One of the ways that I deal with stress is to become very analytical. Warning, analytical medical nerdery ahead. Tomorrow (May 20) am having oncoplastic breast conserving surgery in my left breast, axillary dissection of the lymph nodes on the left side, and reduction mammoplasty in my right breast. What this means is the general surgeon will resect the tumour and margins laparoscopically, and also remove some of the lymph nodes. Then the plastic surgeon will take over to reshape the remaining tissue in the left breast, taking into account the effects of subsequent radiation therapy, and do a reduction in the right breast to mirror the left one.
No big deal… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Drains will be inserted into my breast and armpit, which I’m told have a ‘hand grenade-like bulb’ (that’s how the admitting nurse described it) that I’ll squeeze to remove fluid from those areas. A week or so later they’ll be removed, thankfully by a nurse instead of by me like I did with my knee surgery. (Note to anyone considering doing it themselves….the amount of tubing to be removed is waaaaaay more than you think it’ll be.) I’ll have pain meds, anti-nausea meds and Saltines to look after the possible side effects of the pain meds, Vega shakes and Good Life Juices for when I don’t feel like eating solids, lots of pillows to prop me up while sleeping on my back, Andy has been warned that I won’t be able to lift anything for at least three weeks….. yah, it’s going to be a fun few weeks around here….
The stock answer for recovery time is 6-8 weeks but that of course takes into consideration the uber-fit-fast-healing 20-something, and the can-barely-walk-unsupported 80 year old. And really, how I define recovery is likely completely different from how others do. I have an appointment with my physio three weeks post-op to check how I’m doing against my baseline, take into account what my surgeon recommends, then adjust my rehab program to suit. Right now I’m mentally preparing for at least two to three weeks of feeling really crappy, a few more weeks of not being able to lift anything and trying not to drive Andy crazy. Natasha has reminded me that I anticipated the worst for chemo and it turned out way better so let’s hope that’s the case with the surgery.
The past two weeks have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I’m very aware that my anxiety thermometer is elevated these days, which makes me more irritable and emotional. Andy continues to handle it like a champ and never fails to make me laugh several times a day. Both my SAR teams welcomed me back with open arms for a scant twelve days of being on-call, although Paul had to remind me that I was on “light duty” several times (ie no you don’t get to hop out of bed at 6am to do a vehicle over the bank ropes call on the north island). Operating comms on a large search with 130 SAR members from across the Island and Lower Mainland filled my soul so much that even hours later when I got home my smile was so big that Andy started laughing when he saw me. I sent texts to my Mom, sis, kid and several friends that night shouting that I couldn’t remember the last time I was this happy.
On the flip side, two days later I was all geared up to meet a good friend for a ride when I received a text from the hospital reminding me of my pre-op bloodwork appointment…..in an hour. I quickly called my riding partner who was on her way to my house to let her know that I had to cancel. She, like the phenomenal woman that she is, took it in stride and we rescheduled for a few hours later. After I hung up I stood in my bedroom feeling SO ANGRY AT CANCER for getting in the way of my fun. I’ve had to take a year off of the hoist team and missed out on recert training this weekend, I’m going to have to stop riding just as I’m starting to get back into it, I won’t be able to work Rory probably until the fall, I missed almost an entire ski season….. It took everything in me not to throw a full-blown-melt-down-temper-tantrum. Remember in the last blog post when I said I didn’t identify with the #fuckcancer hashtag? Just kidding, I take that back.
On the way down to the hospital I was resentful at having to do MORE things related to my treatment, mad at myself for being resentful for having to do something that’s healing me, and fighting hard to control the urge to just cry in the truck. Those of you who know me well understand that I cry in the shower, not in public, and no, that’s not going to change. I’m not one of those people who feel better after “a good cry”, especially in public, I just feel drained and broken. In Catherine and Keple’s words – I like to think of myself as mostly fembot.
For me, exercise in the out-of-doors (that’s an Andyism) fixes just about everything. After a two hour ride with Skye and Rory all of the aforementioned feeling sorry for myself feelings were gone and I was back on track. My physio suggested paddle boarding as a good rehab activity so I gave in and bought one. What I’d really like to do is get back to surfing but that likely will have to wait until the fall. Another one of my way-back buddies from my surfing days has been working out in Tofino lately so has been sending me pics and videos from our favourite surf spots to keep my spirits up.
Spending today puttering and getting things ready for surgery tomorrow, getting outside to try to keep my nerves at bay. If anyone wants to drop off fresh veg or meals in the next two weeks to supplement the last of the freezer goodies I’m sure Andy would really appreciate that since I won’t be doing any cooking in the foreseeable future. Also, I need six 8′ 1X2 pieces of lumber and four pieces of 1′ rebar to build a frame for the tomatoes if anyone local happens to be at Slegg or Home Depot….and if anyone wants to help Andy build it since I won’t be allowed to do anything that would be great. Learning to ask for and accept help. 🙂
Feeling all your love and hugs from afar!