Pre-Surgery Update

It’s been almost 2 weeks now that I found out my cancer had returned and I’m officially packed and ready to head to the other coast tomorrow in preparation of my surgery Monday afternoon.Β I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by.

Packing was a little different this time as there was one essential item that wasn’t coming with me. My bras! I know it sounds kind of silly, but when it finally clicked in my head that I would no longer be wearing my bras, I felt a whole in my stomach and a pain in my heart. I mean it’s not like I just received the news yesterday but in that moment, it felt like I had.

I have one day left before I say goodbye to the “lady lumps” that have been causing so much emotional stress in my life.

While removing them is the best decision for my future, they’ve been mine for 32 years now and I think that merits the right to be a little upset about losing them.

The plan for my surgery is a bilateral mastectomy, (one side required and the other preventative) with reconstruction. The reconstruction will take place in phases as they will not be putting in the final implants right away. I’ve opted to go with the placement of “Expanders” first at the recommendation of my plastic surgeon, due to the fact that I am small to begin with and have had radiation to the left breast in the past, making the healing process a more difficult one. It will reduce my chances of complications due to infection or my incision not healing correctly.

I admit I’m a bit nervous and am overwhelmed but I try to stay positive and remind myself that what I’m doing now will bring me so much peace in the future.

Flowers from my love :)
Flowers from my love πŸ™‚

I’ve also been blessed to have such an amazing support system to help me get through my daily struggles. My partner, family, close friends and new friends. They’ve all been an essential part of my mission to “keep it together”.

I will continue to blog throughout my recovery so be sure to follow along. I hope what I have to share will be both educational and comforting to others who may be going through something similar or know someone who is.

At the end of the day my purpose for sharing my story is to educate others and help in any way I can to comfort others going through the same. The support I’ve received along the way has really just been a blessing from all of you. One of which I am extremely grateful for.

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth πŸ™‚

P.S. The painting above was done by one of my co-workers. The woman represents me and the 2 flowers above my head represent my journey, one flower being darker than the other to resemble a larger and more difficult journey the second time around. The flowers below are white representing peace and the bird with the survivor ribbon represents my freedom and survivor-ship after completing my journey.  This painting truly touched my heart. ❀

Inconclusive results and work challenges…

During my recovery I had been scheduled to do a CT scan of my pelvis to rule out anymore cancerous activity. I had received the results of the scan only to find that once again they were inconclusive. The area of concern couldn’t be clearly identified so, the question still remained, “what was it that lit up during my PET/CT scan”?

We were beginning to think that it may have just been a mistake and, since I was being scheduled to meet my oncology team, the recommendation was to allow the oncologist to review the results and determine what further tests needed to be done. Although I had my concerns, I was no longer as fearful of what the results might be. The fear had slowly disappeared leaving me more at peace.

My first day back at work finally came and I couldn’t have been happier. It was refreshing to have a change of scenery and be around people again. I was still coping with the emotional turmoil I held inside me but, being around people that didn’t know about my journey was refreshing. Cancer had already taken over so much of my life that is was nice to still have a part of me it hadn’t touched. At work I was the same old Elizabeth and it felt great. This helped balance me emotionally but, physically I began to cross new challenges.

I couldn’t work as quickly as I did before. My ROM was much better but the amount of weight I could handle was very minimal. While working with patients, there were times I needed to assist in lifting them and that proved to be a challenge. So much, that I would have to call for assistance, as my number one concern was patient safety. Working with heavy files was also difficult but, eventually I figured out a way to work around it and was able to find my own rhythm again.

It wasn’t long however, before other aspects of my recovery slowed me down yet again. The skin on my left arm and breast area had become so sensitive. It felt as though it were on fire. Each time my clothing or bra would rub against it I wanted to scream. Can you recall a time when you had a really terrible sunburn? One so bad that the best remedy was to be in the nude? Well, multiply that several times and that’s what I felt.Β To make things worse, when I would sweat, even the tiniest bit, it would sting like salt to an open wound.

My doctor had warned me about the discomfort I would feel because of the nerves that had been disturbed during my surgery but, I never imagined it to be so painful. I just wanted to lock myself up in the bathroom and cry. In my desperate attempts for a quick solution, I began to utilize ice packs to somewhat numb the area and keep it feeling cooler. It seemed to be working so, I did it as often as I needed to in order to remain sane at work.

