Breast Cancer, The Journey

Breast Cancer, The Journey
Monday Evening,
November, 7 2011 (thirteenth post in this series)
We started this blog to
document our travels and for the most part we stick to that goal.
However, we are “off the road” for a few months and I need to
catch up on the thread we started earlier this year on our daughters
“journey” with her breast cancer diagnosis.
Kelly publishes update
emails that describe her journey. I am posting the last three on
today’s blog. My goal is to present, through Kelly’s words, the
major elements of what is entailed in making the decision to have a
double mastectomy. The process is incredibly involved, including
several surgeries and a great deal of physical and mental pain.
I started this series in
March of this year with
this post.
As you can see from the header to this post,
this is the thirteenth post in this series. Here are Kelly’s

My healing process has had its ups and downs, but I’m still so
thankful that I will not have to have any radiation or
chemotherapy!!  The recovery from the surgery has gone at least
as well as I expected, if not better.  My only remaining symptom
from the surgery is the fatigue that I expected, but wish it would
progress a bit more quickly.  I continue to work on patience!

The reconstruction process has been a bit more than I expected,
but, I guess if I stop to think about it, it all makes sense. 
When they did the mastectomies, a plastic surgeon placed “tissue
expanders” as the first step in the reconstruction process.  I
guess I didn’t stop to think exactly what expanding the tissue
might entail.  Each week (or every couple weeks depending on our
travel schedule), I have to have saline injected into the tissue
expanders, thus stretching the tissue.  At first I described the
process as being similar to having your braces tightened, but I’m
now realizing that the similarities are pretty limited.  Luckily
I only have two more “fill” appointments and then I will have
about three months to heal from this process before the next surgery.

Kelly and Damon

I continue doing well with my cancer journey.  My last “fill”
was July 18th and I expected to be back to myself by the
next week, but realized that it was another time to practice the art
of patience.  The reconstruction process continued to be
challenging, but I finally felt like I had a breakthrough last week. 
I started sleeping without ice, sleeping almost through the night,
and being able to sleep on my sides for a few minutes at a time (all
things I took for granted before this journey).

I have discovered that physical therapy is a great tool during
this process.  I have found a therapist who knows what she’s
doing and is incredibly supportive.  She helps me remember that
it’s not uncommon to take five steps forward and then a couple
back, but I’m so thankful that she’s helping me through this
process.  We started with the simple art of breathing because I
had to re-train my body since I hadn’t been able to take a deep
breath for so long.  She has taught me some great stretching
exercises and we’re hoping to progress to some weight work in the
next week or so.

My next surgery is scheduled for November 9th so I
shouldn’t have any more appointments and will continue the healing
process until then.  During that surgery the tissue expanders
(or rocks as I fondly refer to them) will be removed and permanent
implants will be placed.  That surgery will be a day surgery and
should be much simpler than the first one.  As Madison says, the
surgery will also probably be easier than the fills.

Kelly and Damon

One of the most moving points of our
fall was our participation in Race for the Cure.  Damon and I
used to do the full walk/run before we had the girls and even up
until Molly was walking.  We still look back at that last year
because Damon had Madison on his back in a backpack and I had Molly
on my front in a pack and they both kept getting in and out of the
backpacks and it wasn’t a whole lot of fun.

Each year since then we’ve done Sleep in for the Cure which was
just our speed.  This year Molly talked us into going down for
the family event and we’re so glad we did!  We were amazed at
the number of people who come for that event.  It was an
emotional day for me, realizing that I wasn’t walking for the women
in pink shirts, but was now wearing the pink shirt.

It was also a day to remind me of my good fortune.  Seeing
the women without hair and talking to a woman who went through lots
of radiation and chemo helped me keep my perspective and continue to
feel lucky in my situation.

The next surgery in my reconstruction will be next Wednesday. 
During this one they will remove the tissue expanders (AKA rocks) and
replace them with saline implants.  I’m looking so forward to
having something more comfortable and I know it will be nice to be
able to comfortably cuddle with the girls.

Damon and I went to the pre-op appointment yesterday and learned
that, although this surgery will be SO much easier than the last one,
some of the restrictions will be the same.  This surgery will be
about 2 ½ hours versus the 4 hours for the last one.  This
recovery is expected to be shorter, hopefully only a week or two.
I’m still coming to grips with the fact that I won’t be able
to lift my arms over my head (including washing my own hair) or drive
for two weeks and I won’t be able to work out for a month.  I
will only be able to lift 5 pounds for about a month.  I guess
these are small sacrifices compared to other things I could have gone
through.  I am especially thankful that I won’t have drains
this time!

As I continue to focus on humor, I’m picturing the “Iron
Maiden Bra” that I’ll be wearing for a couple weeks.  I’m
sure it’s going to be very sexy, but I promise not to send

Kelly and Damon

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