When you’ve been diagnosed with that c-word, “cancer”, you get really scared when you experience pain in any part of your body post-surgery. I’ve already had three surgeries related to breast cancer following my Invasive, Moderately Differentiated, Ductal Carcinoma diagnosis, and I react the same every time—wondering if it’s a recurrence since it was invasive, meaning cancer cells traveled outside the cell wall of the tumor.
Three months ago, I started getting pain in both breasts, more so in the left breast. I thought maybe I pulled a muscle or something. When the pain started getting worse in my left breast then radiating up my chest wall and under both arms, I started getting really scared. I called my plastic surgeon and was seen. He told me it wasn’t breast cancer, which answered my prayers. He said I have a large amount of scar tissue that’s really bad in my left breast, and is starting on the right side. Also, the bottom part of my left breast was severely caved in and it showed even through clothes. I couldn’t even wear scoop neck shirts either because my chest wall was caved in as well. I had to wear very baggy tops that came up to my neck.
Needless to say, being a woman, I was mortified. He told me that even though all this is going on and that I’m in a lot of pain, I can thank my breast cancer surgeon for the great job she did at clearing out so much tissue when I had the double mastectomy and tram flap reconstruction just before Christmas of 2011. That’s the primary reason I’ve been cancer-free, I guess. I was then scheduled for surgery.
The surgery was two months ago—in June of this year—and I have to tell you, it wasn’t as excruciatingly painful as the previous three, but it’s right up there with extremely painful. He removed the large amount of scar tissue from right and left sides and breasts then took fat from my hips to fill in my chest wall and left breast. The surgery lasted for about 4-5 hours, and I was left with massive bruises from the liposuction. I don’t understand why woman voluntarily have liposuction. I never would have done it, but it was so necessary—I didn’t want that constant “breast cancer” reminder.
My surgeon tells me I do heal very slowly, and that when I do heal, I heal beautifully. My body doesn’t like to be invaded except by my husband, and this time, not only was I in pain in my whole upper torso, I was also in pain in my hip areas as well. I found solace in a bed wedge. It has been my pal through all my surgeries, keeping me on my back, legs raised so that there’s no pulling on my torso. I tried sleeping without it one night, and accidentally rolled over on my side…OWWWW!!! I’m going to have to use it until I heal completely from all these surgeries.
After my fourth surgery, my plastic surgeon suggested that I start another round of physical therapy so I could gain more motion in my arms and torso, focusing on core strength. I was going to my PT sessions. I told them I was having some pain in my left breast, and that it may be because of my previous surgery so they focused on core strength initially. The pain was getting worse, and one day, as I was drying off after a shower, I noticed this brownish, purplish area on the surgical site of my left breast. I passed it off as a hematoma from my latest surgery, thinking my body would just dissolve it. When it started hurting a whole lot more and growing into a bubble, getting more pronounced, I panicked. Is this breast cancer again? I prayed that it wasn’t.
I called my surgeon’s office, but he wasn’t in that week. I thought maybe I was overreacting and suggested I send pictures of the area in question in an email so they could see if I needed to be seen, ala “Weiner”. I felt kind of creepy taking a “selfie”, but in this case I felt it was justified. The pics were then sent to my surgeon who ordered an antibiotic right away. The bubble was so big, I put gauze pads on the site and taped it up. Good thing because the next day, it burst and there was blood all over my clothes. I was so traumatized at this point, but later realized it was blood mixed with a lot of fluid so it looked like it was all blood.
I was seen by another surgeon in the same office. He said it was a big seroma and he proceeded to clean it out. He said the fluid buildup is causing the pain. My left breast was now double the size of my right breast, and it hurt so much. He said he was going to pack it with gauze and that I could take it out the next day.
The next day, I didn’t want to take it out because I didn’t know what would happen when I take out the gauze packing. Would blood squirt all over the place? I went to my PCP’s office, but she wasn’t in the office so I saw a nurse practitioner. I couldn’t believe it when she said they didn’t do wound care. She wouldn’t touch me because she didn’t want to be responsible. I had to do it myself, and it was gross—it was green slime with some blood. I redressed it and she kept telling me I have to be seen by my surgeon because it didn’t look good. As soon as I left, I called my surgeon’s office, traumatized.
