Merry Christmas Everyone!
I still believe in openly wishing people Merry Christmas. I also believe in respecting other cultures and wishing people Happy Hanukkah. Christmas has always been a very special time of year for me. This year it is still special but it is different. I am ever so grateful to be on the other side of my cancer and to be moving ahead with my life. I am grateful to have my beautiful and resilient children, my crazy and adorable husband, my family that stuck by me and my closest friends who really proved the power of true friendship.
It has been two weeks since my final reconstructive surgery. I cannot express enough how different I look! I am the kind of person who is dying to share the images of every surgery that I had during my adventure in the world of breast cancer. I truly believe knowledge is power. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will post the final pictures of my reconstruction. Sometimes I tend to share too much and I would not want to offend anyone or have them to tell me that it was inappropriate or that I used poor judgement in publishing them. However, if someone told me I could have a billboard on Sunset Blvd. to share and educate people about this procedure and the amazing images of before and after, I would do it.
I will wake up every day for the rest of my life and marvel at my reconstruction. I went from pure devastation and dying skin to a gorgeous set of size B cup perky breasts. Simply amazing work was done by my Obi-Wan Kenobi of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Jay Orringer, M.D. www.drorringer.com. I encourage all of my readers to look at the images under reconstruction on Dr. Orringer’s website and then read the patient testimonials. This is an amazing human being who really is a master at the artistry of breast augmentation and reconstruction. Without Dr. Orringer by my side I would not have come through the past 11 months as physically or psychologically well.
A Little Walk Down Memory Lane
To remind everyone who reads this blog, I was diagnosed with stage 0 -1 breast cancer on February 4th of 2011. Ever since the day I got the call from my breast specialist who advised me that yes, the lump I found in my right breast was malignant I have been on a very crazy ride. I did not know how long the ride would be or how many twists and turns it had or how many times it would turn me upside down. All I knew is that I had to get on the ride and just suck it up and deal with it. I really had no idea how much I was going to be challenged and how much I was going to have to endure physically and psychologically. I got hit pretty hard in all areas of the process. Thank goodness I had a great support team at home, platinum doctors and an employer who was unbelievably good to me.
On February 15th I had a lumpectomy. The pathology showed a small tumor and extensive DCIS which is a form of cancer that is best described like glitter. It is very small and spreads over a large area. That DCIS combined with the small tumor told us that I was going to need a bilateral (double) mastectomy.
On March 11th I underwent a 7 hour surgery to remove both breasts as well as my implants. Boy, it was such a shame to have to take down the beautiful work that Dr. Orringer had created back in 2006. After the mastectomy it became very apparent to everyone that my breast tissue was not going to survive the trauma from the mastectomy. This was of no fault of the surgeon, it was due to me being naturally small breasted and then having large implants and then having to cut a large amount of the tissue out to remove all of the ”glitter” cancer. There I was with expanders in my chest and my skin was pulled so tight over them. The skin was dying and turning black. I was advised that I was going to have to have a procedure known as a DIEP Flap. This is a type of reconstructive breast surgery in which a portion of your lower abdomen (tummy) is taken to replace the breast tissue.
On March 22 two very skilled micro-surgeons and I ventured down the road of a 17 hour surgery to recreate breasts from excess skin on my stomach. Keep in mind that I am 5′ 4″ tall and used to weigh 265 pounds. I weighed approximately 165 pounds when this procedure was done on me. I was given smaller breasts and a tummy tuck. Wow. I never thought in my wildest dreams that my wishes for a tummy tuck would come true – and this is how I got it. Be careful what you wish for – that is my new motto. This procedure was on of the craziest things I had ever heard of. I could not believe that a doctor could do what they were telling me. I was assured that by the end of my follow up reconstruction procedure I was going to look whole and complete. I could not imagine how it could be possible that I would ever look whole and complete again. After the DIEP Flap I looked odd. I looked and felt somewhat like Frankenstein. I had two drooping, shocking pale sewn on somewhat breasts hanging off of me and a large incision from hip to hip.
I started my chemotherapy infusions on May 5th. This was something that I feared like nothing else. I was assured by my doctors that I would do fine with the chemo. Not so much. Unbeknownst to me, I got a staph infection in my abdomen. I woke up 4 days after the chemo was infused into me and I thought I was dying. I had the worst migraine and I could not talk. I managed to keep the pain stabalized with pain pills. The next morning I was even worse and started to get scared. I say that during this week of my life I simply existed. I just took pain killers and rested all day. I like to describe it like I was in a twilight sleep mode at this time. I would not be completely asleep ever. I would somewhat fade in and out. The idea of eating or drinking anything never came to mind. I was just trying to survive the day. I thought the way I was feeling was due to my chemo. I did not want to be a cry baby about it and I was trying to take it and deal with it. By the end of that week I gave in and went to see my oncologist and he said it absolutely was not the chemo doing this to me. It had to be something else. I went back to Dr. Orringer who when he examined me realized immediately that I had a horrifically large and dangerous staph infection in my entire abdomen. I was scheduled back for another surgery to clean it all out. One more major surgery for the scoreboard. Off to the hospital I went again.
In the hospital, exactly 15 days after chemotherapy was first given to me my hair began to fall out. I stayed in the hospital for 5 days recovering and stabilizing. When I got out of the hospital, chemo continued.
Just my luck to then get a seroma on my left side that would really be the worst wound I think I have ever seen on anyone, much less myself. My body generally heals very well and quickly. With taking the chemo my body just could not heal itself. It just got worse and worse every day. The wound was so deep I could see my stomach wall. There was extensive undermining and in order to drain the fluid from the undermined areas we were going to have to use a wound draining machine – a Wound Vac. I wore the vac for approximately 6 weeks. That machine did the job but I must admit it did a strange job on my psyche. I am grateful for the way that it helped my wound heal through chemo. However, when you walk around 24 hours a days with a 3 pound machine connected to your lower abdomen and you are unbelievably weak from the chemo and it makes sounds, its not cool. I had to have a private nurse come to check the machine 3 times a week. She was an angel to me.
All of this craziness with my health was going on and at the same time I had major drama jumping off in my family. Ridiculous. All I can say is I never really got to rest as much as I should have because the world around me did not stop. It almost seemed exaggerated this year by 100%.
I will be very glad to say good bye to 2011. This year sucked for me and so many people I know and love. Thank goodness for me it ended in a beautiful way. I look forward to 2012 to be able to do everything I had planned to do in 2011. Life Rudely Interrupted is what I call this past year. My intention is to pursue an idea and see where it will take me. More details on that in the coming year.
Thank you to all of my readers for hanging in there with me through the good, the bad and the ugly. This blog saved my sanity and it gave me the ability to share which is what I do best.
Stay Healthy My Friends!