March 1, 2012 by Julie Moon
Monday morning one of my besties volunteered to drive me to Charleston to see the doctor and to get my last two drains pulled. If you don’t know what drains are, consider yourself blessed. Having them for a month has been a drag. I was so excited for this day to come. We drove straight there…nearly running out of gas because evidently noone thought it was a good idea to put a gas station on I-20 for what felt like 100 miles. Thankfully we made it to our hotel without having to walk to any gas stations.
We relaxed for a bit and decided to go out to dinner in downtown Charleston at a great little place called Blossom. It’s wonderful to have friends who have lived there because they always give us the best restaurant recommendations. I love being in Charleston! We turned in early and watched some crazy tv until it was time to fall asleep. Isn’t hotel tv the best…you watch things you never would have watched at home. We watched some TLC show where a child had a parasitic twin removed from his body…wha?
Tuesday morning we went to my favorite breakfast spot…Hominy Grill. I have yet to have dinner or lunch there but I have plenty more Charleston trips planned this year. It was delicious as always. It reminds me of our very own Athens restaurant, Mama’s Boy just with more seafood. We killed some time shopping at TJMaxx and Homegoods and found a dress that might work for the baby girl to wear as flowergirl in May.
Finally it was time for a visit and I was so excited. In the waiting room we met another BRCA 1 family. A young girl from Atlanta. It was great to share stories and realize that we were going through much of the same journey. She had a failed flap in her first surgery….such a small percentage of women have this happen. So she was there having her second reconstruction.
At last it was my turn to see Dr. Craigie. He came in and sat down like an old friend ready to hear how I was doing. We discussed my recovery and then he got to work. I had nipple sparing surgery which means we attempted to save the nipple to be part of the reconstruction. This is difficult because the nipple has the weakest blood supply after mastectomy. One side has healed beautifully and managed to get a very good blood supply. The other side has not been so lucky. We have been using silvadene cream for the past 3 weeks trying to help it heal. Dr. Craigie cleaned the wound and cut away the dead tissue and now we are working on my protein and letting the skin continue to grow to heal the wound. Please pray for this to heal. It is by far the scariest part to me…looking at my body with an open wound. There still is a chance that there is enough healthy tissue for part of my nipple to survive. The second stage of surgery we will be able to repair/construct anything that we need to though. I have full confidence in my surgeon and his ability to make me whole again. I have seen AMAZING pictures and I believe I will be one of those too. THEN HE PULLED MY DRAINS!! Woo hoo! It was glorious to be free of those darn tagalongs. They did a great job but I’m glad to let them go!
After my wonderful appointment we celebrated with frozen yogurt and then headed on our journey home. I got to see my baby girl before she went to bed on her birthday! What a wonderful trip!
Look what my family had on the door waiting for me!
Category The Journey | Tags: baby girl,blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,drains,emotions,family,friends,plastic surgeon,recovery,travel | No Comments
February 20, 2012 by Julie Moon
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.
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,charleston,drains,family,friends,nerves,pain,plans,scar,travel | No Comments
February 17, 2012 by Julie Moon
Dr. James Craigie
Dr. Paul Baron
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.
Dr. James Craigie and Dr. Richard Kline, The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction, Charleston, SC – on facebook
Dr. Paul Baron, Charleston Breast Center, Charleston, SC – on facebook
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,breast cancer,charleston,decisions,God,mister,planning,plastic surgeon,surgeon,Surgery,travel | 2 Comments
February 12, 2012 by Julie Moon
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.
Category The Journey | Tags: biopsy,blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,decisions,family,fear,friends,medicine,pain,Sleep | No Comments
February 10, 2012 by Julie Moon
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.”
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,food,friends,planning | No Comments
February 6, 2012 by Julie Moon
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!
