Treatment is Done Now Get Over it. Really???

This was an interesting article/post by another woman with breast cancer. I have read her blog for the last 3 years and although I have never met her I feel that connection to her … I laugh and cry sometimes when I read her posts and hear her story. It always resonates with me somehow.

The below is highlighting the fact that people think that when the gruelling treatment is over, you should just be happy and get back to your previous life. It doesn’t work that way and it is difficult to put into words the myriad of emotions you experience. However the article below does a great job of explaining what it’s like. Please read so that you understand just a little more than you did before.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/breast-cancer-dont-ask-us-to-get-over-it_us_57f18712e4b07f20daa10e51?timestamp=1475450545778

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Breast Reconstruction – feel like the Bride of Frankenstein

I am now 17 days post surgery and am recovering well. I wish someone had described to me what it would be like so that I would not have been as nervous. Oh well, I made it through the worst part and it was fine even with a few bumps a long the way.

The first week after surgery was not pleasant. Surgery day I was anxious and emotional. At the hospital during pre-surgery prep the nurse got the IV in on the first try with minimal pain. Thank god! And she was really very nice. In those situations (sometimes any situation) one kind word can make you feel better, it really can make a difference. I was then prepped and ready in my hospital gown and off to the surgery waiting area. The anesthesiologist then came over to have a brief chat. It was the same person I had for my previous surgery. I had requested her, hoping she was available and she was scheduled that day so put her name in on my surgery. Happy about that! Also made me feel a little better. While walking over to the OR, all of a sudden I was overwhelmed with emotion. Maybe everything came back … I’m really not sure what happened but we had to take a pause before continuing. It was emotionally overwhelming, cutting off my breast and now having them start to reconstruct it. Breast cancer which now seems to be gone but you never know, and there’s always that fear lingering in the back of your mind. After a couple of minutes I was ok and continued down the hallway to the OR.¬†Once there, I was being strapped in and the resident introduced himself, my surgeon came in, everyone was bustling around and then I felt light headed …

The nurse was tapping my shoulder waking me up. Surgery was over, I made it!! Woo hoo! She was asking how much pain I was in and checked everything. The pain was quite a bit, I was pretty sore even though I was on morphine. They gave me more drugs and waited for the pain to go below a 5/10 before they sent me up to my room. I could barely move. There was pain in my back, my front, my arm, and my stomach. I am guessing a few hours went by (not sure since it’s a blur) but I was finally ready to be taken to my room. This nurse was also very nice and told the two taking me up to my room to go slow as I was very sore. Every bump, every movement HURT!

Finally got to my room and my mom also came in to see me. Shortly after my brothers and Dad came to see me as well. My nieces made me a card and video, which was so sweet.

I was to be in the hospital until the next morning. The next 24 hours were not pleasant. I was so sick (nausea vomiting) I couldn’t eat. Also I could barely move so once I was lying down that’s the position I was going to stay in. Needed a nurse to help me out of bed and to the bathroom and then back into bed. Could not lean forward very much so always needed help with reaching anything. 3 of the nurses were great the other 2 were horrible! The nurse I had to call at 3:30am to help me to the bathroom was the worst. She was so unhelpful!! After I went to the bathroom she left so I made it back to my bed but could not properly get back in. When she came back, she helped me into bed but didn’t straighten out my sheets so I couldn’t get them over me properly, even though I had asked her to. She was such a miserable bitch. My nurse was on break which is why this woman was there instead. Finally another nurse came to help the lady I was sharing the room with and then she came over to help me. I was so frustrated at this point I started crying. Ugh. This other nurse was so lovely and my other 2 were great as well. When you’re helpless and in pain and can’t even get out of bed, it is the worst feeling when the person who is supposed to help you doesn’t give a shit and is barely helping. I complained about that nurse and they said she was from an agency.

The next morning was okay aside from the fact that I was dehydrated due to not being able to keep anything down. They had to keep me there an extra couple of hours because I needed fluid. After that my mom came to get me and was irritable and being bitchy. WTF?! I just had major surgery and she’s gonna act like that?!?! I was so angry after that I didn’t even want to speak to her. But unfortunately I had to stay with her for a few days since I needed help and live alone. The downside of being single.

I spent the first week in pain, and binge watching Netflix. Couldn’t do a whole lot and sleeping was uncomfortable but it was bearable. I had drains coming out of my back, there was fluid oozing out of the open area, had really bad blisters from the bandaid/dressing tape, and my stomach was purple from the bruising. My chest area wasn’t so bad but looked like patchwork and looking at myself in the mirror the first time was difficult. She had taken a piece of skin from my back and put it in the front so that there would be more space to create a “breast” since radiated skin is not very elastic. She took fat from my stomach and put it into the breast area so I now have the beginnings of a breast. There will be more work done later but I get a 2-3 month break.

After spending eight days at my mothers house I finally came home. While I am thankful that she was helpful it wasn’t always pleasant so I was very happy to be back in my own space. Oh and I was really excited to be able to take a shower again … no more sponge baths!! Funny how we take the simple things for granted.