I was seen the very next day by my surgeon’s assistant. She said that it’s common in women who have had lumpectomies and mastectomies. I’m thankful that this is the first time I’ve ever had trouble with the stitch sites after four surgeries. She cleaned out the seroma and said there’s so much fluid that my surgeon will have to see me when he returns the following week. She said she was going to repack it, but that it has to be done every day to avoid the risk of infection and said it was a little infected and inflamed. Are you kidding me? I told her I would have a problem doing it every day and asked if I could do it twice before seeing my surgeon, and she said that would work. I then told her to get me a mirror because I would have to duplicate what she did. When I ever looked in the mirror at the image under my left breast as she was cleaning out the area, I almost vomited. THERE’S A BIG HOLE WHERE THE SEROMA WAS! I could see the inside of my breast. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I started crying, but held my own after the initial shock. The hole is about the size of an adult thumb nail. She used long stainless steel forceps, 5-6″ in length and pushed the sterile gauze into the hole. She then applied gauze over the wound and taped it.
The first time I repacked it myself, I cried like a baby. I’m not ashamed to admit that. I cried because of everything my husband and I have gone through. I cried because of all the pain I’ve had to endure throughout this nightmare. I cried because women shouldn’t have to go through this. I cried because instead of a cure, they’re throwing us treatments that are making them richer, and us sicker. I cried harder when I repacked it a second time—there was another seroma starting near the original seroma site. I couldn’t believe it. By this time, the fluid was swelling my breast so much, I thought it might burst, and the fluid traveled to my chest and upper abdominal area.
Then came the day I finally saw my surgeon, and he agreed that there was a second seroma forming. He cleaned out both sites and removed some fluid, but said I needed to be hospitalized for the rest of the procedure. I almost cried—another surgery! My husband was devastated, and said I was handling it better than he was. Now I have two holes in my left breast that have to remain open until after the next surgery. By this time, I was comfortable enough to pack the sites every day.
The only thing I focused on was the fact that after this LAST SURGERY, I wouldn’t be in any more pain. That would be the end of it, and I can heal and concentrate on getting back to work. That’s what I put out into the universe—that I’m going to do great, and that God will guide my surgeon’s hand and I’ll be fine.
The day before surgery, I was going out of my mind. I was sick and tired of staying in the house. I needed to get out, enjoy life and take my mind off of surgery the following day. My husband and I went to a vineyard and sampled some of what they had—me, wines; him, beers. It was great, and the wine, even though they were small portions, went right to my head because I always fast the day before surgery so I had a very empty stomach. I’m a very light drinker to begin with so even a small glass of wine has me feeling pretty good. We were laughing and having a great time with other people there and also the person who tended bar.
We were on our way home when my husband got a call from one of his aunts. She wanted us to go over her house because she had something to give us. When we got there, we had a great conversation, lots of laughs, and I was still feeling the wine. We talked and talked, and I really enjoyed being there with her. Then she gave me a plastic bag with something in it. There was a card explaining what the contents was. It was a beautiful blue triangular Prayer Shawl, and I was floored! I wrapped myself in it and I felt like God was tenderly holding me in His loving arms. I then cried happy tears that she would do that for me. I couldn’t believe she took the time to get that for me. I am truly loved by my husband’s family, and now every time I put this Prayer Shawl around me, I’ll close my eyes and think of her, and of God’s love and all the prayers that went into making it for me.
I never knew the meaning of a Prayer Shawl until my husband’s aunt told me. Someone prayed for me while they crocheted my Prayer Shawl, and upon its completion, a priest blessed it especially for me. How can I not feel blessed? I wore it all the way home even thought it was almost 90º, but I didn’t care. I wrapped myself up in it while I watched TV, while I slept and I even wore it to the hospital the next morning, but left it in the truck.