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,breast cancer,charleston,family,fear,friends,mister,plastic surgeon | No Comments
February 2, 2012 by Julie Moon
Wow! This is the most surreal feeling I can imagine right now. I actually did it. The doctors said it went great. I’m sleeping well despite my awesome nurse checking in on me. The hospital is beautiful and my room is large. I do miss my babies and the Mister. I called my big girl around 8:30and had my best friend wake her up. It was good for both of us. I am so grateful my mom is here. I am so grateful I am so healthy that this makes it such an easier procedure. I have gotten sooooo many compliments on my beautiful quilt my friends made me. Life is good. My heart is full.
My surgery took 12 hours. Can you believe that? I am sore. Morphine And Valium to the rescue.
Category The Journey | Tags: big girl,blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,family,friends,medicine,pain,recovery,Sleep,Surgery | No Comments
February 1, 2012 by Julie Moon
This is the place I will leave my risk of breast cancer. This is East Cooper Medical Center…a beautiful facility. We have met nothing but nice and helpful people. I was there twice today and it will become my new home through the weekend. I am so grateful that I was able to afford to travel here with my mom. I am so grateful for Dr. Craigie and Dr. Kline and Dr. Baron who will perform my surgeries. It will be mind blowing, life altering and life saving. I am so grateful that I do not have cancer and I get to tackle this as a healthy 34 year old woman. I am so grateful that the BRCA test was conclusive and I was able to confidently move foward with this step. I am so grateful for each and every person who is at home feeding, hugging, nurturing, driving, dressing, bathing, teaching, snuggling, and taking care of my dear sweet children.
I feel the prayers and positive energy of my friends. I am envisioning the candles that will be lit for me tomorrow. I pray for peace for my friends and family while I’m under. My wish is that tomorrow not only changes my own life but that it changes many people’s lives. I hope it inspires a woman to get her mammograms or research her genetics. I hope it encourages a husband to be completely supportive of radical preventative measures his wife may want to take for her health. I hope that it challenges more people to participate in the 3day and other events that support breast cancer research. We need more research. We need to find a cure.
Goodbye to the breasts I know and have loved…the breasts that have nourished my three children and have been loved by my husband. I am looking forward to meeting my new breasts…the ones that will carry me into my old age. I suppose if you want to be technical I have known those breasts all along since they will come from my back side. 🙂
Category The Journey | Tags: 3day,blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,plastic surgeon,surgeon,travel | No Comments
January 30, 2012 by Julie Moon
I cannot begin to express the support I have received this week in preparation for my trip. Last night we had an amazing circle of friends that showered me with love, encouragment, prayers and gifts. First of all if you are a mother you know how hard it is to get out of your house in the evening. The fact that so many of my friends were able to be there was just awesome! Not to mention one of my beloved friends suprised me by driving in all the way from Nashville, TN. I was truly suprised and I do love a good surprise. We had all my favorite foods and drinks and the room was so full of love and cheer. We circled up and friends prayed for me, my healing, my family, my emotions and everything in between. My friends suprised me with an envelope of cash to help while we are out of town and my mom and I are feeding ourselves on the road….or whatever else we need it for! They gave me seven wrapped gifts for me to leave for my children…three small gifts in each bag so that my children have something fun to look forward to while I am gone and they know that I love them and I’m still thinking about them. 8, 6 and 3 still is very young to remember that your mom is coming home soon and time just still can slip into that “forever” feeling for them. Many of my friends sent one very talented friend pieces of fabric and she created the most amazingly beautiful quilt for me. I will literally be wrapped in their love while I am healing. It was an amazing night as sisters!
Another friend has created an intricate meal plan for my family while I am gone. That was one thing I really felt worried about and she has done an A+ job managing it. My family will be well fed and taken care of while I am away. That same friend and a few others put together a HUGE basket of snacks for my mom and I while we are gone. Such a blessing!!
And of course my best friend and my sister are prepared to fully take over and fill in for me…ready to step in at a moment’s notice to take care of everything else at my house.
THIS is the village you want to live in. THIS is the village I live in and I am Grateful. Moved. Inspired. Strong. Humbled. Blessed.
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,charleston,family,food,friends,quilt | No Comments