December 12, 2012 by Julie
Today marks two weeks post surgery. This was my third major surgery for 2012. My mom jokingly calls this one my barbie surgery because this was the one where we fixed all the scars, cavernous hips missing large amounts of tissue and recreated a nipple (sort of…it’s nothing special). I traveled to Charleston on the 26th with my mom. She’s been so amazing this year for me. She’s been through the toughest parts. She has been the one to see me hurting the most and she’s been the one to receive the most complaints and general recovering Julieisms.
We stayed with our friends again who we lived with for a week and a half after my first surgery. It was so great to catch up. I stayed at their house so long before it felt like coming home in a way to visit them and sleep in “my old bed”. We got up way early for surgery and like a doofus I took my antibiotics (on an empty pre surgery stomach). I do this every time because they tell you to start them the day before and I’m such a darn rule follower that I took it that morning. Nevermind that they were already going to give it to me in my IV at the hospital. So I eventually threw it up in the preop waiting area. Oh well…maybe someday I’ll learn or remember. I brought my beautiful quilt with me again as I waited. Every staff member was wonderful, my doc, nurses, anesthesiology staff…they were all so great. I don’t remember now how long surgery was…but I was out sometime after lunch. So maybe 5 hours? We stayed at East Cooper overnight so I could sleep on the air bed. I was so grateful to not have to wake up and get up and get out of the hospital right after surgery. That was such a pain the last time. I have lots of blood pressure issues when standing up for days after surgery. Then we came home to Athens and my mom came with me too.
I came home with two drains and a compression garment from my knees to my ribs. Joe lent me a laptop to so I could get cozy in the recliner while keeping up with the world and my friends. It’s all a bit of a blur now. Heck, life feels like that when I’m not on pain meds or recovering from surgery. Mom helped me wrap Christmas presents. I tried to get most of my shopping done early so that I wouldn’t feel stressed about getting Christmas ready for three small children.
My friends brought meals again…I feel like I owe them all a night out. In fact I get emotional every time I think about the people who have served me this year. Near and far I have felt so much love and support it is just more than my heart can hold and my heart bursts out through my tears every single time. I truly know who my friends are this year. I truly know that my family loves me dearly. I know without a shadow of a doubt that this village I am a part of is good to it’s core and without them I would be lost.
This past weekend the Mister had some work to do in Charleston so we planned weekend sleepovers for the bigs and Joe, Scarlett and I traveled to Charleston together. Scarlett and I hung out in the hotel and she enjoyed jumping on the bed, watching tv in bed and buffet breakfast. It was quite a treat to spend time with just one child…but I definitely missed my big kids so much. We saw Dr. Craigie on Monday and he pulled both my drains! Thank the Lord! He said I should wear my compression for another couple weeks.
Though I still have lots of visible scars I feel like my body looks more like normal than it has in a year. I feel close to whole.
Tonight at dinner Savannah asked me “So which one of us kids do you think has the gene?” *sigh* I told her “I hope none of you sweetheart.” She’s thinking lots about it I know. It’s deep in that brain of hers that goes a million miles a minute. I know my children won’t fully GET what I have done until they have a friend whose mother gets breast cancer, goes through chemo and heave forbid dies. They are too young to have SEEN that yet in life. But I hope they understand what this year of sacrifice has meant for them. Scarlett said “Mommy I wish you weren’t sick.” and I know that I”m not “sick”. I know that I’ve done this so I won’t ever have to be “sick” from breast cancer…like so many others in my family.
I’m so excited about 2013 for them. I’m so excited about a mom who isn’t traveling out of town for surgeries. I’m so excited about a mom who doens’t have wounds and can get in the pool. I’m so excited about a mom who feels great and can really enjoy the year with them. My children and my husband have been strong troopers. My husband…no words for the love and support he has given me through this decision and my journey.
Whew…what a year. My journey isn’t over. There are still some more surgeries in my future regarding ovaries. I still have some decisions to make but overall…this was the biggest mountain and I’m on the other side. I didn’t climb the mountain alone and sometimes I was carried but we made it over the mountain. God is good!
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,decisions,drains,emotions,family,friends,God,mister,plastic surgeon,scar,Surgery,travel | No Comments
August 21, 2012 by Julie
This is how I feel tonight.