This continued for weeks before it eventually calmed down and became more tolerable. I just kept telling myself, ” if this is the worse thing that happens today, things are really looking good because it could certainly be worse”. I’m fully aware of the fact that we shouldn’t write off our own hardships as something we need to just simply get over but, there were others going through far worse and it helped me to stay focused on the positive…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

The start of my emotional roller coaster….

I was successfully reaching my physical goals during my recovery but, emotionally I was riding the most intense roller coaster of my life. The kind that made your stomach tie itself in knots and could make you lose your lunch. Since the beginning of my journey I tried to keep a very positive outlook. I refused to say things like “I’m going to win my battle against breast cancer” or even refer to it as the “fight against breast cancer”. Why? Well, it all starts with the “law of attraction.”

My partner and I were so turned off by the amount of negativity in words like “fight” and “battle”, that we agreed to use less aggressive words. For example, instead of “my battle with breast cancer”, we refer to it as “my journey with breast cancer”. Did you notice the difference? One almost instinctively sends you into “defense mode” where as the other places you into a sort of “daydream” as I like to call it.

A journey is often times associated with something positive so your mind begins to create happier thoughts allowing you to question the good that can come of your current situation. For a while this really worked for me because I was genuinely ready to explore what this gift was trying to teach me. However, even the most positive people can hit extreme lows. That’s what began happening only days after my surgery.Β I was motivated to set physical goals but emotionally I had become angry and resentful.

Why me? I’m a good person. I even began to question god himself. With so many bad people out there, why did he choose me? I have never be one to wish anything bad on someone else but I was just desperately trying to find logic in something that I couldn’t understand. I felt like such a terrible person. How could I question god and his plan for me? Why couldn’t I just be happy that I was given another chance and continue to see it as the gift it was?Β I realize now I was chosen because of my strength but none of that made sense then. I was fearful of the unknown and I felt tainted. I was marked by this disease and I would forever be known as the girl with cancer. I felt like somehow I had lost my identity.

I had so much time to think in those two weeks and all I was doing was feeling bad for myself. At times I would even cry myself to sleep. I was so scared of the cancer still being there after surgery or the possibility of it coming back. My mind was playing dirty tricks on me and making me sick to my stomach. I had reached a new level of weakness and vulnerability. A side of me I never wanted to encounter. I wanted so badly to set a positive example and resemble a woman full of courage and strength but the truth is, I was a frightened little girl drowning in my own fears.

I remember asking god to please help me find my purpose in this journey and apologizing for my ungrateful behavior. There were people losing there lives because of cancer and here I was complaining I ever had it, even after a successful surgery that had removed it from my body. “I’m such a horrible person”, I thought to myself. I couldn’t believe how selfish I was acting and how much I couldn’t control those emotions. I think back to that moment and realize now that the emotional roller coaster I was on was normal and all part of the journey but, in that moment, all I could do was write and pray that I would one day regain my sanity and again feel like the Elizabeth I once was…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

 

*** Note to reader ***

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!! See you again Monday! πŸ™‚

 

My 2 weeks of recovery…

I woke up the following day after surgery feeling like a train wreck. I wasn’t in extreme pain but I was exhausted and still drowsy from my medications. I was actually able to get around pretty well. I’d say the only surprise I had that day was the blue urine I had as a result of a dye called Lymphazurin used during my surgery to help locate my sentinel node. I was a smurf for the day, no problem! πŸ™‚

All was going well until a few days after surgery when I finally made the decision to stop my pain medications. I couldn’t take it anymore. They were making me nauseas, constipated, bloated and I was gaining a substantial amount of weight. Within just a few days I had gained about 10lbs. I felt horrible and it had nothing to do with vanity. I just felt like I was accumulating everything and releasing nothing resulting in my body feeling like a toxic dump.Β It took several days before my body began to regulate itself and I was beginning to feel uncomfortable but, the pain I felt from not taking my medications was well worth feeling more like myself again.

My surgeon called me within the first week to see how I was feeling and to report his findings. I explained what I had been going through and he reassured me it was normal. Till this day I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better surgeon. He kept me informed of his thoughts every step of the way and it made me feel like I too had a say in what was happening. That’s a big deal to anyone let alone an ex control freak like myself. I wanted to be involved in everything no matter how big or small it seemed to anyone else. It was my body and I had the right to know what was going to happen to it.

