One week post op

 I’m just over a week post op after my Bi- lateral mastectomy, and I’m in a lot of different places. First of all, the physical pain is hard to really explain. I have large incisions that cover where my breast’ used to be, and although they look it’s so much pain, they’re numb. Yeah, numb. It’s like if you have ever had a cavity filled, your cheeks and face are numb, yet you can feel them at the same time. Exact same feeling on my chest in the places that just make you cringe thinking of what the pain must feel like. Above and below where my breast’ were, my sternum area, and the sides of my chest all the way to my back following my ribs are in so much pain. It’s a constant pain, sprinkled with very intense shooting muscle spasm pain throughout the day. One of the most painful moments I’ve had to experience since surgery is sneezing. Yes, I know, sneezing. But let me tell you, that sneeze completely took my breath away. I’ve now figured out, when I feel the urge to sneeze I make sure not to look at a bright light, or the sun, plug my nose, tilt my head back, and my husband will say “bless you” and then wah-la! No sneeze! You might want to take out a sticky note out and write that down, title it “Erin’s secret recipe for stopping a sneeze”. Alright, so you all understand a bi lateral mastectomy hurts, lets move on to something new, let’s touch on expectations. Anyone can google “post mastectomy photos” and figure out it’s not the most sexy pot surgery look. I specifically talked to my plastic surgeon about this. His response after a giggle, was, Erin, do not google those images. They are not your body, and you’re not a 50 yr old woman going through this. Of course my breasts were not going to look like they do prior to surgery, but he would do anything he could to give me breasts I would be happy with for the rest of my long life. After all of our friends and family left the night of surgery, and I had come out of the anesthetic a little more, I walked to the bathroom to pee. I did need to pee, but I knew with my heart I was going to look at myself in the mirror. So I did. I pulled up my hospital gown and took a deep breath as silent tears fell down my cheeks and my whole body began to shake. I let down the left side of my hospital gown so with my hand free I could touch where my right breast used to be. They were gone. My breasts were done. Everything was gone. The skin left from surgery, and the scars were all that was left. I felt nauseas, and started to breath quick. Took a deep breath, got myself back together, and walked back to my hospital bed. It’s gone! The cancer that was in my breast is gone! As much breast tissue as possible has been removed to prevent reoccurrence in the future, and another big step on our list is done! But, as happy as I am, at this exact moment I am terrified and heart broken. I had no idea what my body was going to look like post surgery, I had convinced myself that since I had expanders placed I would come out of surgery fully expanded with a few incisions and no nipples. I do know that was a ridiculous thought, and I was fully aware of what delayed reconstruction post op photos look like, but I’m 29 yrs old, and having expanders placed at the time of mastectomy. Big, scary, emotional wake up call while I looked at myself in the mirror. My feelings around this are changing often. There are moments I feel like I look like a monster, and at the exact same time those tears fall down my face, they are stopped on their journey to my chin by a very proud smile. A smile because I am a fighter, a survivor, and I’m unique. Forever memories I will always carry with me. Moving on to relationships. I’m not going to talk about my marriage again, because we all know it will turn into a Nicholas Sparks book. So, here’s the thing, friendships, and relationships with family change. That’s just a fact. Some for the better, and some not. That’s a pain I don’t think anyone is aware comes with a cancer diagnosis, and it’s a pain I wish didn’t. I’m figuring out that some people genuinely do not know what to do or say for fear of doing something wrong, so they just don’t. Others are “friends” that are accountable for a good time, laughs, and all the easy stuff, but can’t or don’t want to be invested in a true friendship for the other stuff, the hard stuff too. There are also the people from your past that you haven’t spoke to in a while, or new people you’ve never known that step up and support you more than you imagined they would. Have you heard the line in a Garth Brooks song that says ” some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”? I have in so many ways learned this is true throughout my life and this is another one of those times. I’ve been on my knees, or in my husbands arms in tears praying that the friends and family who have fallen away would come back, and that the mean things people have done or said would just go away. Those prayers weren’t answered. But, they were. I just didn’t know yet. Or I still don’t know they’ve been answered yet. So many of the things we pray for, because we think we need something, or we think we know what’s best for us, are not what God has planned. It would be easy to be angry with God, for letting me get cancer, or all of the prayers left unanswered, but now is when I need to be thankful, and quiet. I need to sit back quietly and wait and listen. If I don’t it will be easy to miss my “why”. 


