Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nothing Worth It Is Ever Easy

I've lived a pretty charmed life. Really, I have.

I didn't grow up rich, quite the opposite in fact. I didn't get everything I wanted. (though I did get everything I needed) 

I didn't have a lot of friends growing up, a few close ones but I was also bullied. Elementary school holds a lot of terrible memories. High school was much better but I'd never go back.

And yet, I feel like I've lived a charmed life. I have my dream job, my husband who I love with all my heart, three perfect children and some amazing friends and family.

But nothing in my life has ever been easy.

I got diagnosed with cancer at 37 years old, on the youngish side by breast cancer standards. I was one of the >1% who had occult breast cancer. Lucky me! Not only do I get breast cancer but I get an ridiculously rare one that makes diagnosis and treatment tricky. Thank God for my amazing team of doctors.

I made the decision to have breast reconstruction because, while I could have lived the rest of my life with one breast (and probably quite happily), healing from cancer isn't just physical, it's mental too and for me, I needed to feel physically whole in order to heal mentally. I want to look in the mirror and see two breasts. More importantly (as trivial as this sounds) I want to look down and see cleavage.

So I made the decision, despite my fear of surgery, my worst of which being I'd die on the table and leave me kids wondering why their mother opted to do something so vain  - something that ended up taking their mother away from them when they were mere babies. Yes, my oldest is 14 but she's still a baby in the grand scheme of things and still needs her mother.

But again, nothing for me can ever be easy.

After my first surgery I questioned why I'd even done it. I felt horrible, I was in pain and dealing with other demons. But it got better and once the doctor started to fill my expander and my new breast began to take shape, as it were, I started to feel really happy about my decision.

One month ago I had the second part of my surgery, the take out the expander, replace it with a silicone implant and reduce my left breast to match the new one.  And as you can see from my previous post, I was so happy with the results. I have the boobs of a 20 year old.

But remember, nothing for me is every easy and so, I had complications. First, an infection at the drain sight. Remarkably in all my surgeries this was my first infection. But it scared me nonetheless.

And then, a small purplish black bump appeared on the side of my new breast. Small at first and then it grew. Naturally it appeared after I'd been released from weekly visits with the Dr. I wasn't supposed to see him again until March. But this thing was big and ugly and scary looking. So I called him and went to see him.

So here's my diagram of what happened.

Now, my diagram is a little oversimplified but it will all make sense in a second. See, the flap is the muscle and tissue that the doctor took from my back and brought forward to build a new breast. But that brown part should be totally enclosed, a full circle to encapsulate the implant. But in my case part of the flap failed (separated) as shown in the nifty diagram so now the only thing separating my implant from the world is a paper thin layer of skin. The big purplish black bump was fluid that my body would have otherwise absorbed taking the path of least resistance and pushing the skin out.
The doctor stuck me with a giant needle and drained a lot of the fluid but it just collected again. And the thing is, skin wears.  We shed layers of it in small doses everyday. Eventually that paper thin layer of skin would wear away and expose my implant opening me up for infections and a new world of surgeries.

So, we're beating it to the punch.

I get to have more surgery. Soon. Like in a couple of weeks. Yay me. (this would be a great time for a sarcasm font) The doctor is going to take out the implant, fix the flap and either replace the implant, put a smaller implant in or put a new expander in. By the way he talked today he's leaning toward a new expander. Which means another surgery will follow in a few months to put a new implant in. He'll make the final decision in the operating room.

I've had time to process this now. I had my moment of tears, anger, regret, anger, tears and more anger.

Now I'm resigned to it.  I'm frustrated because it means more time off work, it means my summer plans are all shot to hell and it means I'm living in medical limbo for another several months. It means more stress to my family. It means more stress to me. It means a whole lot more fear for me. The same fears I faced when I got diagnosed with cancer. The same fears I've faced each and every time I lay down on the operating table and cry, praying that God will let me wake up again to see my children.

I hate this. I really, really do. But I've learned that your cancer journey isn't over the day you get your 'no evidence of disease' report. It's not over after your hair grows back and your memory returns. It's not over when your scars heal.

I am not whole again yet and my journey won't be over until I am.

One of my first thoughts, after my family,  when my doctor told me I'd be having surgery again was about my job. I love my job, passionately. And I miss it. But this time is different. Because while I am angry that I will be missing more time and worried that I'll lose my position in my school and get stuck in a school I hate and wondering what my colleagues are thinking (or saying), I'm reminded of something.

I'm here. I'm alive. I got to spend the last three years with my kids and my husband and my friends and family. I might be am replaceable at work. No matter how good you are at your job, everyone is replaceable at their jobs. But I am not replaceable to my family and friends. And my life is important to me. I want to live it happily and to the fullest and for me to be able to put cancer behind me I need to feel physically whole.

So as much as it sucks ass.....I'm going under the knife again. Lucky me.

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