Unless something drastic happens, my DIEP reconstruction is scheduled for noon tomorrow. I spent Monday with my kids and my mom school supply shopping. I spent today with my kids at the waterpark.
It’s the last time I can take them to the waterpark this summer.
Truth be told, we had a wonderful time at the waterpark. My kids and I love to swim, and there’s so much for them to do there. I wish with all my heart today wasn’t the last day I’ll be able to go swimming with them for awhile.
I’m still not looking forward, at all, to surgery. Reconstruction surgery is nothing like breast augmentation. It’s just not. What I’m having done is so much more complicated and complex. And, when I wake up tomorrow night, I still won’t look normal, or the stereotypical idea of normal. Yes, I know…I’m more than my breasts. I believe that. But, this isn’t want I signed up for. And, deep down, I’m afraid there could be shadows lurking in the corners to be exposed during surgery tomorrow. It’s hard for me to know I’m heading in for the same surgery I would have had back in February if things hadn’t gone wrong then. If the cancer hadn’t been found in my lymph nodes. If the cancer hadn’t needed radiation treatment. I’m scared I’m going to wake up tomorrow night to A telling me something went wrong and well-meaning people telling me to look at the bright side, just like what happened in February.
I’ve spent the day doing everything I can to keep my brain from being a scumbag. I’m hoping to go see Star Trek Beyond tonight if my mom will come stay with the kids for a few hours since A has to work late tonight. I might even go by myself. I figure that’s another good way to keep my brain from being scumbag-tastic. Then, when I get home, I’m taking something to help me sleep and going to bed.
I’m supposed to be at the hospital by 10 am tomorrow. I won’t be sad to see the expanders go. They’re uncomfortable. But, I am afraid of what the next iteration of my fake breasts will be.
I’m so ready to put this behind me…as much as I can anyway. I know it’ll never be completely behind me. The reminders are inescapable. The scars. The medicine. The appointments. The tests.
A friend texted me last night and shared her mantra with me: “You don’t have to be brave, you just have to show up.” So, I’ll show up on Wednesday. I have no intention of being brave. I’m just there to get rid of the expanders, hope my reconstruction goes well, and I wake up with another hurdle jumped.
Don’t expect me to be excited or happy or brave or really anything. I’m just showing up. I’m not excited. I’m not happy. I don’t want to pretend. I don’t want to have to fake it so that I don’t make others feel bad. I’m sorry-not-sorry if my less than rah-rah happy-happy attitude bothers you. In this equation, the problem is not me. The problem is how you expect me to be and your annoyance that I’m not the way you want me to be. Again, I’m not the problem in this equation. I get to feel how I feel about the fact I have breast cancer and have needed hugely complicated, complex, and invasive surgeries. I’m not happy to get new breasts, as people have asked me. This surgery is NOT breast augmentation. On Facebook, a couple of friends shot me messages today asking exactly what this surgery entails, so I’m going to explain it as best I can.
The DIEP flap takes all the skin and fat layer from hipbone to hipbone up to a semi-circle around my belly button, along with its blood supply, the deep inferior epigastric perforators (DIEP), are taken from the abdomen and used to reconstruct the breasts. I have a very good, very skilled plastic surgeon, which is good because this surgery cannot be done by just any plastic surgeon. It is micro-vascular surgery. If the blood supply is not connected correctly, the flaps will die, I will have to have more surgery, and at that point, my only option for reconstruction is an implant based reconstruction, which I am not an ideal candidate for thanks to radiation. The surgery takes 6-8 hours to perform. Afterwards, the blood flow to the flaps must be monitored every hour for 24 hours, so that means I get to stay in ICU for at least 24 hours. Provided all goes well for those 24 hours, I’ll be moved to a regular room after that and will stay at the hospital another 2-3 days for monitoring. I’m hoping to be released on Sunday. While I’m in the hospital, I will have six surgical drains to deal with, and I’ll supposedly come home with two. My plastic surgeon said he expects to remove four of them before I leave, and I hope he’s right because if I have to deal with six drains, someone better be prepared to meet the other side of my personality. Drains are a level of hell Dante didn’t know existed.
The expected recovery time is 6-8 weeks. I’m going to try to go back to work on August 11. Yes, you can laugh now.
A, bless his heart (and I mean that in the Southern way), keeps “reminding” me how quickly I healed from my c-sections, and really, the abdominal part of this surgery is a c-section on steroids. So, in his mind, I’m going to bounce back quickly, and we go back to life as usual. When this topic comes up in conversation, I just stay quiet. He needs to believe I’m going to bounce back and all will be well. He needs to believe this cancer coaster is coming to a flat area of track. He needs to believe I’m healthy. He needs to believe the cancer is gone.
I wish I were him. He’s so optimistic, and I’ve never, even on my best day, been a shining example of optimism. I hope he’s right.
I’m so annoyed by this surgery. I’m so annoyed breast cancer is part of my life. I’m so, so, so annoyed by it today. I’ve spent the past year with scans and biopsies and bad news and chemo and targeted therapies and surgery and more bad news and radiation and on and on and on. Tomorrow, even before the surgery, I have to have blood work and an EKG, all of which could derail the surgery. I hate the sheer amount of hoops I’ve had to do to have this surgery, and I hate that I need this surgery. I hate breast cancer. I’m thirty-eight years old. Come on.
I want Wednesday to close a chapter. I want Thursday to start a new chapter. And, I want, with everything I have, the next chapter to be one that does not revolve around the question: is this going to be how I end? I want, with every fiber of my being, this to be my path back to health.
I scheduled my last two Herceptin treatments today, too. I have one on August 5th, one on August 26th, and the last one, please God, on September 16. This surgery is, what I hope, the last huge hurdle. The rest are little bumps in the road.
I don’t want to have to pretend anymore that I’m always fine. I don’t want to have to listen as well-meaning people tell me stories about so-and-so who had cancer, but they’re fine (or, worse, the stories that end with the person not being fine). I don’t want to have to miss work for treatments and surgeries. I don’t want to have to miss time with my family and children.
I want tomorrow to start a countdown that ends with me having no evidence of disease. I want to be able to live my life, like Dr. O said she expects me to do. I want to see my kids grow up. Honestly, that’s all I want. I want to be around for my kids for another 3, 5, 10, 20 years. I know we’re not promised tomorrow, but I’m willing to bet we all have plans made. Yet, when you’re hit with a life-threatening disease, todays become precious and tomorrows become wishes. I wish, with all my might, to have more tomorrows. I’m not ready to be done yet.