I don’t know what the heck happened, but I was floating on air this time around. I was in such high spirits, and for someone who hadn’t eaten for 41 hours, I wasn’t even hungry. When my husband and I walked up to the desk, the woman asked if I was checking in. My reply was, “Yes, I am! I guess it’s better to be checking in than checking out, huh?” They all laughed and that was the way I felt the whole day. When I was waiting to go into the OR, a bunch of the OR nurses came over to me and hugged me, wishing me well—they all knew me by name—I’ve been there so many times, all the anesthesiologists know me as well LOL. That prompted my husband to say, “They all know you by name. I’m wondering if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.” Then we both laughed. When my surgeon came to see me, he pulled the curtain back and asked what all the laughing was about. We all shared some laughs.
My blood pressure was 104/60, and I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t worried if the surgery would go well or not—I knew it would go great. I knew I was in good hands—God’s hands! It’s almost like that Prayer Shawl and all the blessings and prayers that went into making it was just what I needed to squelch the nervousness I felt with all the other surgeries. This time was so different. Was it the Prayer Shawl and God’s love that surrounded it or was it just a coincidence that this last surgery went better than anticipated and my worries seemed to dissipate? I don’t believe in coincidences.
Now I’m going through the healing process once again. I’m going to give my body the time that it needs to heal. I’m surrounded by Bountiful Blessings. I’m happy to be alive; I’m happy to be with my wonderful, caring husband; and I’m happy that even in a world filled with hate, evil and resentment, I can turn it off to focus on what truly matters to me: God, my country and my family…
May Bountiful Blessings surround you as well…
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As you may know, I’m battling invasive breast cancer, and it took a lot of courage for me to blog about my experience…
I now have my third surgery tomorrow—ironically scheduled during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, of which I’m fully aware. I’m glad it’s going to be done before Halloween because my husband and I had a very stressful Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas last year. Man! What a horrible year it’s been!!!
It’s been a crappy year for my husband, not only because of my situation, but because he’s been laid off more than he’s been working the past four years. We still have our home, thank God, and that’s because we’re living so frugally!!! As soon as I heal—again, I’m going to have to look for work as well. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a coupon in the paper for a one-week free pass to a gym that’s not too far from our home, and I went to speak with them. I figured I needed to get my body and my mind in a good place before my third—and last—surgery, and it was free. I worked around my limitations and the numbers prove what I already knew—that working out is working out for me. When I went for my pre-op before going to the gym, my BP was 120/78. Not only did I do the gym this past week, I also went to a friend’s gym on a free pass as well. My BP went from 120/78 down to 113/76. I’m a whole lot healthier now than I was when I went through my two previous surgeries, and I did work at it immensely before and after going to the gym, believe me!
I feel I’m now in a good place, but understandably, my husband and I are nervous with tomorrow’s surgery. What scares me more than anything is that I was diagnosed with Invasive Moderately Differentiated Ductal Carcinoma which means the cancer grew outside of the cell. Not only was I estrogen-positive, but I was also HER2 positive, which is the most aggressive form of breast cancer. I pray to Almighty God that my cancer hasn’t spread. You may say I shouldn’t think like that, but when you’ve been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer (or any kind of cancer), that’s always in the back of your mind.
In the past two weeks, my husband and I have heard bad news—one of my friends told me her brother-in-law was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Can you believe that?! He’s a young serviceman, and he ignored the pain he was experiencing in his shoulder. Now he’s in Stage 4 breast cancer, and his doctors say he will not be returning home from the hospital! I immediately thought of the servicemen I blogged about who suffered from breast cancer…
Then the other night, while my husband and I were eating dinner, we got a visit from the wife of a friend of his. She told us she was just diagnosed with kidney cancer. The three of us talked for a few hours, and she’s the nicest person you’d ever want to meet. We’re praying for her and for my friend’s brother-in-law. Life is so precious, and you don’t really know to what extent until you’re faced with your own mortality.
