"Pam" was diagnosed at the age of 44. By all measures her cancer was "worse" than mine. She was a "triple negative." The bottom line of that is that it was a more aggressive cancer and not receptive to hormone treatment. Her grade and stage was 3. She had a bilateral mastectomy, which is what I'm mentally gearing up for on Thursday. It was nice to talk to someone else who had been there. I do have a good friend who went through this about a year and a half ago that has been very open with me. But I'm always on the lookout for more information and experiences.
Some useful advice Pam gave me:
- When I wake up, my chest will be flat or even concave. She advised me to wait a day or so to look at it in the mirror. Maybe put my hands up there to "feel" the flatness first. When I do venture a peek, have someone there with me.
- The fluid in the drains will start out red. There may even be "floaties" in it, tissue or other stuff like that. Don't freak out on it. Just measure it and dump.
- The drains will make it difficult to be comfortable. They are probably the worst part. In the hospital, prop my arms up on the sides with pillows. Speaking of pillows, ACS is going to be sending me 3 special pillows to help in my recovery.
- When the drains are removed, it may hurt. The tubes are going to be about 1-2 inches inside my body for several days, if not a week or two. There is the possibility that scar tissue may form around the tubes. When they yank it out, it could hurt. Judy, the nurse at Kaiser, suggested I take a pain pill before the appointment. I will definitely do that.
- Many people have never had cancer or been touched by cancer. So they will say "let me know if there is anything I can do." This is their way of trying to help. I need to let them. Rather than say everything is okay like you have been doing all your life, now is a time for you to come up with things that you need done. Even if its a ride for the kids, or having someone bring you a food you are craving. Get over being self-sufficient.
At one point in the conversation, she mentioned that she didn't know how "attached" I was to my breasts, but they are killing me. I shared with her that I am very aware of that, and wish they were gone already. That I don't even want to touch them. I have very similar feelings towards my cesarean scar, although those have faded with time. But I am repulsed by my breasts, especially the left one, to be sure. Yet, at the same time, I have flashes where the thought of surgery puts a panic in the pit of my stomach. It reminds me of feelings that I have had when pregnant. I'd be going along just fine, and then think about the looming challenge of childbirth and have a momentary freak-out to myself saying, "Oh my God....can I do this?" It is kind of like that, but worse. Because at least at the end of childbirth, you have a baby. At the end of this, I'll be scarred and mutilated with painful recovery and chemo to look forward to.
Pam has survived a stage 3 cancer that was more aggressive than mine. She has gone on to finish her education and live life. She said that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It's just that the tunnel takes turns at points where you can't see the light. In those places, you just have to get past it. She is sending me a bunch of stuff, pillows, bra stuffers, etc. from ACS. Nice! More freebies! She is going to call again on Wednesday night to see how I'm doing and answer any last minute questions I may have.
On another positive note, Eric gave me the go-ahead to get some help around the house. I've had two wonderful women here cleaning my house all day. It has been 7 hours so far! They are dusting blinds, doing windows, cleaning appliances...it is fantastic. They are going to be coming every other week for the foreseeable future. He doesn't want me exposed to bacteria and stuff once my immune system is down during chemo. That works for me, I've got to say. :-)
My prayer requests today:
- That I be able to sleep. I've actually slept 6-7 hours each night for the past few nights. But I know that is a gift from God and I'd like it to continue. Especially the night before surgery. I have to report to Kaiser at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday.
- That the cancer not grow anymore.
- That my family not be fearful. Eric had an episode today where he started crying in front of the kids saying that the thought of me not getting through this, "scared the hell out of him." We all have our weak moments. Everyone needs extra strength this week as we gear up for what is to come.