Thursday, November 28, 2013

Health Update - It's Been A While

It's been quite a while since I have updated you on my health because clearly my focus is on moving forward and putting all of this cancer business in the past :) Remember how a few months ago I said I was putting the rain boots and slicker away because the forecast was only calling for a small chance of rain (recurrence)? No need to carry that extra stuff around when the greater chance was for sunshine or the occasional cloudy days!

Well, let me first share my sunshine with you because it has been bright and sunny in my neighborhood lately. Despite a 9 hour surgery, a 2 day ICU stay and a 2 day regular hospital room stay nothing could have kept the joy from my heart! Yep, that's right, the sunshine kept shining through it all and it's because I just had a SUCCESSFUL reconstruction!!! After 2 failed attempts in 2010, I finally had a successful, state of the art, breast reconstruction and it WORKED!

Friends, you all have no idea unless you were with me during that dark time of failed reconstructions 3 years ago how much joy has filled my heart and soul since waking in the recovery room on November 18th. I was not one of the lucky ones who was able to have immediate reconstruction at the time of my mastectomies. My oncologist and surgeon said my cancer was too advanced and aggressive to do that. They wanted me to get through the intense and heavy chemo first before doing any type of reconstruction. I was fine with that as I just wanted to beat the cancer- take one thing at a time- knowing that reconstruction would follow eventually.

And it did follow. One year after finishing all chemo the first time (I had to go back and do another year after my experimental drug was stopped due to failure), I had my first attempt at reconstruction by having tissue expanders placed behind the muscle in my chest wall. Every week for 10 weeks I had to go to Nashville to have them injected with saline to stretch my skin. This was to make room for an implant that would eventually be placed. Week after week my skin would not stretch on the side that had been radiated...at all. The pain got worse and worse. The muscle spasms got more frequent and I began having trouble even breathing. I was barely able to breathe without pain medication and muscle relaxers. It was awful!!! This was from July 2010-September 2010.

So my former plastic surgeon, said we needed to do another type of reconstruction...a lat flap. Basically it was the next least invasive type of surgery. He moved part of the latissimus muscle from my back and wrapped it around to my chest as a flap and placed a new expander behind it and we proceeded with expansions again. That surgery did work! And I got expanded to almost the right size.  However, there was still a lot of pain and I ended up getting septic. This meant I had to have everything removed. At that point I was DONE!!! I was angry and confused and hurt and said "screw it all...never again."

But something happened. Time passed. God healed those emotional wounds of anger and hurt. He eased the physical pain through physical therapy and time. He showed me who I was in Him. He made everything okay. And everything was okay...and then came February 2013. I told David that I was thinking about having reconstruction again. His eyes got huge. He couldn't believe it after how I hadn't spoken about it in 2 years. NOT A WORD!!! He was very supportive and said I could do anything I wanted to do and he would be behind me all the way. I didn't mention it again until I made an appointment in June and even then I went by myself - to my new doctor who was recommended by several friends, my oncologist and lots of online community. I assumed my only option was expanders again. Not so much. Something new. A gold standard for women who have had radiation since our skin is forever changed and not pliable. No expanders...no implants...nothing "foreign" in my body for it to reject or become infected by!!!

So I made another appointment with him in July and this time took David with me so that he could go over everything with him too. I wanted all of our questions answered and mainly I wanted to make sure David felt as good about this doctor as I did. David is a very good judge of character and first impressions. When we left that day, I had scheduled my surgery and we went to Cheesecake Factory to celebrate. We were both excited for my upcoming surgery...in November!

We decided not to tell anyone for a few more months...not even family. We just wanted to treasure this little secret of ours and have our joy...just us. And then after we told family, we didn't even tell many of our friends... only our neighbor, pastor, and a few choice others beforehand because this was just such a special and private thing for us after all we had been through before. We didn't want a lot of people knowing until afterwards.

Some took offense. Some didn't understand why we wouldn't tell this surgery news, and some totally understood. The main reason was that I wanted to spend most of my time talking to the Lord about it and getting my "feeling" about it from Him. I didn't want outside sources influencing me and not be able to really hear from the Lord. I also wanted to have this be just something between me and David until we knew if the surgery was going to work. I didn't want it to be this huge build-up and then feel this huge let down if we were to have told people other news.

However, I had my first post-op appointment this week and 3 of my 4 drains were pulled. My incisions are looking great according to my surgeon and he couldn't believe my progress. I am already almost off of my pain medicine. I am following his orders strictly as in resting other than to walk to the bathroom or to take a shower. I am not allowed to lift anything over 5 pound for 6 weeks.   I am overfilled with joy and thankfulness. I have faith that all things are going to continue healing well. I am now 10 days out and can't wait to see where I am in the next 10 days.

More of an update later. If you don't mind...please pray for my continued healing!!!

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