This time just four short weeks ago I was only a few hours out of the OR, laying perfectly still in a hospital bed, fearful to move my arms more than the movement it took to hit the button on my Morphine PCA. Four drains hung from my sides with bright red blood pooling in them every few hours. The pain was pretty significant, the muscle spasms worse. Thankfully, few remnants of that night remain. But the relief that I felt that night, despite the physical pain? That has stayed strong.
Earlier this week I saw an interesting thing in one of the BRCA-related Facebook groups I’m in that I hadn’t really considered before. And it really made me think. When we got the pathology report back a few days after my surgery that there was no cancer, we obviously celebrated – I beat cancer before it could beat me. Before it even had a chance to start. I can now laugh at this ecard without getting a pit in my stomach because I know there’s some truth to it:
But then there’s the part that I casually mentioned about having dense breast tissue. To be specific, the pathology report reads “Right breast: Breast parenchyma with focal adenosis” and “Left Breast: Benign breast parenchyma with fibrocystic and fibroadenomatoid changes.” I didn’t think much about it, since a) I already knew it was there, b) it’s benign, and c) it’s very common, especially in women my age. However, a wise woman pointed out that hers read the same thing, and while she too, celebrated, she couldn’t help but realize what was lurking. That those densities are precursors to lumps. Benign lumps. But lumps nonetheless. And in the BRCA world, no lump is benign until proven otherwise. That what was lurking was an abnormal mammogram or MRI, that would lead to an ultrasound and a biopsy. And with inconclusive results, a surgery. And potentially over and over again. Even if it wasn’t cancer, it would be the the fear that it was. And always could be. Explaining it that way? It gives me chills. That I had precursors in my breast tissue to everything that made me hate the idea of surveillance – the false positives, the unnecessary worries, the precious time (and sleep!) wasted. The not knowing “is this it? Is this the time they find something?” And that could have been me, pursuing that lump, as benign as it may be– in 6 months, a year, who knows how long. But that would have been my future. And thinking of it like that makes me even more relieved to know I won’t find myself in that vulnerable position. I made the right choice for me, at the right time, and have absolutely no regrets. Just relief.
So now that that’s off my (saline-filled) chest, on to the one month milestones! To update my “weekly progress”:
Incisions: Still looking great! Healing beautifully all around, improving every day. Still can’t get over how small they are – they are literally just on the sides and completely covered by a bra of pretty much any kind… oddly I’m looking forward to being able to wear a real bra! But sports ones for now it is. I have already decided my Christmas present to myself will be going to Nordstrom for a formal fitting post exchange surgery… and heck I may be the easiest person ever to buy presents for this year!!
Phantom Itching/Nerves: Nerve regeneration is definitely in action. I feel random shoots of feeling. Still totally numb across the nipples and most of the surface, from my sternum to my incisions, as expected. The searing back pain has thankfully subsided (knock on wood!) ironically since the day I asked my plastic surgeon about the sliding expander. I am so grateful for that, as it would wake me up from sleeping and hit me at the most random times. Random things like putting on deodorant still cause some weird nerve pain, but these occurrences are few and far between, and noticeably improved already. Oddly enough, goose bumps are the most painful of the weird sensations – who would have thought?! Thankfully my hoodie collection is more than adequate, so I just make a conscious point to stay warm.
Pain/Muscle spasms: No more muscle spasms at all! If only I could have assured myself they would be GONE a few weeks ago – ha! So glad they left with the drains! The expanders remain a tad uncomfortable, but really have gotten so much more tolerable. That, or I’m getting used to them. I’ll call it 80/20 on that! I had to laugh when my roommate was taking “tit pics” this evening to document my progress, and she was pointing something out and accidentally touched my boob (of course I can’t feel it). And she says “WHOA those are HARD!” I just had to laugh – it’s so true. They are totally rocks, boulder boobs, whatever you prefer to call them, just like everyone said they would be. Totally unnatural, that’s for sure! Especially the ports – they are ridiculously hard. I seriously can’t wait for the “squishiness” of gummy bears (final implants) in a few months! As for the discomfort, I still take Advil and Tylenol a couple times a day, more for the dull ache pulling on my sternum than anything. Sometimes I’ll feel muscle/tissue pulling when I’m reaching or trying to lift more than I should, but I generally know my limits. Range of motion is pretty much amazing at this point, and stretching out the soreness hurts so good.
Size: Ready to grow again! 50 cc made a decent difference, so I’m excited to get the show on the road later this week. Mainly because the rippling of the expanders is weird looking and contributing to the pulling sensation, I think. Thankfully, they’ll be filled on Thursday and that should mostly go away.
Sleep: HUGE relief here… sleep is So. Much. Better. It’s attributable to a variety of things… being back in my own bed, wearing myself out more every day, and the drain sites being healed/expanders getting less bothersome that I can comfortably sleep on my side now! I was an “everything” sleeper before… not dedicated to one position, though I’d often end up on my stomach. I’m oddly grateful for the months I had to sleep sitting up last year after my septoplasty/rhinoplasty, as I never had been a back sleeper before, but now it doesn’t bother me. But being able to move around is a HUGE help. And restful sleep just makes everything better!!!
Stir crazy: Oh so very gone! It’s hard to believe when I think back to just a week ago when I was updating this, and the progress I have made – like WHOA! I’d say I’m probably 90% (if not more) of the way back to my normal self already. This weekend I went to the first football game of the season for my college alma mater (which was legitimately a 12 hour affair between pre-game festivities and a late kickoff) on Saturday and to a matinee of Book of Morman (amazing. By the way) with my parents and Ruthie on Sunday. Monday I took it mostly easy, but attempted the first of my infamous “hurricanes” or as Amy and I have dubbed it “Sunday Prep Day” (except it was Monday). You know when have laundry going while you’re cooking while you’re cleaning while you’re… yeah. I don’t do well without all my ducks in a row before the work week starts! Ironically that stuff is harder than the trips out– you really use a lot of pec muscles to hang up laundry and reach for high kitchen shelves! But really, my weekend was no different than it would have been pre-mastectomy, and I wasn’t overly exhausted like I anticipated. And for just 4 weeks out? I call that a win!
Work: Ended up working a full day last Friday (there was stuff to do and not stuff to do at home!), and did fine, so it’s truly back in full swing now, and with good timing. So I ended up using 3.5 weeks of my 6 weeks approved FMLA – not too shabby! It’s great to be back. And good to be missed. Just would like to get caught up and ahead of things to my normal pace, which is a slow but steady process.
So that’s where I’m at! I continue to be so very grateful for everyone involved in my journey thus far – I wasn’t quite sure where I would be at one month out, but I truly couldn’t be happier. I don’t take my quick recovery for granted for a moment, and know I’m so fortunate to be where I’m at — in a place where I met people for the first time today that truly had no idea why I had been out, and would have never known if it hadn’t come up in conversation. That’s part great recovery, part amazing reconstructive surgery!! So going forward from here– oddly enough I’m actually looking forward to my plastic surgery appointment Thursday– he’s great, and more than anything it means PROGRESS! Ready for these next steps so by my 26th birthday this will hopefully all be a thing of the past! Craziness. But awesomeness! More to come then– enjoy the short week!!