. Some friends of mine who used to live in Charleston recommended a wonderful place to stay and we spent a whole day enjoying the city. The next day we drove to the Charleston Breast Center and first met with Dr. Craigie, plastic surgeon and his PA (whom I had already had over an hour conversation with over the phone…she was amazing and answered all my questions in depth). I already felt so comfortable since I had been in contact with them over the phone. In fact when I had emailed I had gotten a reply from Dr. Craigie himself. They were so amazing. The Mister had so many questions and Dr. Craigie fielded them all. They gave us so much attention and put me at ease. It really was feeling like the right choice. Then I was able to meet with Dr. Baron, the breast surgeon and his PA. Dr. Baron was very attentive to my questions and then at the end of our meeting he leaned over and gave me a hug and said “You’re going to be ok. We’re going to take good care of you.” It was right then that my heart decided. These were the right men for the job. Not only are they amazing surgeons but they were compassionate and caring. I felt as though I had two fathers who were going to care for me like a daughter. We scheduled my surgery for February 1, 2012. I would not see them again until the day before surgery.
They did not disappoint when it came to be surgery time. I met with Dr. Craigie the day before to be marked for surgery. This was the first time my mom had met him and he immediately greeted her with a hug. I felt so grateful for the PA Christina…seeing her was instant comfort. All of my pre-op and post-op meetings with them have been wonderful.
Last night I began to cry. My tears were not sad tears even though I’m still so uncomfortable and unable to sleep on my side. My tears were of gratitude for the healing hands of Charleston. I missed them. It seems so strange for them to be far away and not be able to see them. I am not sure if I will need to go back for a checkup before stage 2 of my surgery. I am grateful that I decided to go to Charleston. I will be eternally grateful for Dr. Craigie, Christina and Dr. Baron. They went above and beyond and took care of the whole person.
February 14, 2012 by Julie
Tomorrow marks 2 weeks since surgery. The incisions on my back side are healing nicely. I do still have my two hip drains that I will keep for 2 more weeks. They are a pain and they keep me from feeling like a normal person. I can’t wear normal clothes because they are bulky and have to have room for them. I will be sooo grateful when I am able to get rid of them.
The right breast is healing well. It looks so normal and the nipple looks untouched. The left breast is a bit gross right now. Because I had to have the sentinel node biopsy on that breast it complicated the surgery a bit. It has a huge scab over the nipple that we are keeping covered with Silvadene (Silver Sulfadiazine) to help it heal. Eventually the scab will come off and hopefully the nipple will have survived. I have no idea how long this will take. I am grateful my mom is here because honestly I can’t even look at that nipple right now. It makes me a bit nauseous.
I have to wear a bra 24-7 (minus showering) and though it’s stretchy and “soft” it’s getting to be very uncomfortable. I have to wear it for another two weeks as well.
My breasts today feel stiff and tight. Different than they have felt so far. It is so weird to have them and not be able to feel them. It feels as if I have something strapped to my chest. I am adjusting. I am sleeping better. Did I mention I can’t wait until these drains are gone. Seriously hate that part.
February 12, 2012 by Julie
I have had a very hard day. I’ve been having adverse reactions to the pain medications that I have been taking. I feel so overstimulated and prickly and uneasy from the inside out. Thankfully we have decided to quit taking these meds and try something different tomorrow. It is an awful feeling…like when you have a limb fall asleep…that prickly feeling as it’s waking up…that’s what I feel all over my body when I take those medications. So goodbye Percocet and Lortab. May I never need you again in this lifetime.
In the middle of the day was a special treat. My sister paid for a local woman to come over and give mom and I pedicures here at the house. It was so sweet and relaxing for the most part. My pain meds caused the end to get a little weird because my senses were overstimulated and I could hardly breathe…everything smelled so chemically strong even though it wasn’t. I did sleep this afternoon and though that was good I still feel awful and can’t wait for these meds to be GONE from my body.
I felt as though the whole day was ending on such a sad and sour note. I was feeling down and very sorry for myself. It’s in these moments that I feel regret for choosing this path. I feel sad that I don’t have to be feeling this way but put myself in this situation. Let’s just put it this way…it’s not a good place.
And then tonight around 9 pm. I got a message in my facebook inbox. The person is my friend but not someone I regularly see or speak to. We had been more involved in each other’s lives before there were 6 children between us. Our paths have crossed from time to time but I did not know her story. Tonight she shared her story with me. She wrote about her mother’s breast cancer at age 45 and losing her father just a few years before that. Her mother survived that battle but has now been faced with another area they will biopsy. She had been talking to her mother about me and her mother decided to get the BRCA testing done. They are still waiting on results and then will decide on their path after those results are in. It was an amazing story but the line that really struck my heart was this.
“Following your story of empowerment has made me choose a path of empowerment over the path of ignorance that I have been on.”
I will sleep well tonight because my heart is full. Two women are DOING SOMETHING because I did something and wrote about it. Her sharing that with me today is helping me to keep on keeping on! It’s the sunrise on this dark day I’ve had today.
February 10, 2012 by Julie
I received an email from a friend this afternoon that brought me to tears. I hadn’t really given too much thought to how my friends were feeling during this whole journey. I have thought lots about my family but not specifically about my friends. She put her feelings into words so eloquently and it really made me think about the decisions that I make to include people in my hard times and rely on my friends. I thought this really needed to be shared.
