Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cancer doesn't kill you, the hospital does

It's Saturday night and I'm happy to report that surgery went well and I have been "home" (at Mom's house) for more than 24 hours. I'm feeling incredibly strong and recovering faster than I expected. Both of my surgeons did a fabulous job and the reports could not be better at this point. The sentinel node biopsy came back with no cancer. So, it looks like there is no lymph node involvement. Fantastic! That means it was stage 1 as originally thought. We'll be sure of that when all of the final pathology comes in on Monday. Whew!

The stay at the hospital didn't go quite so well. Thank you all for your prayers. You probably thought that they were to get me through surgery, but it was the aftermath that I really needed the prayers for instead. I should have know we were in for something when a surgical nurse appeared just before my surgery was due to ask if I had prepared my earlobes properly. Earlobes??? Keep your scalpel off my earlobes! I'm already giving up chunks of my body! I don't want to wake up without earlobes as well. I mean you gotta draw the line somewhere and for me that apparently is at the earlobes. Luckily, she figured out that I was the wrong patient before they knocked me out and chopped up my ears.

Surgery went longer than expected because one of my tissue expanders was faulty and collapsed after the surgeon had closed that breast. So, he had to take it out and replace it right there on the spot. So, basically I got 3 starter boobs for the price of two. (Mom was so proud since she's always looking for a bargain.)

Once we got to my room with the "magic button" machine of pain meds, things took a turn for the worst. Turns out I am basically not able to tolerate any of the good stuff. They cause incredible itching that is almost worst than the pain itself. I was literally clawing holes in myself. So, we had to add two more drugs to the mix to counteract the reaction I was having to the pain medicine. I had a wonderful nurse that first night and the next day even though we could not get the pain under control, they did everything they could to help me. It was night two when things began to slide downhill.

It was at that shift change when everything went wheels off. My nurse for the evening couldn't seem to start an IV, or properly connect the tubing for the antibiotic, or get any of my meds to me as scheduled. I'm not talking 5-10 minutes off here either. I'm talking 45 minutes late for pain medicine (since we ditched the magic button earlier that day), and as much as 1.5 hours late on others. You shouldn't have to call the nurses station to tell them it's time to hang a new bag of antibiotics. But, I had to every 8 hours. So, I realize at this point that I'm going to have to keep the schedule of all 6 of my drugs straight while under the influence of narcotics and great post-op pain if I plan on making it through. I know you're thinking opiates and math don't go together, but you can do amazing things when your life depends on it. Then mom and I set multiple alarms on my smart phone to let us know when we had to start begging for them to bring the meds that my doctors believed I was getting as scheduled. At one point, mom had to go a little postal. It was Baptist postal, so no bad words, but plenty of flat out yelling. Turns out if they think your Mom is crazy and about to call an investigative reporter, they start trying to get you your meds. They also magically produce a security officer to hover around the nurses station.

I'll tell you more tomorrow about the results of surgery and everything else. For now, just a big Thank You all for the prayers. A lot of what lies ahead is uncertain still. But one thing is not, I'll definitely be getting the second half of my reconstruction at a different hospital.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The BIG Day

I'm spending the morning of the big day with my boy who never sleeps in. He's such a wonderful gift. I'm going to miss cuddling with him for the next week or so. I wanted to just say a couple of specific "Thank You's" this morning before I start the weird pre-surgical processes they've given me to do. It includes plastic wrap from the kitchen....

Thank you to my wonderful friend, Susan, for giving me the ability to bring Brayden's sweet voice with me to the hospital, and sleep with him when he's not there. You will never know how much your insight into what I needed when I didn't even know it has meant. And, thanks for coming over and fixing my stupid iPod last night at midnight. You friendship is such a blessing.

To my family, thank you for always loving me. (That hasn't always been easy.) I love each of you so much and want you to know that I'm OK. So, you need to be OK, too.

Thank you to Fellowship Church for the preparation that the last 7 years in that family has given me for this time. I could never have faced the next year without the time I have spent inside those walls, both in Grapevine and Plano. Our church is so full of wonderful people, teachers, and classes. Those, along with Sunday services, have given me what I needed to allow God to completely redesign my life. I'm so excited to see where that's going to end up. I didn't have any idea it involved cancer, but believe what's waiting for me on the back side of this will be worth it. I think this is part of the way He plans to use me. We'll see!

As for the rest of my friends, you guys mean the world to me. Your support and encouraging words have helped give me the strength to get through this so far, so don't stop now! My first two sets of "hair" arrived last night. Let's just say the romance of the "hair as an accessory" is over. I'll need every single one of you to help me through the baldness. I think I'm a little more vain than previously thought. So, please come drag me out of the house into public even when I don't want to go. That's it for now. I'll be back for post-surgery details after they take away my "magic button" of pain management and I can make sense again.

Last Night before the Big Day

I think I'm supposed to be really frightened or stressed about tomorrow. The scariest part right now is that despite my best efforts, I seem to have lost most of the purple markings that I had drawn on me Monday by the plastic surgeon. Hope he can find enough of them to connect the dots. You just can't shower with all the special soaps, scrub the surgical area and keep the ink too. The instructions have been confusing at best.

I'm handling this really well today for the most part. My biggest excitement was counting down the hours until this cancer will be out of me. This time tomorrow I might be in pain, but will be tumor free. That's worth it! It's been incredibly hard to walk around with a time bomb strapped to your chest for more than a month. On the flip side, little things remind me of how different my life is about to be. I was folding laundry last night and putting it away. I grabbed a stack of 8 bras, took them to the bedroom, opened the drawer, and then it hit me. I don't need these anymore. It was 29 years ago the last time I didn't need a bra. It's those moments that bring it all home.

It's then that Aaron Shust's song "Come to Me" begins to play in my head. I love the way he takes scripture and puts it with music so that it lives in your brain and runs through your mind on a loop. I am weary and burdened, and yet I have rest. Thank you, Jesus. Tomorrow the cancer is gone, but the tough part of my battle begins. We'll talk in a couple days...

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