The Mastectomy Milestone…Finally Behind Me
Three and a half weeks ago was my surgery: a bilateral (“double”) mastectomy with lymph node dissection. (The word “dissection” always makes me think of my seventh-grade biology class. In this case, it simply means removal.) The surgery was performed at the University of Washington Medical Center. I won’t go into all the details now, but believe me — there are plenty of details I’d love to share with you…more than enough for several future blog posts.
But I wanted to at least get something written to let you all know I made it through and am just fine (if you’re my friend on Facebook, you may already know that). It’s been almost impossible to get it written before now. For starters, I was just in too much pain. And when I was finally able to lift my arms enough to type at my desk, there were just too many distractions and I couldn’t concentrate. Let’s hope this post makes the final cut. (If it seems really disjointed and doesn’t “flow,” you can assume I was distracted once again.)
I try not to think too much about the surgery itself. I’m constantly amazed at modern medicine, how far it’s come, and what’s ahead. I know mastectomy has come a long way from the hideous surgery it used to be, but right now — to me — it still seems pretty harsh. And when I’m in front of the mirror, I try not to look too long at those two ugly horizontal stitched-up wounds. Or at the one under my arm. But when I do, I remind myself that they’re going to look a lot better in the future and not be quite as garish. And I try not to think about what I’m missing.
This may seem strange, but the last few weeks — while kind of a surreal time for me, considering the surgery I had and why — have actually been a little enjoyable. Once the pain started to subside, that is. My little corner of the universe has been the recliner side of the sectional in our family room. My six-year-old daughter has been my constant companion, not wanting me to sleep alone. And our cat, Chico, has kept the two of us company, as well, sleeping close to (or on) the person who’s the sickest. (After I got home from the hospital, it was me, but now that she has the flu, he’s her shadow.)
Sometimes you just have to make the best of a situation that really stinks, and I’d say that’s probably how I’m able to enjoy this time. I’ve been conditioning myself for the past couple of years to think differently — more positively — and I’m seeing the fruits of it. While the temptation has been to whine (and I’ve done a bit of that), mostly I just feel incredibly blessed. I’m drinking in, every day, how grateful I am for my husband and four kids who love me and have been taking care of me. For a kindergartner who gets quite upset if she can’t camp out in the family room with me each night and loves hanging out with me throughout the day. For family and friends who’ve either come to visit or have at least checked in with me (sometimes daily) through Facebook or by texting me or my husband. For a group of friends who’ve been providing meals and household help since I was first diagnosed and plan to continue doing so for a while still (there are no words to describe how helpful that’s been). For a wonderful couple from our church who’ve loved us like family and have taken us under their wings. And for so much more.
I love the little things that have also made these last few weeks bearable. A basket I put together before my surgery, along with a black t.v. tray table from Target, holds things like my phone, Kindle (a gift from my son last Christmas), “real” books, lip gloss, hand lotion, post-surgery papers, headphones, hats and scarves, pens and crossword puzzle books, and chocolate (of course, right?). Next to me are two fluffy blankets that my cat has claimed as his own and a beautiful quilt made by a sweet friend. My Bible is next to me, as well.
My house is a wreck, but I’m able to do more and more around here each day, so I’ll get it whipped into shape soon. (Yes, there are other people who live here who can clean it, but we all have a certain way we like to do things, right?) I’m having trouble using my arms because of how certain muscles were cut into during the surgery, but I’m doing what I can each day to stretch and retrain them and am making myself do what I can around here instead of asking for help. I can’t wait to get back to “normal.” My new normal, anyway.
Thanks so much for all the kind thoughts and for all the prayers I’ve been receiving. Stay tuned — I’ll have plenty more to share about my mastectomy experience in the coming days.
Sally Dinius is writer-in-chief here at CrazyBusyMama.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sallydinius, and come join the CrazyBusy Mama Facebook page by clicking here. And don’t forget to check out the new CrazyBusy Mama Quick Guides available for your Kindle or Kindle app.