It has been two weeks since my surgery, and I have been pleasantly surprised how easy the recovery has been. I spent one night in the most beautiful hospital. Yes, I was pushing the heck out of my morphine button, but I felt like a queen. If anyone is facing a mastectomy or any cancer-related breast surgeries, please consider the Center For Restorative Breast Surgery in New Orleans (www.breastcenter.com). People come to the Breast Center from all over the world, and it happens to be just down the street from me. This was the view from my bed…yes, my mom brought the prayer flags.
I’m grateful that the Breast Center was able to grant permission for my Gynecological Oncologist, Dr. Cheng, to do the total hysterectomy during my revision surgery. She removed my ovaries, uterus, and cervix. We took out the ovaries because the ovaries produce estrogen, and my cancer was estrogen positive and so advanced (Stage IIIC) that we decided to be aggressive with our treatment. My other option was to get regular injections into my ovaries to shut down estrogen production, or “chemical castration” as it was so bluntly stated at my first appointment with an oncologist. We decided to take the uterus out at the same time as the ovaries because some of the medicine I am taking puts me at an increased risk for uterine cancer. Another factor in removing the uterus is that any weirdness “down there” such as discharge or unusual cramping would have to be thoroughly poked and prodded. Dr Cheng took out the cervix too because I had a scare 10 years ago with some irregular cells found during a pap. My doctor was not pushing me to have anything surgically removed, she just presented the options and the pros and cons, and I came to the decision on my own.
About a week before the surgery I went through an anxiety spell where the weight of the decision was really wearing me down. Was this semi-elective surgery the right thing to do, would I regret it down the road, how would my body react, what if they find cancer in the organs they take out, am I being unkind to my body, what if there is a future drug that would stop estrogen production, what if when I’m 45 I want estrogen production back? I was also feeling a deep connection to these parts that brought me my children.
My revision surgery consisted of a nipple sharing procedure, a hernia repair above my belly button, tweeking the symmetry of my breasts, removing some extra skin along my scars, and grafting fat from my thighs and lower back and placing it in my breasts. I also got a bonus shoulder manipulation while I was under anesthesia to help break up post-radiation scar tissue that is causing frozen shoulder. That’s a lot of surgery! I’m so grateful for my body and its ability to heal. I barely have bruise and I’m not in any pain, I just get worn down and tired pretty easily.
The first night at the hospital I was on a morphine drip. The second night when I was home I took half of a percocet before bed. I woke up on my first day home feeling crummy and I had super low blood pressure- like 75/45. I got an IV for extra fluids with a bonus vitamin burst and felt much better. On the 3rd day I woke up with a muscle spasm in my neck and took a muscle relaxer. The crick in my neck was more painful than anything surgically related. My amazing team of occupational therapist, energy worker, and chiropractor put me back together. I didn’t know what to expect going into this surgery, but I’m relieved to know if any of my friends need a hysterectomy I can safely tell them it can be a piece of cake. The nipple sharing/skin grafting is gnarly looking, I’m not sure if they are actually taking or just hanging on for dear life.
I have been under strict orders to avoid lifting anything heavier that a milk jug. I wasn’t supposed to drive for 2 weeks, but I gave it one solid week before breaking the rules. I don’t know what I would’ve done without my husband doing mommy and daddy duty AND taking care of me. I also want to give a huge thank you to our beloved nanny, Becca, who put her personal life on pause and pretty much moved in with us for a week. She pitches in with whatever needs to be done, she anticipates our needs without being prompted, she loves our kids, and she does it all with a smile.
Our son, who is almost 4, has been going through a bit of a rough patch since the surgery. I don’t know if he is scared about my health, anxious, worried about being abandoned, mad at me for not being able to keep up with him physically, tired of cancer, having real tummy troubles, or just going through typical 4 year-old adjustments. I have been trying to give him extra love and attention but he is pushing me away, literally. Good thing I’m not going anywhere, I just keep bouncing back in my full body compression garments!