My First Mastectomy (part I)

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of my first mastectomy. (Yes, I had two). I wanted to share my thoughts from that day. This was written a few weeks after surgery, during Preston’s last semester of law school in Idaho:
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“My mastectomy surgery was successful… As far as I can tell… because I wasn’t really there for it…. Or was I? For all I know, they could’ve had a dance party during my surgery, cut off my boob, and called it good. Which is actually what I wanted to do pre-surgery. I called ahead to let my doctor know that I wanted to have a dance party to Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” (get it?) in the OR room right before surgery with the OR team. Going into the OR, I was already connected to an IV and because I’m pregnant, they seemed to think my krumping skills would not be good for the baby. So instead, we compromised with Enya as I fell asleep under anesthesia.

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This picture was taken by my mom hours before my mastectomy. Bald, pregnant, and extremely anxious about surgery, I was so glad my mom was there to comfort me and ease my nerves.

As I was being wheeled into surgery, I honestly felt the strength of all of you- my family and friends who have been praying and thinking of me. I really appreciated all those who reached out to me that day through text message or other means to comfort me. I actually felt a…

sense of calm in the operating room, and I prayed that I would see my OR team as angels, which I did. They were my angels that God sent to me that day to take the cancer out of my body.

I also told the anesthesiologist that I was claustrophobic so they let me hold the mask to my face, instead of them shoving it to my face and strapping it on. That was especially nice to be in control of that. A labor & delivery nurse had a monitor on Fletcher throughout the entire surgery, and he did great. I felt well taken care of. Then the surgeon told me I would be out in 20 seconds, which kind of freaked me out, but then I was out way before the 20 seconds was up. Anesthesia is crazy.

When I woke up post surgery, I was obviously a little out of it. I remember my mom feeding me what I thought were huge bites of applesauce, and I kept saying “Too big! Too big!” Haha. I remember being starving but not being able to handle such “big” bites. After I recovered for a bit, they wheeled me to my room where I’d be for a couple days. When I got to the room, I immediately threw up all that applesauce. Other than that and severe back pain because they wrapped my ace bandage way too tight, my recovery wasn’t bad at all. Oh yeah, except for the sharp burning I would get from moving my right arm in certain ways. I guess when lymph nodes are removed, nerves are irritated. So I still have numbness in my chest and arm.

A week after my surgery, I had a follow up visit with the surgeon. The pathology report determined that only 20% of the breast tissue had cancerous cells, and only 3 of 11 of the lymph nodes were cancerous. So the chemo did its job and the surgery was successful, which is part of the reason why my C-section has been moved back 4 weeks. They also found out that my nipple and skin had cancer cells. So that makes me a little nervous, but we will see what it all means when I get a bone scan/ cat scan after the c-section.

I did end up in the hospital again a couple weeks ago, but I only had to stay for 3 days. While I was in the hospital, Preston drove to northern Nevada for some job interviews, and my girls flew to Las Vegas to be with grandmas until January. So when I was released from the hospital, I drove home to no one, and spent a few days by myself. While Preston was interviewing in northern Nevada, a firm asked him to come to Vegas to interview in person. So instead of driving back up to Idaho to be with me for Thanksgiving, he ended up driving 8 hours south to his hometown. I told him to stay the rest of the week there to be with the girls and other family, and that I would be fine up here by myself. But then we decided that I would fly out to Vegas instead. I got permission to go from one of my doctors, so my ticket was booked. The next day when I arrived at the airport, I got a call from another one of my doctors who said that I should not travel on an airplane. I started laughing and told her that I was already here. I promised her that I would mask and glove up, and that I would stay away from people as much as possible. Spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Vegas with Preston’s family was AWESOME. I haven’t been that social and around that many people in a long time. It felt good. I have been trying to stay away from people for months and with such low energy, I haven’t been able to get out much at all anyway. So now that I haven’t had chemo for a while, I finally have energy and don’t need to nap at least once a day. Now that I actually have energy, I realize how pathetic I must’ve been during my chemo days (I’m sure Preston would agree). I can now do things for myself, and I finally feel pretty normal.

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Our impromptu weekend in Vegas for Thanksgiving 2013

Preston was offered the job with the firm in Las Vegas, as well as a clerkship in Lovelock, Nevada. He ended up accepting the clerkship. Don’t bother looking up Lovelock on a map because you won’t find it. The population is under 2000. When Preston started describing what was in this town and he stopped after he said a McDonald’s and a gas station, I knew I was in for a long year. Thankfully, this position is for only a year, and we can do anything for a year, right?! He’ll start at the beginning of January. The timing couldn’t be any worse. My c-section is scheduled for Dec. 26th. Two weeks later, I need to start Taxol Chemo. Preston’s insurance through his employer won’t kick in until March 1st ☹ So now, we are scrambling to find insurance and figure out where I should finish out my treatment. Our plan is for me to either stay in Idaho under my current insurance, or find insurance in California and stay with my parents, or find insurance in Las Vegas and stay with my in-laws. However, finding and applying for insurance has been extremely frustrating and stressful.

So our lives are crazy, and we can’t wait till all this is over. But all this we are going through is just going to make us better in the end. I know having cancer doesn’t just affect me. It affects all those around me. My husband has been burdened with so much, including finishing his last semester of law school, looking for a job, and taking care of the girls and me. My mom and mother-in-law have also helped our family so much and I really appreciate their sacrifices away from their normal lives for us.”
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As I read this tonight, I’m laughing at my comment, “So our lives are crazy, and we can’t wait till all this is over.” Ironically, I’m still saying this today. So I’m wondering; when does it stop? My life was certainly crazy back then. I was trying to figure out where to live to finish out my treatments, researching the best private insurance options (that was a huge headache), helping pack up the house for our move, supporting Preston in his last semester of law school and helping to figure out where he should accept a job. It was also a time of lots of doctor appointments and frequent stays in the hospital. My WBC count was always too low and I was too weak to drink enough water and get enough nutrients in my body on my own. I always craved an IV drip to hydrate my body. I spent so much time in that hospital. I was basically famous there. The ER staff knew me by name, and the L&D nurses always kept the corner room empty for me to return.

Today, it’s a different crazy, but it’s equally stressful. I have all these things I want to accomplish, but also, I can’t wait till it’s all over. Our benefit concert last week was so fun, but I’m glad it’s over so I don’t have to plan anymore. Also, we are moving into yet another rental in a couple weeks until we figure out where to eventually end up. It will be so nice when we are finally settled. I can’t wait! I am working on setting up a non-profit organization, but I also can’t wait till that’s completed. And the list goes on.

So instead of impatiently looking ahead, I realize I need to take time to reflect. I’m now asking myself these questions: Am I enjoying the process? Am I looking too much in the future without finding joy in the moment?

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop saying, “I can’t wait till all this is over,” but I do know that I can now and then remind myself to enjoy the present, no matter how chaotic it feels.

Master Oogway said it best, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”

oogway

 

About Melanie

Hi. My name is Melanie. I currently live in Salt Lake City with my husband and our three children. Although I have been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, people are continuously surprised of my optimism for life. For this reason, I have started this blog to inspire others to live life to the fullest as if they had Five Years To Live.


4 Responses to My First Mastectomy (part I)

  1. Julie Keller says:

    Thanks for sharing this Mel – you are such an inspiration. And GIRL, you look good bald. There, I said it.

  2. Tiffany Ginocchio says:

    First things first, you are amazing…always have been!
    I love your thirst for life and all it has to offer! You are an awesome example to me!
    Love you Mel!!

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