My wonderful mother-in-law will be coming to the hospital for moral support and to keep my husband company while I’m in surgery, and will be staying with us for a week. Wish me luck, and please keep those prayers coming. We could certainly use them, not only that my surgery goes well, but that my husband’s job search ends with a good job for him. He’s a Union worker, but he’s now looking in the private sector because the Union no longer has their employees’ best interests at heart. Speaking of heart, I’m speaking from mine here, and tomorrow, my husband and I are expecting a miracle to happen…
Of course, we pray for all of you, and hope that you are all doing well and staying well. I’ll be back to blogging before you know it…
Bountiful Blessings to you all, with much love…
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I haven’t blogged in a long time, and I truly miss “talking” with you. I apologize for the long post here, but there is so much I would like to share with all of you so please bear with me. Thank you…
The past few years have been tumultuous for me and my husband, and last year was even more so. Towards the middle of last year after a few medical misfortunes, I decided that I didn’t want to go to see any more doctors—I was through! It seems like every time I saw a doctor, I’d come out worse than when I went in, so I decided I was going to forego my yearly mammogram. A couple of months later, I received a call from the hospital where I got my mammograms. They told me I’d have to go to a new state-of-the-art Women’s Health Center for my next mammogram, but they had to reschedule it. I told them I didn’t want to go, and that I never made an appointment. The lady on the other end of the line said I made it last year, but that she would take me off the list—then she asked if I really wanted to do that. It was then that I said, “Maybe this is an omen. When do you want to reschedule it?”
Little did I know it was an omen…
I reluctantly went for my yearly mammogram at this new facility for the first time, and stared in quiet concern when I pulled up in front of the new breast center—my car’s odometer read 66,666 miles, I kid you not! I remember saying, “This can’t be good”, and unfortunately, it wasn’t…
I tried to think nothing of “those numbers” until my PCP called me a couple of nights later—at 7 PM—to ask if I heard from the women’s center. My heart skipped a beat when she said I had to go in for a second mammogram on one breast along with an ultrasound because “it wasn’t clear enough”.
When I went in for my second mammogram and ultrasound, I tried to use humor to overcome my fear. As the technologist “positioned me for my close-up”, I asked her to make sure she got my “best side”, but she didn’t laugh. When we were walking toward the ultrasound room, I noticed a male doctor (radiologist) following us, and I turned and said that “there was a stalker following us”, but they didn’t laugh. When the radiologist turned and closed the door behind him, I looked at him and said, “This doesn’t look good”. He then said very matter-of-factly, “It isn’t. You have invasive breast cancer”. I was shocked beyond belief. I felt like I was staring death in the face at that very moment, but I had nowhere to hide and I couldn’t move. I asked him how he could know without the ultrasound, and he said, “I just know”. The radiologist also took five biopsies of the tumor and inserted a steel ball so the breast surgeon would know where the tumor was. I’ll spare you the rest of the horrible, horrible details of that day, but suffice it to say, towards the end of last year, the pathology report showed I had Invasive Moderately Differentiated Ductal Carcinoma, and not only that, I was also HER2 Positive as well, which is the most aggressive form of breast cancer.
When I tell you I was a walking zombie for a couple of weeks or more, it would be an understatement. If it wasn’t for my wonderful husband, I would have walked into a lot of walls, aimlessly. I take such good care of myself, I eat right, but I didn’t dodge this bullet. I just don’t get it. Family and friends have been so supportive—with cards, calls, texts, emails—that have been like strong medicine for both me and my husband. I guess I should have expected it, though, because I have two sisters who were diagnosed at an early age. Thank God, they are breast cancer survivors today. We have an aunt who passed from the disease when it metastasized in 2006, may God rest her soul. I was so diligent in doing all the right things to stay healthy because of my family’s history so this was an absolute shock.
Since my diagnosis, my life (and my husband’s as well) had been upside down for such a long time because of some roadblocks along the way. It was then that I didn’t want to sweat the small stuff anymore—nothing was worth complaining about. This was so much bigger than all the small annoyances we go through on a daily basis. When I see people fighting because things don’t go their way, I want to go up and shake some sense into all of them and tell them that it could be a whole lot worse—they could be fighting breast cancer.
After I went through my lumpectomy, I was absolutely thrilled! The operation was behind me, and I could now heal. As with most women, one breast is slightly bigger than the other, and after my lumpectomy, they were both the same size! I was overjoyed. I went to my husband, jiggled my girls, and said, “Look honey, my girls are twins now!” He smiled because it was a little joy out of a horrible nightmare. I was happily looking forward to life without breast cancer, and concentrating on the healing process.