Beauty with an edge

On May 18th I woke up with the same stomach full of butterflies that I’ve had for the past few weeks, except on this morning it felt like there may be a bird, cat, and a dog in there too. I laid in my husbands arms with tears running down my face onto his chest. I took a depth breath, and got out of bed to prepare for such a big day in our lives. We drop the boys off at my persons house at  4:30am so that she could get them to school. As I wrap my arms around the boys one and a time, and hold my person I start to cry and have a little meltdown. I’m not sure why I broke down at that moment, but I fully embraced it. I’ve learned in this journey you have to feel and embrace every emotion you feel. I know that seems  easy, but we all do it. We tend to shut down our feelings and feel only happiness, which may feel like it’s the best choice, but it’s not. You need allow yourself, and embrace each emotion, it become poison the more you stuff it down. After dropping the boys off we make the drive to the hospital, park, and begin our check in process. They took me back to do paperwork, and into pre-op to prepare for surgery. My husband finally gets to come into my pre op room and the minute he walks in we make eye contact and I instantly feel at peace. His eyes, his touch, his beautiful smile always make everything better, and give me the strength to take on the world. My feeling of almost floating with him by my side ends quickly when 3 different doctors come in to go over each surgery, I sign consents for treatment,and 4 or so different nurse are in and out. It’s time, I start to cry. I cry for fear of surgery, for fear of what changes will happen to my body, fear of pain, excited to mark this big step off our list, and so happy to have the cancer out of me. When I get to the OR, my anesthesiologist, plastic surgeon, and general surgeon were all waiting. They transfer me onto the operating table and silent tears run down my cheeks. All three of my docs rub my hair, and arms or hold onto my hand. I really have an amazing team who not only have such wonderful talent, but have a genuine heart for their patients. I then wake up in my room and immediately look for my husband. I couldn’t wait to tell him how brave I was, and that all of this is worth every minute of time we will have together for the rest of our LONG lives. I don’t remember much after coming out of recovery. I do know a lot of my family had come to see me, and I am so thankful for you. After company left I went in to the bathroom to see my chest. I again meltdown. It’s over! I did it, I was brave, and tough, and I did it! I also cry looking at my chest when I see the incisions and scaring. I have moments of weakness when I wish I could know ‘why’ things happen. Why at 29 yrs old will my body  be scared up? I’ll tell you outside of my weakest moments, have complete confidence that this is part of my plan along with my everyone in my life. We are all learning and growing through this. I have seen changes in many people around me, and in myself, and I am so proud. It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity, the ‘why me’, and anger. And sometimes you need to feel those emotions. You just can not stay in that place. I know there are many reasons for why I am going through this, because I know there is a plan for me. Part of my plan is to be as open and honest about this part of my life. To reach people through my story and provide some encouragement. I know as I heal from the surgery my breasts will not look the same prior to surgery, there ill be scars and tattoo nipples. But I can confidently say that I will still be a beautiful woman, that my scars will give me en edgy beauty. When I see my body, I see a mother to the most incredible little boys, a women so in love with her husband, and I see the fight this woman is fighting to stay in this world with her husband and sons by her side. I would fight through anything to get as much time as possible here with my 3 boys. There is a unique, strong kind of beauty that I will carry with me wherever I go. I am proud and confident, to embrace this new beauty of mine physically, and mentally.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Some of us are moved by words, and others pictures. For me, I like both to complete a story or emotion. Take 9/11 as an example, listening to someone speak about that day moves me, but when I see a picture or video that goes hand in hand with the story being told, I’m instantly covered in goosebumps and tears fall down my face. I’ve decided in conjunction with my blogging to share this journey, I will have a ‘photo journal’ as well. Maribeth with Maribeth photography has so graciously joined me during some appointments and some upcoming important dates to help me document my journey with her phenomenal photography. I know with her amazing talent she will be able to capture moments of raw emotion, details that not everyone gets to see, the truth in my journey, and I will have forever memories to look back on. The pictures that I am sharing with you now are from my last infusion. If you remember, this was a big day! On this day, I started my maintenance Herceptin and began what is supposed to be a much easier step in my treatment plan. In the first photo you can see the entrance to the Kaiser building where my infusions take place. It may look like a simple picture, but to me it stirs up quite a lot of emotions. When we would park and walk into that building, that exact view would make the butterflies in my stomach flutter a million miles a minute, my hands start to sweat, and I would take a deep breath because it was time now for the next treatment. The next photo is my husband and I checking in. I really love this photo. Every appointment we have the same routine together. For most of you, you see us our backs and us checking in for our appointment, for me I smile because I know my husband is swiping my credit card for me, because I can never seem to make it work. In the beginning of all of this, I was so emotional and scared, one morning we were trying to check in just like in the picture, and I could not get my credit card to work and it stressed me out so much and about pushed me over the edge. Then, my husband jumped in to help me and make everything better like he always does. Now, every time we reach the check in, he already has my credit card in his hands, has wiped it on his jeans to ensure it will work the first time, and ta-da no stress for me. This may seem like such a small thing, and in reality it is, but the big picture for me from this photo is just how much my husband does to help, and take care of me, nothing is too small, he’s happy to do anything to make this easier on me. Next, you will see my Onco RN preparing the needle to access my port, me closing my eyes and preparing myself for him to access my port (because no matter how many times I’ve had it done I always get nervous. Especially because sometimes I didn’t put my lidocaine cream on for enough time and it hurts), my ‘oh my gosh that hurts I obviously need to put the lidocaine on sooner face, me inspecting his work, and finally laughing at myself for being such a wimp. The next photo has 2 parts. I am showing my RN my nails because I jammed them a week prior and chemo really destroys your nails, so with me jamming them I developed a really nice infection and the week following this photo I ended up completely losing 2 nails. I was showing him my nails, as well as the antibiotic I was put on for the infection. Fun story, my infected nails got so bad when I was in Dallas for a work trip that I ended up going to a pharmacy and getting needles, band aids, and Neosporin. I stood outside took a deep breath and stuck the needle under my nails to “pop” them. Then, a combo of blood and puss dripped all over the sidewalk and I felt instant relief. Now, I have some really awesome purple band aids with neon green polka dots that I rock on a daily basis, you’ve got to look as cute as you can while you go through all these fun things! The next pictures are my blood being drawn through my port, me getting fluids while I wait for my labs to come back, and my RN getting my chemo started. There is a lot that I get out of these pictures, but there is one thing I hope others can see. I hope you can see my happiness, that although this is all very hard and probably the hardest thing I’ll ever do, I’m okay. I’m happy, and I am doing this! I am so very excited to add these photo memories to my blog for myself, and all of you. Surgery is fast approaching and Beth will be alongside me then too. I am sure when I see her photos afterwards I will have so many emotions. I know with her talent she will catch the smallest details, along with the biggest emotions that words cannot seem to explain. I will have these to look back on forever, to remember what all we put into this, and the ability to feel those emotions time and time again by looking at a simple photo.