“Thank you for being so willing to let your friends help out through this time, Julie. I know that it isn’t easy, but it’s been a gift to us in many ways. As people who love you, we could be feeling helpless and sad right now. But, by letting us bring meals to your family and help out where we can you’ve given us the gift of feeling useful. And, we worry for you…but we worry less because you’ve made us feel included in your journey and been honest about how you’re feeling. Less worry is always a gift. And, right now my kiddos are playing in their room, bringing food and cleaning the “houses” of their stuffed animals. Because the animals aren’t feeling well and “that’s just what friends do for each other, Mama.” I’m grateful that friendship, and both the offering of kindness and the very gracious acceptance of it are being so beautifully modeled by this circle of friends you’ve created. So thank you for those gifts…they’ve been unexpected blessings.”
February 8, 2012 by Julie
I remember my mom talking about strange feelings in her breasts after surgery. It feels like I have an itch or it feels like a tiny sharp pain from time to time. I can’t itch it though. I have no feeling in my breasts. She said it was the nerves starting to reconnect. I’ll have to research that more. It’s a very strange feeling. The only thing I can compare it to is like when you have your mouth numbed for a filling and you can’t feel your jaw/cheek…that’s what my breasts feel like all day. It is WEIRD!
I also have lots of brusing so that I can feel and it hurts and oddly enough pain medicine doesn’t really do anything for the bruising pain. I had an oversized rib (dr said it was cartilage) that was located on my ribs on my chest and the plastic surgeon had to shave that away before he could do any reattaching of vessels and arteries. It is no longer there….that is weird. I am pretty bruised in that area as well.
The other thing that hurts lots tonight is under my left arm where they removed the two sentinel lymph nodes. It is so very sore.
I’m sure these won’t be the last thing that is weird!
February 8, 2012 by Julie
Day 7…finishing up the first week of this new life. What a journey it has been already. Last night was a very hard night. Neither I or my mom slept very well at all. We both had some crazy dreams and I was hot and uncomfortable most of the night. My body feels so tight and swollen and I’m just so ready to be done with these drains.
I saw Dr. Craigie, the plastic surgeon, first today. He greeted my mom and I with hugs and a smile. He prescribed silvadene for my nipple that I may lose. If I do lose it he will be able to recreate something that looks similar…we knew this was one of the risks. That side was the side that got the radioactive dye for the sentinel node biopsy so I think it was harder to see during surgery and not damage. He also shorted my drain tubes for me so that I don’t have as long of tubes that can potentially get pulled on something. I will go back Friday to see the PA and she will remove my two breast drains. That will be great! We will head home to Athens after those are pulled on Friday.
After we left Dr. Craigie we filled our prescription and then drove over to see Dr. Baron, the breast surgeon. I had taken my pain meds as well as a zofran before I left Dr. Craigie’s office and the two of those combined really get me loopy. I feel like I’m floating all over the room and feel like I lose feeling in my legs. It was relaxing but definitely a strange feeling. He is so warm and compassionate and greeted my mom and I with hugs as well. I feel so taken care of by this team of doctors. He examined me and seemed a bit disappointed with the left nipple’s healing as well. I know he was hoping that they both would survive and look as they always have. He did feel great about everything else so far.
I am happy with my recovery so far. It’s not pretty for sure…but I know that’s all part of the journey.
We grabbed a late lunch and headed back to our recovery home. It’s so peaceful and quiet here. I need to gear myself up for heading back to my house which is full of loud children. I love them but it will be a big change for sure. I was out from 10-4 today and I’m very sore and tired now. I hope I sleep well tonight and really am able to relax and rest.
February 6, 2012 by Julie
Yesterday I was discharged from the hospital. I was crying all morning because I was so scared to be away from all the “experts”. Noone checking my flaps hourly, monitoring my blood pressure, temp and having whatever drug I needed right on hand. My mom is an awesome caregiver but there was a certain comfort about being at the hospital.
But the best thing happened yesterday. Three of my best friends drove 5 hours just to come and visit with me for a while. They lifted my spirits when they were rock bottom. They helped my mom and I get moved over to our temporary Charleston house…a beautiful home on the marsh. Our friends have generously offered to let us stay here while I’m recovering and can’t leave Charleston. It was so great to have a distraction and have friends here to make me laugh and give my mom a little respite from having to do everything for me. Mrs. B, whose house we are at, cooked us a delicious dinner last night. She’s been such a wonderful hostess and made us feel so welcome. Mr. B and all the girls sat on the sofa and watched golf…I think it was the first time he had ever paid that much attention to what the golfers were wearing. Ha!
Last night, at bedtime, mom and I went into my bedroom and emptied my drains, changed my bra and put on fresh pajamas. I just cried and cried. I felt so broken and so disfunctional. My breasts are certainly bigger than what I wanted them to be and that made me feel disappointed. I have four drains coming out of my body which just makes you feel gross and weird. Around my breasts are so very bruised and sore. One of my nipples is probably going to blister and scab over…hopefully it will fully survive. But for now it’s all gross and blue from the radioactive dye I had injected to do the sentinel lymph node biopsy. My backside is crazy looking. You can still see all the sharpie on my skin from getting marked before surgery and then I have two long incision scars….LONG. And I had a little over a pound of fat removed from each upper gluteal area…so for now there is a bit of a divot. This is why there is a second and third stage to the surgery. It’s definitely not over and this is in no way the “finished” product. But no matter how many times you tell yourself that…you still feel mournful.
I tried to skype with my children last night and they were screaming and being loud and it was all too overwhelming for me. I had to close down the chat pretty quickly. Hopefully I can have a moment with the Mister soon to video chat just he and I. I miss him and just want to snuggle into his neck and have him stroke my hair. It’s good for me to be away from the kids because I think they would be more than I could handle this week. But my heart longs for him.
I think I’m going to have my mom take some progress pictures starting today. I think that will help me feel like I’m healing even when I don’t feel like it.
Oh….one more thing! Yesterday Dr. Craigie told me my pathology came back all clear…no cancer anywhere!