That joy was short-lived, though, because when the pathology report came back after the lumpectomy, there was a lot more cancer (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) so I had to undergo a double mastectomy with a Tram Flap Reconstruction before the best time of year for me—Christmas. I had to fight as hard as I could so I’d be able to enjoy my life with my wonderful husband, family and friends. I was glad it happened around this time because it’s my favorite time of year.
My breast surgeon just wanted to take the one breast that was affected, but I fought to have them both removed. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t want to revisit this horrible nightmare down the road. She reluctantly agreed to a bilateral (double) mastectomy. When the pathology report came back from my other breast, she told me it was a good call on my part because the tissue showed abnormal cells so she said I did the right thing and now I’m cancer free. I asked her to repeat that statement because it was music to my weary ears.
It was Stage 1 invasive breast cancer, thank God Almighty, and when I asked if I had to go through chemo, my oncologist said, “No, but I recommend it, along with Herceptin” which are both administered intravenously. I turned around and said, “If I don’t need it, I don’t want it”. I was put on an anti-estrogen drug, but because of the severe side effects I was experiencing, my oncologist took me off. My body is super sensitive to anything bad so I know my body would not have tolerated the Herceptin either. I did make the right call last year because this is what came out just a couple of days ago…
I’m younger than the patients in these stories, but I knew this drug would be too toxic for my body. I feel I made the right decision last year, and turns out, I did, after reading these recent articles. It’s almost like I have a sixth sense when it comes to health. Some women who have been through chemo and Herceptin sing its praises so I guess it’s a personal preference. Don’t do what I did because of what I posted here, follow your own doctor and your own heart…MY WEB SITE DISCLAIMER…
On Christmas Eve, which was about 2-3 weeks after my second surgery, my husband had to rush me to a local ER because my legs were so swollen with fluid. It was feared that I had blood clots so they tested me, and the ultrasound for deep vein thrombosis was excruciatingly painful! They found that my veins were perfect—I was severely anemic due to the operation so I had to eat lots of foods high in iron and take high doses of iron pills. Now I know why I was so sick and always falling asleep, even while talking on the phone. I was released on Christmas Day. Last Christmas was the most horrible, devastating Christmas of my life, and my husband’s as well! The only comfort I received was in remembering that it was the day Jesus Christ was born.
I have to undergo another surgery, and then that will be the end of it. I have a great plastic surgeon so I know I’m in good hands; I’m confident because I’m in God’s hands as well. Is the cancer gone from my body? I pray that it is! I believe my prognosis is good because of the vitamins I take and the foods that I eat (I will post these in the future). Yes, the odds were against me because of my family history, but I truly believe it ended up being better than I could have hoped because of how I treat my body. I also try and focus on the positive—that it was a small tumor and they found it in a mammogram—a mammogram that I didn’t even want to take. That was a blessing from God, for sure. I did monthly self-exams of “my girls”, but I didn’t feel anything…it was that small. I do thank God every day for blessing me with…the courage to get through this ordeal, the love of a good man, and loving family and friends that make all this a whole lot easier to deal with.
I have found that while some women are not willing to talk openly about their breast cancer, I’m among those who think it’s good therapy to talk openly about it. It makes me feel I have power over it, and not the other way around. I talk about it because it helps me to heal emotionally, physically and spiritually. There are so many women being diagnosed with this disease that I find it hard to believe there’s not a cure, with all the medical advances and cutting-edge technology we have today. Medical hospitals set up all these state-of-the-art breast cancer centers all over the country to treat the disease, yet there are no cures. It makes me want to scream, “The heck with the treatment—where’s the CURE! Come to think of it, it would be a great slogan for a tee shirt, wouldn’t it???
What I’ve learned through all this horror is that breast cancer is certainly not for wimps, I assure you! I have enormous respect for breast cancer survivors (which include my two beautiful sisters), and I have faith that I will be a survivor along with them. I pray to Almighty God that you and your loved ones never EVER have to go through this in your lifetime…
I recently marked my one year anniversary of my diagnosis, and my husband and I celebrated with a great dinner and lots of laughs. Life is certainly worth celebrating, isn’t it? I have a strong faith, and I know God will help me fight this horrible disease, and that there will be a very positive outcome—my husband and I expect nothing less…
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