I had a great drive to and from Charleston today with my sweet husband. We left early at 8 am and returned around 8:30 pm tonight. It was so great to spend that time alone with him. When you have three children you just don’t get that much undivided attention from your spouse. We had a great spiritual discussion, laughed and I felt really loved by him. I’m so grateful he is so supportive of this journey. I couldn’t imagine trying to convince him that driving to Charleston for a surgery was/is the best plan for me if he wasn’t on board with the plan.
Everything is looking good and healing well and softening as it should. Dr. Craigie seemed pleased with how things looked and said I was ready to finish up. We planned a surgery date for November 27th. The kids will be back in school so it should be a little more manageable than my summer surgery date was. We will finish my nipple reconstruction on the left side, fill up one part of the right breast that needs some fullness and then he will do a revision of the donor site. That revision means they will open up the scar and take some fat from below the scar and fat from above the scar and fill in the concave area. It will hopefully help things to be more proportional. For those who don’t know the scar on my backside goes basically from hip to hip in a V. This should be the final surgery I need. It’s inpatient for one night only because they like for me to sleep on that special air filled bed for one night after surgery. We asked if they could give us a special spa room since our deductible for the year has been “met” (though we are still slowly paying it to everyone). They just laughed.
It was interesting today. Dr. Craigie is a laid back guy. I love that about him but today it made me a little insecure to tell him all that I wanted “fixed”. I think what I realized is that maybe he is used to dealing with “sick” people who are really not interested in more surgery to get themselves back to normal. They are more focused on survival…which I get. I wanted him to sell himself a bit more I suppose but overall I know that he will really do a great job. I do miss Christina…the PA I had for the first stage. She moved to another state to follow her husband to a new job. I could sure use a chat with her tonight. She was such an encourager.
Category The Journey | Tags: BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,decisions,expenses,finances,insurance,mister,planning,plans,plastic surgeon,recovery,scar,surgeon,Surgery,travel | No Comments
February 17, 2012 by Julie
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 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!
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,breast cancer,charleston,family,fear,friends,mister,plastic surgeon | No Comments
February 4, 2012 by Julie
I’m feeling extra sappy tonight. I am so happy I did this. Even when it hurts. I couldn’t have done this without my village. Thank you everyone. I finally have a pain med that is working. Yesterday was SO HARD. Friday was a much better day. Though mom keeps saying she doesn’t know where we’d put more flowers I am so encouraged. They sit at the foot of my bed and remind me that I’m being thought of. I can’t wait to see my family and friends again. I worry about the Mister. He doesn’t always recognize what he is feeling. We watched Grey’s Anatomy tonight and that made me feel normal. I have eaten some of my yummy snacks. Tomorrow is shower day and I’m nervous about that. Here’s me giving all my friends and family big hugs and kisses.
Category The Journey | Tags: BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,emotions,family,friends,mister,pain,recovery,Surgery | No Comments
January 2, 2012 by Julie
January 2012…it’s go time! It’s the new year and that means the ball has dropped and it’s officially rolling. This week I get the kids back in school and I head out to Tennessee to do a little organizing work. Getting a client all settled into her new home in Nashville. I’m looking forward to some immersion in my work and also testing out the waters of me being gone and others taking care of my three little moons while I’m away. That is definitely the part of this journey that has me the most nervous. Next week is a big week. Monday and probably Wednesday too I have all my preop to get done. I have orders for bloodwork, metabolic profile, urinalysis, chest xray and EKG. I then have an MRI on Friday in Atlanta. I need all the prayers one can muster for all of these tests to come back perfect. I’m a little stressed about all the finances of this beginning. *deep cleansing breath* I think while I’m in Nashville I’m going to ask my friend if we can do a little yoga in the morning each day…hoping that I can add that to my daily routine this year and that it can center me the way it did when I was preparing for childbirth.
I don’t FEEL scared but every time I write about this stuff I start crying. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that I’m feeling. I feel a little detached from everything right now….my friendships, my relationship with God, the Mister. It’s funny the person I feel the most connected to right now is the big girl. She’s growing up so much right now and I think I’m really just enjoying her company so much…it’s uncomplicated and just so easy with her these days. I am going to REALLY miss her while I’m gone.
