I had the first of what turned out to be many surgeries on April 20th. I went in for my double mastectomy with reconstruction; it’s technically called bilateral mastectomy with delayed-immediate breast reconstruction. They were removing my breasts and then placing expanders behind the tissue in my chest with the goal of slowly expanding my skin over time and then replacing the expanders with silicone implants, thus reconstructing my breasts – I’ll have to get 3D nipples and areolas tattooed on if I want to have areolas and nipples again.I am not going to lie, leading up to the surgery I had extreme depression and anxiety. I felt that they were taking my womanhood. Everyone said, “Your breasts don’t define you” and “Who cares? They’re only boobs!” and my least favorite and the most annoying, “You’re so lucky! You’re getting new boobs!” To which I wanted to respond, “Oh, am I lucky? I have one of the most fatal forms of breast cancer and my only saving grace is that they caught it in stage 1 – one millimeter away from being stage 2 – but I’m getting these new boobs, so you’re right! This. Is. Awesome.” *face palm* But I usually just joked and noted how lucky I was indeed. It makes it that much more difficult trying to cope with it because in order to make others feel comfortable around me I make light of the situation when in fact I to break down and cry.
Surgery day came and I was mentally prepared and as ready as I could be. My sister was at my house and would tend to my son and my mom was in the waiting room. I got bombarded by well wishers on social media and over text … I. Was. Ready.
My surgery was scheduled for 2 p.m. I got to the hospital at noon, completed all my pre-surgery forms and tests and then I waited. My surgeons came back and spoke with me and marked me up and went over the procedure. I felt my anxiety setting in and then I just remembered how much I wanted to survive this and calmed myself down.
April 20, 2016 surgery day, waiting in the pre-operation room.
I woke up close to 8 p.m. in my hospital bed even though they told me I woke up in the recovery room ( I have no knowledge of that) in the most excruciating pain in my life. Yes, they had just removed my entire 40DD breasts, but Good Lord, there is no describing that pain but let me try: Imagine getting hit by a mack truck, then getting up only to be run over by an oncoming dump truck, then a passerby reversed over me while trying to stop and help. My chest hurts, my arms hurts, everything from my waist up hurts.
I looked down at what used to be my full bosom to nothing but a flat hospital gown. I looked under the gown and saw my bandages and discovered I had these drains that were sewn into each of my sides coming out of me. They are meant to keep the fluid out of your body and prevent infection. They usually are in about 7-14 days.
I was so thirsty from not being allowed to eat or drink since midnight the night before and my throat was so dry from having the tube down it for so long during the surgery. I kept drinking water. My mom told me to quit because with the amount of pain I was in I wouldn’t be able to go to the bathroom. But everyone was convinced I’d be ok to walk soon.
I finally got up to use the bathroom and it took so long for me to get up and I just cried like a 2-year-old because it hurt so bad. Usually, with two nurses and my mother standing behind me I would be modest and try to get the hospital gown shut – I honestly could not have cared less who saw my tail end. I was in the worst pain I ever experienced in my life. The less than 10 feet to the bathroom felt like it was 10 miles, with each step I cried that much harder. The nurses realized I wouldn’t be able to make it back to my bed so as I was going to the bathroom they went to get a wheelchair to get me back to my bed.
I got back in bed and I cried so hard. Thinking back, my mom was there and I can’t imagine how she must have been feeling to see her youngest daughter go through that. As a parent myself I couldn’t imagine having to watch my own son endure that and feeling so helpless.
I was in excruciating pain and they could not get my pain under control; they had pain management come down several times and still they couldn’t find a concoction of medicine that would relieve my pain.
I slept on and off that night and the next day I was supposed to get to go home. However, they still couldn’t get my pain under control and when the physical therapist came in I was still unable to get out of my hospital bed on my own so they had to keep me for an extra night.
April 22, 2016, two days after my surgery, I was finally able to each plain food and I even sat in a chair and walked down the hall.
By Friday, with the help of many, many pain pills (Dilaudid, Oxycodone, Valium, and Gabapentin, plus Zofran for nausea and my antibiotics) I had made so much progress that I was released around 6 p.m. on April 22nd to go home.
Unfortunately, my reunion with my son and my bed was quite short lived. I went home on Friday night and went straight to bed. I felt horrible all night but continued taking my medicine. I woke up Saturday and felt slightly better. My best friend came down to take my sister to the airport and she and I sat upstairs chatting until they had to depart. My bestie brought flowers and the Firm I work for also had flowers delivered and my spirits were genuinely lifted.
However, as the day went on I started feeling sicker and sicker and sicker and my temperature got up to 102.5 by Saturday evening and I was feeling miserable. So in my pajamas and house shoes back to the emergency room we go. I walked in, I can only presume looking like death because I didn’t even sign in and they had me back in the triage room.
My chest hurt, my stomach hurt, but my head was pounding – the worst migraine I ever had in my life. I’m 5’9″ tall and not a small woman and they have me on this tiny gurney that my 11 year old would hardly fit on and they keep giving me more medicine. The more medicine they gave me the more my head hurt.
It got to the point where my head hurt so much I didn’t even notice the pain in my chest. The nurses would give me more medicine and walk off, the ER doctor kept vanishing, I’m in this tiny bed and my poor mother is in this tiny chair – it was an experience that nightmares are made up of. They gave me Dilaudid, they gave me Morphine, they gave me this, they gave me that, they took me for a PET scan …. they did everything except call my surgeon AND treat my migraine.
My mom was trying to get them to take care of me and do something but they all seemed like they were clueless. Finally, after about 8 hours at the hospital they give me a concoction for patients who have migraines and sure enough my migraine went away and my fever finally started to drop.
Finally, after more than 9 hours in the ER, daylight was upon us and I was able to go home and get on with my healing.