I started swimming this week. This is something I’ve wanted to do since I had the double mastectomy and chemo last year but couldn’t. It wasn’t an option since I had a PICC line inserted in my right arm for the upcoming six chemo treatments that I would have. By the way, I cannot have a needle in my left arm for the rest of my life because of the removal of my cancerous lymph nodes which can potentially mess up your arm forever… I still haven’t fully educated myself on Lymphedema, but I should because there are preventative things I can do but I try to avoid reading about things I don’t have (yet/maybe never will!). Yes I know the denial is real.
A double mastectomy with reconstruction was what I chose to have even though I didn’t have cancer in my right breast. I could have saved my right one but I decided for the sake of vanity and sanity I’d go with both. Let me just explain that I have a hard time picking a dish on a menu at a restaurant…always worried that what I choose the will be the wrong thing… urg, this is annoying for me on a good day. So having to choose in an extremely tight timeline, I think it was one week – Implants vs. Flaps was a very hard decision. I had to weigh recovery time, esthetics, loss of sensation, possibility of complications and more but it’s a blurry memory. At first I chose the flap because they use the fat from your stomach to reconstruct the breasts – ha, no brainer YES sign me up for a tummy tuck with new boobs – nope, I only had enough fat to do one breast, wow. Ok so since I wanted both done I went with implants. Although, this is a crazy decision to have to make, not one you ever thought you’d be faced with, I feel grateful to have a health care system that allows people to choose. And do you know what?! If I don’t like the way my breasts feel or look, if I’m not satisfied I can go back in – MY choice. Isn’t that wild? I never knew that was a possibility, how lucky am I to have choices like this.
I had two female surgeons (both younger than me!) performing the surgery. The surgery itself took about three hours. First, the surgical oncologist removes all the breast tissue, and then the plastic surgeon comes in and starts the reconstruction process, all while you are still under the general anesthetic . I had temporary tissue expanders inserted and voila it’s over. I didn’t have any complications and seven days later the home care nurse removed my drains (I know it’s really gross) and I went to Christmas lunch at my sisters and dinner at my sister-in-laws. Lots of pain meds were taken, but I was able to enjoy myself.
One thing that made the surgery bearable was having my surgeon hold my hand while they put me out. Anyone will tell you that they are scared shitless at this point. You have the potential of DYING on the table. Rare but the possibility is in the forefront of your brain. That small gesture gave me great comfort. I already knew that I was in good hands on a medical front with my rock star ladies, but that hand holding made a world of difference. I’m not sure if this is what most surgeons do to comfort their patients, and I’m sure there are all kinds of arguments for or against this but – in medical school 101 this should be a compulsory topic of discussion. Case by case I guess….in my case I needed that love.