I have a huge scar on my back and 2 scars in the front. I feel like the Bride of Frankenstein but I keep telling myself that eventually all will look kind of normal again. I will never look the way I did before but that’s okay. As long as I am cancer free and can wear a normal bra, I’m happy.

 

 

 

Finally Friday … The Longest Week Ever!

This has felt like the longest week ever. TGIF!! I haven’t said that in awhile. I’m still in pain but it’s not as bad as last night. My mom told me to take a sick day but I felt obligated to go in and finish the project I was working on. Deadline is end of day today. I thought I’d be able to leave early and finish it over the weekend. Well no such luck. Got an email from my boss saying that he needed it tonight and Monday was too late. Are you kidding me?!?! There was no meeting scheduled for Saturday morning! Ugh. I could feel the frustration starting again. I let him know that my back pain had gotten much worse and that I could not work late so would not be able to get it finished tonight. His response was only to let him know what still needed to be done and he would finish it. There was no concern or acknowledgement of the pain I was in. Just a simple “sorry to hear you’re not feeling well” would have sufficed. It was the fact that he didn’t even acknowledge it that was upsetting! I could feel the frustration building … I’ve now passed 5 and am getting closer to 10. SIGH. I go for a short walk, grab some lunch and head back to my desk. The abdominal/back pain has not subsided. I make an appointment with my GP for Tuesday. If it gets worse I can always go to the walk in they have in the afternoon. 

My coworker is frustrated as well and starts venting, I listen and then share my frustration with her. All of a sudden I’m crying. What is happening?! I have never in 20 years, cried at work!! “Get it together” I tell myself. A minute later I’m fine but clearly I am overwhelmed again, something I’m not used to. Part of it is the fact that my eating and exercise all went out the window this week. Something I cannot afford. Oh and let’s not forget that I’ve been working all day while in pain. I will NOT be doing this again. I’m going to talk to my oncologist and HR and then figure something out. 

I continue working madly, trying to get everything done. My coworkers have now both left. It’s after 5pm and I am still working. Now my thoughts have turned into ‘I hate my job, I want to quit, this is not how life is supposed to be … At least not my life!’. Finally at 6:30 I send my boss an email with what I’ve completed and leave the rest for him to finish. I got most of it done but there was still a bit left to do (which he apparently needed completed that night). 

Home sweet home. My week from hell is finally over. All I want to do is NOTHING, turn my brain off and relax. I get my heating pad (for my back) and find a movie to watch. Beyond the mental and physical exhaustion, my entire left side and abdomen are in pain. Monday may have to be a sick day. 

No one prepared me for how rough it would be at times even after treatment was over. Like everyone else, I thought after completing treatment I’d be back to normal. Definitely not the case but I did make through the week and the weekend is here!! 

Life Post Treatment

Right now I guess I’m in recovery/rehab. Not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Everything has taken a huge toll. I still have moments of fear and worry but try to keep that in check by being grateful for what I do have … My family, my friends and my life. I want to live each day in happiness and peace and not worry about relapse/recurrence. It’s impossible to never worry or think about it but if those thoughts are few and far between, I can deal with that.

I’m still not working as I’m extremely fatigued most of the time. For now I have appointments, and info sessions. Tomorrow I see my surgeon for a follow up, Wed I am attending a Lymphedema Info session and Thursday a session on Eating Well After Breast Cancer. I also need to find a physiotherapist and attend a cancercise (post cancer exercise) program. I feel out of shape and my whole body feels stiff. I’d like to start doing some yoga as well. I think that would help mentally/emotionally as well as physically. Truthfully I feel fat, even though I’m not. But as I say about most things now, I’M ALIVE so it’s not a big deal, I’ll get back in shape eventually.

My radiated skin is still healing. Doesn’t feel much better yet though. It’s red and itchy. I moisturize all day and also use pure aloe first thing in the morning. It’s like I’m super tanned in that area. I was also told that the radiated skin will be sensitive FOREVER! Really forever?! I thought they were going to tell me 6 months, a year maybe but not forever! Oh well a small price to pay for being alive so it really isn’t a big deal. Like so many other things that probably would have bothered me before, a lot of things seem insignificant now. I’d like to go on vacation soon, somewhere warm with a beach. Here’s hoping my skin heals sooner than later.

I’m also hoping that emotionally and mentally I heal sooner than later as well. I have a counselling appointment set up through the hospital but I have to wait a month or so. In the meantime there are programs offered through the hospital and their partners that I’m looking into. These are programs based on getting physically back on track through exercise but have an emotional/mental component as well. I can’t wait to start living my life again with some sense of normalcy. I’m changed forever but I can have a new normal. And who knows it may be even better than before.

By the way my mom had a few friends over on Saturday to celebrate again! There was prayer, the food and fun and CAKE! One of my mothers lovely friends also brought me flowers. At one point my mom was thanking her 2 close friends for the support they had given her through everything and I can’t remember the rest because I became too emotional. Had to go upstairs and give myself a minute. It’s still overwhelming at times but I guess that’s natural and will tone down with time. I truly felt loved and still do.

As we can see my sleep cycle is a disaster. So now that it’s 3:45am I’m going to sleep.