The second I found out I had breast cancer I knew I was going to have a double mastectomy. If one boob was going to rebel against me and try to kill me off then the other couldn’t be trusted. Plus the odds of me getting a recurrence at my age in the other side was so high that it didn’t even sound worth the trouble of keeping it. Even though I’d never had major surgery or even an overnight in a hospital, I was very unruffled by the whole mastectomy thing. I figured in the grand scheme of things this was a minor hurtle, especially after chemo…I would say the three things that kept me up the night before surgery was (1) dying during surgery, (2) not being able to pick up my son for 6 weeks and (3) being away from my job for 6-8 weeks. However, once I was in the hospital and they told me “You had a higher chance of dying in the car on your way to the hospital then during this surgery.” I was a bit more at ease.
My surgery was apparently slow but successful. They took all my lymph nodes on my right side, all my breast tissue and nipples on both sides. My surgeon, Dr. Tammy De La Melena was an angel, seriously one of the nicest most calming people I’ve ever met and I knew I was in good hands with her. My plastic surgeon, Dr. Yale Popowich was also amazing. Since I will, eventually, be having a DIEP Flap Reconstruction we put my tissue expanders above the muscle since there’s no reason to stretch out the muscle (under muscle tissue expanders is usually done for women who opt for implants).
I woke up, completely out of it (worst nap ever) but glad to be done with that part of the process. I did immediately look at my Franken-Boobs upon getting placed in my room, where I would be spending the evening. Right away I noticed that my right foob did not look right, however, apparently all the nurses thought I was talking nonsense…I wasn’t but more on that in a moment! Recovery from surgery is awful…I threw up for what seemed like hours before they got my nausea meds dialed in and while I felt zero pain I was exhausted from the constant check ins, lack of food and the drugs.
They don’t like to keep you in the hospital too long, usually you are discharged the next day, but first you have to be checked out by your surgeons to make sure everything is good. So at 4am the following morning my plastic surgeon arrived to sign my discharge papers only to find that my right tissue expander had been faulty and would need to be replaced! Yep I was right, it didn’t look right…it had a damn hole in it! Cue the frustration from everyone as we began to plan ANOTHER surgery and ANOTHER night in the hospital. Of course this meant that yet again I would have to fast so I ate a light breakfast and then hunkered down for a boring day in the hospital.
My second surgery was scheduled for 5pm and by 7:30pm I was finally rolled back into the OR…yes I threw up for another couple hours after coming out of the medically induced sleep from round 2 of my mastectomy and yes it was equally awful! By the time I was discharged the following morning at 10am I was looking forward to being home and away from that hospital.
My grandparents, who are amazing and do so much for me and my family, gifted me a La-Z-Boy recliner prior to my surgery because in all my mastectomy recovery research everyone said recliners were the only way to go. That was my home for 5 weeks…I slept, ate, watched TV, threw up (yeah that didn’t stop for about 5 days after I returned home) and watched my son play all from that wonderful recliner. The drains were probably the worst part of the experience, and the most painful part. It was just all around disgusting to have them drained and sometimes due to extremely low blood pressure I would get light headed and black out during the draining process. Plus since the location of the drains is in an area that still has nerve endings this is where all my pain originated, and still does to this day.
Six weeks at home, endless doctors’ appointments, watching the Cubs win the World Series, enjoying hours of Food network, movies and time with my grandmother (who stayed with me pretty much every weekday for 4 weeks while Danny worked) is what I remember the most about this experience; that and my fun hospital experience. All in all it was exactly what I expected, a small hurdle in a much BIGGER marathon towards NED, no evidence of disease.
My next posting will be all about Breast Tissue Expanders (Foobs or Franken-Boobs) so stay tuned!!