A year ago today I went in to have my double mastectomy with partial reconstruction. I knew that they were removing my breasts, but I don’t think it really sank in until I woke up later that night and felt like … I had the entire front of me removed. Even though I was on Morphine, Percocet, Valium, Dilaudid, and a concoction of other pain meds and anti nausea mess I still felt so much pain. I can only compare it to being struck by a large dump truck, although I have never been hit by a dump truck, I can imagine it probably felt similar to the pain I was feeling.
I look back on this photo when my hair was normal and I looked like…I don’t know…how I used to look? I don’t look as weathered as I do now, I kinda feel like I looked innocent. I had just turned 35 and two months later I was diagnosed with triple negative, aggressive, invasive breast cancer. I remember wanting the cancer out of my body so badly.
I have always been a problem solver, and although very spiritual, I based all of my decision making on science. I took the BRCA genetic test and tested BRCA 1 positive, so with that information, my diagnosis, age, and family history I opted to have the bilateral mastectomy. At the time, I was supposed to have the double mastectomy with partial reconstruction, so I figured I could go without “regular” boobs for a little bit, but since I was doing my expansion at the same time, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
What I found out later, though, was that although I had the expanders inserted at the time of my mastectomy, I would only be able to get one – maybe two – fills until after I completed chemo and got the green light from my oncologist to move forward with the expansion. I was dumbfounded. Of all the questions I asked my surgeon, that was not one of them. I assumed since they were putting the expanders in at the time of my bilateral mastectomy that I’d be expanding while going through chemo. That news was devastating.
But what was even more heartbreaking was that I was in so much pain, and it resulted in trips to the Emergency Room, extra visits to my surgeon, being re-admitted to the hospital, delaying my chemo treatment, and three extra surgeries.
After dealing with all the pain and the infection, on May 23rd, 2016, my final surgery of 2016 was having the expanders removed. I had four surgeries in five weeks. Then, as soon as I healed from all the surgeries, I began my TAC chemo treatment for almost five months.
If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be getting re-admitted to the hospital, the extreme amount of pain that I had in store, trips to the ER, that I wouldn’t be able to lay down, that I would hardly be able to walk because I felt like my chest was being crushed, that I’d have four surgeries in five weeks…I may have chosen a different path. At the very least, I would have asked more questions. Given the choice to do it all over again, I still would of had the bilateral mastectomy; however, I probably would have put off reconstruction until my chemo was complete. I had all those extra surgeries and that’s what happened anyway.
Thankfully, I successfully completed chemo on Sept. 21, 2016. And I had my expanders re-inserted March 7, 2017… and while I was there, I also got my chemo port removed.
My journey has not been an easy one, but I’m blessed that I survived and I’m alive to share it.