It’s been a tumultuous week, so much so that I haven’t felt like writing about it. I’ve been doing quite a bit of talking, however, as well as visualization and imagery manifestation . . . but let me tell this story in it’s proper order.
In my last update I talked about going into therapy and a bit about my struggle with deciding whether to have a reconstruction if I have a mastectomy. I asked for help finding images of one-breasted women — in art, literature, etc. to help me visualize the choice I am making. A few of you were very helpful, M. in particular, sent me a link to this incredible site (NSFW) which tells the story in words and photos of a young woman with a bilateral (double) mastectomy who underwent reconstructive surgery. On my own I found this inspiring picture (click on ‘tree poster’). This is, frankly, the external image I most strongly resonate with. A courageous woman posted her vacation photos ‘double mastectomy, 4 years after‘ on Flickr and I found them pleasing as well.
Lupa wrote to me and suggested I do some work with guided imagery/ visualization and I tucked that away to contemplate and see what I can do to manifest. Diana called me to talk about it. We laughed, delved, discussed and she suggested I get some clay or scuply and make body figures of myself. With breast(s), missing one, with different sized breasts, etc. Once I make them, crawl inside them and see how they feel, and how I feel. I bought clay the next day.
Two people I trust said nearly the same thing at different times: there is a value in being ‘normal’, or at least appearing normal. What you carry in your heard can be extremely nonconformist, but it is easier to move through the world if you don’t stand out much.
I met with the plastic surgeon and we talked options. Mostly, I can have almost anything I want except no surgery. He agreed that a full mastectomy will be safer than a partial, and he strongly spoke out against radiation. “If I had to choose between chemo and radiation, I would choose chemo. Chemo makes you sick and your hair fails out. But your hair grows back and when the chemo is over all of the drugs are out of your body. Radiation is permanent damage to your cells. It’s forever.”
I thought that was very interesting.
In the end, it turns out that my best option — the one that keeps the most doors open to me — is to have a ‘skin conserving mastectomy’ with an immediate reconstruction. What this means is that although much of my breast will be removed, enough will be left to cover an implant so I don’t have to remove skin and fat from another part of my body to create a new breast.
They will place an extender in, just under the muscles of the chest wall. This device will gradually be inflated with saline over several months until it’s the size I want my new breast to be. At that point the extender will be removed and a permanent implant will be placed inside. Let’s be clear: my breast will look normal, but it will not feel like, nor be shaped like, my original breast. I will also lose 90% of sensation in that breast. These facts just aren’t discussed much outside of the doctor’s office.
We will not be doing any surgery on the right breast — mostly because I want to lose a fairly significant amount of weight and my breast will change shape as a result. So, it would likely require more surgery in the future to re-shape it. No thanks. That means I will have surgery on that breast in the future, however.
I am content with me, myself, and I. I am not above changing (goodbye 30 pounds!), but generally speaking I live in my body and we get along well. It is no longer a vehicle which moves me through the world, and nothing more. So, there is a value in being returned to ‘how I was before’ cancer. But I remain uncertain if that will be the case.
At this point, I’m still working with my imagery and seeing what, if anything, my decision is altered by. (Last night, for example, is the first time my dreams had anything remotely ‘hospital’ or medical in them. And it wasn’t particularly relevant or dramatic.) I figure I have until the day before to change my mind. After all, I’ll essentially be telling one surgeon to go away and keeping the other surgeon. It’s not like I’ll be trying to find a second surgeon at the last minute.
So, a bit of a timeline:
Tues: pre-op meeting with plastic surgeon, bloodwork done to ascertain I’m healthy enough for surgery
Wed: I am spending much of the day getting pampered. I have a body wrap (rosemary-mint), mani/pedi, haircut, and body massage all scheduled for the afternoon. My mother arrives.
Thurs: check-in at 7:45, receiving pre-op care by 8am; radioactive infusion injected into several points in my breast at 10am; noon: make sure that dye reached the nodes; surgery begins at 1:30pm ~ there is a possibility my surgery will be moved up to earlier ~ end time: unknown
I will spend the night at the hospital.
I may or may not be discharged on Friday, it depends on my comfort level and whether there are any complications. Saturday is a definite discharge date f I’m not home already.
Basically, the following week will have me as non compis mentis. I’ll be taking it easy, bound up, sleeping, on meds, watching TV, and trying to do light exercise to keep the blood flowing. Day one light exercise will be getting to the bathroom and back, but I am to gradually increase my range and ability.
The week following includes Turkey Day, and I’ll still be home, but back to being compis mentis. That seems to be a Tylenol week, rather than narcotics. I will be going slowly mad, however, from confinement.
The weeks after that I hope to return to work, at least part time, and then going forward will remain part time until I am fully recovered. I will not overdo it and end up in the hospital again.
* ) O ( * * ) O ( * * ) O ( *
I have a task for all of you who choose to accept it: My surgery is scheduled to start at midday, with a major procedure beginning at 10am. The message to focus on is threefold:
* The procedures are going smoothly.
* There is no pain and healing is swift. (Note: blood flow seems to be critical as the primary complication is skin dying due to a lack of blood supply reaching it.)
* This will never happen again.
I will have J. post a message here post-surgery to let y’all know how its going.