It’s okay to be afraid

It’s May 1st, I officially have surgery in 16 days, 21 hours, 11 mins. As my surgery date is fast approaching, I can’t help but be pretty emotional and afraid. It’s a big 8 hour surgery, and I don’t tend to do well with anesthesia. Not to mention the small fact that my body will never be the same. I’m not saying its going to be a bad change, but change in it’s self is hard. I stand looking in the mirror at my body and sometimes I cry. I cry for a lot of reasons. I cry because my eyes tend to always fall on my tummy first, which has gained quiet a bit of weight from my treatments, then they tend to drift to the discolorations on my arms and chest from the chemo toxicity rashes, my port which after its removed will be another scar, my head which is starting to grow a little peach fuzz, and then finally by breasts. I sometimes stare at them and think how crazy it is that there is something so dangerous that has grown in there, something that could potentially spread throughout my body and take my life if I hadn’t caught it, yet you can’t tell looking at them. Then I start thinking about this upcoming surgery and the surgery itself scares me, the pain from healing, the pain my plastic surgeon explains from my expanders (when we asked how many times after surgery we need to come to his office his response was “it depends on Erin’s pain tolerance. We will expand them as much as she can handle at a time), and the way my body will look afterwards. It’s a simple fact, that even with the two amazing surgeons I have, my breasts will not look like they do now. There will be scars, they will be a different size and shape, and my nipples will be 3D tattoos. The other side of this is, at the end of this I will be cancer free, a survivor, with my whole life a head of me. I’ll stare at my body in the mirror, or feel my body underneath my clothes, and I’ll feel proud, and it will be a new kind of beautiful. No, I wont have a perfect, tight, un scared 30 yr old body, but what I will have will be a whole new different kind of beautiful body. I’ll have a body that shows how hard I fought to be here, that I beat cancer, that I was strong, and brave, and my body will forever be a journal of memories from this crazy journey I am on to get where I am suppose to be. We teach our boys regularly that it’s okay to be afraid, but you have to feel that fear, and push yourself through it and do it anyway. I’ve been feeling this fear for surgery that seems to be growing the closer we get, and that’s okay. I spent a few hours crying on the couch yesterday, and it felt good. I can fear, and I can cry, but when I walk through those doors on May 18th,  tears or no tears, I will take a deep breath lay on the hospital bed, kiss my husband, and be wheeled back to surgery full of fight. How blessed am I to have the ability to fight and beat this? To come out of this on the other side with my whole life ahead of me? It’s okay to be afraid, you just have to feel that fear, and do it anyway.