He made mentioned that after the biopsy of my sentinel node they observed the cells carefully to see if the cancer had spread and, to his surprise he found 1 lymph node positive for a single cluster (5-6 cells) of individual tumor cells. Since it was such a small count he removed only a few lymph nodes but needless to say it was something to consider when I sat down with my oncologist to discuss my treatment plan.

You can only imagine how I translated this in my head. “Why is he so calm? I was told the cancer was incapsulated. If it was, how did any of it, even the tiniest bit, spread to the lymph nodes? Wouldn’t it have been better to just remove them all?” I was scared and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t understand how that wasn’t a big deal. My surgeon reassured me and helped put me at ease.

I later received a separate phone call with the news about my PET/CT scan. There was an area of concern in my right pelvis. “What?” I began to have flashbacks of the times my gynecologist suggested I have an ultrasound to keep an eye on the cysts I was developing. Prior to surgery we had talked about the correlation between breast cancer and cervical or ovarian cancer but, I wanted to believe that since I found my breast cancer on time, it wouldn’t have had the chance to spread elsewhere. However, regardless of what I thought, we had to be certain so I was scheduled for a CT scan immediately.

My family and closes friends were concerned. I hadn’t even finished recovering from my surgery and they weren’t sure if I could handle this or even be up to doing more tests. In all honesty, I wasn’t. I was afraid to know that I could have been wrong and that the cancer may have spread. That would have been the second thing I let go by. How could I live with myself? Than again, how could I live with myself now delaying something so important? If indeed there was cancer, waiting wasn’t going to change that and could potentially make it worse.

I wasn’t cleared to drive yet and since my mom and I worked in the same office we weren’t able to be off at the same time. This again was the perfect example of the importance of a solid support system. Without any hesitation my bosses wife told me she would be picking me up and accompanying me to my appointment. In fact, when the day came, she even sat in the room with me while I had my scan done to make sure they had me in a comfortable position and that I didn’t feel alone.

Between the many beautiful cards filled with words of love, prayer and encouragement, the beautiful bouquets of flowers and edible arrangements and the occasional house visits, I had all of the support anyone could ever wish for. There was still a long journey ahead but I wasn’t going to be alone. I was reminded of that again within those few weeks of recovery and it gave me the strength I needed to continue…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

*** Note to reader ***

Be sure to check out my photos tab to see pictures of me taken during my recover. πŸ™‚

The importance of a good support system…

I thought I could handle it all. In fact, my main focus at the beginning of my journey was how I was going to balance having cancer with keeping a positive outlook around my loved ones. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry or to think I was weak and feeling bad for myself. It’s not that I didn’t accept this gift and find in it the opportunity for greatness. It was just that even though my mind was able to understand that logic, there was also the other side of me that was to proud to admit that I was in pain, confused, fearful and uncertain.

So many of the answers I had received still felt so vague. I didn’t know what my life would be like after surgery and what my treatments would consist of. There were still talks of other tests and possibly more surgeries after the one I was already scheduled for and it just made my mind wander. I researched as mush as I could and listed out the many scenarios but it got to a point that it all just consumed me. It was all I could think of and the things that once kept me sane were no longer apart of my daily routine. I was no longer running or training for any event. I thought to myself, “what’s the point of training when I don’t know what’s going to happen next?”

That was the second worse thing I could have done. Not only was I isolating myself while trying to build this image of strength, I was also keeping myself from doing the things I loved and that kept my mind and body balanced. With only a few days left before my surgery, I realized that I needed to embrace my support system. I had so many people who loved me and wanted to help in anyway they could. I needed to let them in and also learn to let go of that control I was still longing for. That’s one of the most important things my journey has taught me.

It’s okay to accept help from others. It is in no way a sign of weakness. Instead, it taught me to be humble. You can’t always go around life thinking you can handle everything it throws your way. Sometimes it requires assistance from those around you to get the job done. I reached out to my mom and partner for the most help but humbly accepted help from others as well.

From day one I kept everything in order. I had a copy of every test result, office visit, payment made, everything! I kept it all organized in a binder and to be honest, that too kept me sane. All of that organization was me still having a little control over a situation I had no control of. This was also a huge help to those closes to me. They would have all my contacts and appointments at the palm of their hand and the ability to answer any questions necessary without my needing to be there. I was letting them in and you know what? It felt amazing to know I could do that. To know I had such a strong support system backing me up and with me every step of the way…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

See you Monday for surgery! πŸ™‚