Category The Journey | Tags: big girl,breast cancer,charleston,expenses,family,fear,friends,God,insurance,mister | No Comments
November 29, 2011 by Julie
The Mister and I traveled to Charleston, SC this weekend to meet with the plastic and breast surgeons. We left on Saturday and were able to have two days to ourselves…without children to reconnect and just enjoy each other before the appointment day. I am so grateful for my sister watching the kids Saturday and Sunday…a wonderful babysitter helping out on Sunday night and Monday morning and one of my best friends coming over Monday after school to keep the kiddos, clean up the house and get everyone to bed before we got home. What a network of great people I have supporting me on this journey. It was reassuring to see that I could be gone for 3 days and things still function as normal. I have to admit that I am probably more nervous about what is going to happen to my kiddos when I’m gone for 2 weeks than I am about the surgery itself…ah motherhood!
The Mister and I were able to eat at some great restaurants, check out some local shops and the market and visit Folly beach at Sunset. Did I mention we slept? Oh the bliss of no children in the house kind of sleep…no naps interrupted by squeals of disagreement over the wii or by a toddler banging her fist over your head because she is hungry. We slept well and we napped. It was glorious!
I feel peaceful. I feel content. I feel excited. I feel nervous. I feel happy. I feel sad. I feel grateful. I feel blessed. I feel spared. I feel sure. I feel crazy. I feel amazed.
No wonder I can’t sleep yet tonight.
February 1, 2012…a day that will change my life forever.
Category The Journey | Tags: breast cancer,charleston,decisions,family,fear,friends,mister,plastic surgeon,surgeon,travel,waiting | No Comments
November 24, 2011 by Julie
November has been amazing. I have been blessed beyond belief by my friends. I was able to have an extended visit with one of my besties here…she made arrangements to come without her husband or kids so that we could have just some special one on one time. I truly am grateful. There is nothing quite like hanging out with your good friend for several days straight! I also celebrated my 34th birthday. My friends took me out to a very special dinner and I have a mantle FULL of special birthday cards. This year the birthday cards were different. I really felt like every single one of my friends wrote something really relevant and important. I felt so moved by each and every card. It’s hard to explain exactly but I keep rereading the cards because they are so encouraging. Now it’s Thanksgiving eve and I get to spend time with my family. My parents came to spend the night tonight. The children and i prepared a few things. I chatted in my den, with my parents…listening to some jazz music in the background. I called my brother to schedule our skype date during lunch tomorrow. We will skype he and his wife in for our Thanksgiving meal to pretend that they aren’t in St. Louis but at the head of our table instead. (gosh I really miss them) And then on Saturday I leave for Charleston with my soulmate by my side as my steady companion and we start the planning. So much to be happy about and thankful for. I am blessed!
Category The Journey | Tags: birthday,charleston,family,friends,mister,travel | No Comments
November 12, 2011 by Julie
Grateful beyond belief for health insurance but all the little details are so confusing and annoying.
Tuesday I talked to the NOLA insurance people and she said that my insurance is out of network. She said that every single insurance is out of network except for Cigna. That means that my total out of pocket would be $8000 instead of $4000 for the covered procedures. I’m still not entirely clear if everything is covered. I spoke with the Charleston office and they are IN network for my insurance. So I think the path becomes clearer. I am planning a consultation with them on November 28th. The Mister will travel with me and we will meet with both the breast surgeon and the plastic surgeon that day.
Charleston is about a 4.5 hour drive but we will probably go for a couple days before and just get comfortable with the city…see what the hospital looks like, etc. If after visiting Charleston I do not feel 100% great about it I might go to visit New Orleans. I found out on Wednesday that one of my great friends gave birth at the hospital in Charleston…she said it was small but very nice.
Category The Journey | Tags: breast cancer,charleston,decisions,insurance,mister,nola,plastic surgeon,surgeon,travel | No Comments
November 7, 2011 by Julie
I think I’ve decided I’m going to do my surgery in New Orleans. I spent a long night talking with my best friend last night and we just talked our way through most of it. Today I talked to the Mister about it all and I think it’s pretty clear that I’m leaning towards going to New Orleans. I don’t really feel like either place is a bad choice…but I think if expenses are not accounted for I am definitely leaning towards NO. I’m sure I’ll probably change my mind 12 more times before I schedule the surgery…but anyone who knows me knows that THAT is what I do. I should be able to get everything scheduled this week and figure out flight information by the weekend. Mister is traveling with me this time and my mom will travel with me for my surgeries. Mom told me to close my eyes, put my hand over my heart and envision where I was when I had my surgery. I keep trying that…and it’s not totally clear just yet. I believe it will be….eventually.
Category The Journey | Tags: breast cancer,decisions,family,mister,plastic surgeon | No Comments