So a week ago I was in the recovery room just waking up from the bi-lateral mastectomy surgery. If you have ever had surgery, then you know how odd it is to wake up after having heavy-duty anesthesia. First of all, you wake usually into pain (at least I did) and even though you know, of course, that you just had surgery, it's very disorienting/confusing and you're really not sure what's going on or why you can't quite open your eyes. And then when your physical reality catches up--in my case some low level but none-the-less acute pain, some intense thirst and a bad case of the shivers (I was SO COLD my teeth were chattering) then you just want to have your immediate physical needs taken care of (morphine drip, check--ice chips/sips of water, check--mounds of blankets, check).
What I can say a week later is that the recovery from the surgery, both while staying on the 6th floor of UNC Memorial hospital as well as at home, has been easier than expected. Or perhaps the better way to put it, it hasn't been as bad as I thought it was going to be. The pain was definitely manageable with the morphine drip (which I got to control)--so much so that by the next morning I didn't need to push the little button anymore. And the pain has really not been bad at all--I went straight from morphine to alleve (I'm allergic to ibuprofren, which is a bummer since I've heard the wonders of it for aches and pains). There is constant discomfort and a fair amount of soreness, but it's tolerable and not greater than what I've experienced after a very intense workout session or a round of golf over the summer with me schlepping my own bag.
A physical therapist came to visit me and gave me a series of exercises to do--but even in the hospital he said that my range of mobility was pretty good, and in fact, I've been most surprised by this--because I was expecting my arms to be pretty impacted (and hence my hands/fingers) but truthfully I'm at about 85% in terms of range of motion--which isn't bad a week after surgery--and both my surgeon and the physical therapist were pretty confident that I'd be 100% in 4-6 weeks. I've got a series of 5 different stretching exercises that I do 5 times a day, and I'm also walking every morning with my Mom--adding a little bit more every day, so I'm also hopeful that I'll be back to walking 1-2 miles in another week.
And emotionally/mentally? Well, it hasn't been easy, but I also think things haven't quite sunken in yet. I mean, I have been low. It's just sort've a depressing thing to go through, and I definitely haven't felt like company--especially with my drains in (which is such a sci-fi freaky thing to have) I have not wanted to see a lot of folks and today is the first time I've really spent any time responding to email messages or replying by phone to anyone (and there are some folks I still need to call back, so if you are one of them, I will call soon, I promise). I wouldn't say I'm terribly self-conscious about myself, my looks. But this is different. And so part of it is I feel self conscious. As in, I feel like a monster--that I am monstrous. I have all these scars. I have these tubes and drains. I don't have hair (although I should mention that it is DEFINITELY growing back and it's like I have a fresh crop of black grass growing on my scalp--very exciting!). But really, I am unrecognizable to myself right now. I look bad and emotionally I feel bad--I miss my breasts. Or perhaps it's that I feel odd having part of myself cut off and missing (and I'll save my reasons for not doing reconstruction for a later post).
So that's the update. There's more I could muse upon, but given my still low energy level, I'll just say one last thing, and that's a piece of very good news that my wonderful surgeon Dr. Keith Amos (who, I just learned, sometimes reads this blog, so if you are reading this Dr. Amos, hello!) shared with me on Saturday morning (and yes, he's THAT kind of surgeon--one who calls his patients on the weekend!): the pathology report came back negative for cancer in the breast tissue that they removed (both left and right) as well as the lymph nodes they removed from my right side. So it means that I'm N.E.D.--no evidence of disease. At least as far as we can tell at this point (knock on some heavy wood).
And while some folks have asked if this means that I'm "cured"--the truth is, I don't know that I'll ever feel cured. I don't know that I'll ever feel like I'm cancer-free. Maybe when I've had a few years distance from all of this, I'll feel differently, but right now...I just think that I'll take this good news and then hope for the best.
Finally, I should mention that I'm being taken care of VERY WELL by my Mom and by Matthew (and Bruno in his own way). I go in for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Amos this Wed and will send another update after that appointment--I hope to get my drains removed by that point (it'd be nice not to feel like I'm plugged in, Matrix style). Anyway, more is forthcoming in this blog space later this week.