Monday, November 7, 2011

Breast Cancer, The Journey

Breast Cancer, The Journey

Monday Evening, November, 7 2011 (thirteenth post in this series)

We started this blog to document our travels and for the most part we stick to that goal. However, we are “off the road” for a few months and I need to catch up on the thread we started earlier this year on our daughters “journey” with her breast cancer diagnosis.

Kelly publishes update emails that describe her journey. I am posting the last three on today's blog. My goal is to present, through Kelly's words, the major elements of what is entailed in making the decision to have a double mastectomy. The process is incredibly involved, including several surgeries and a great deal of physical and mental pain.

I started this series in March of this year with this post. As you can see from the header to this post, this is the thirteenth post in this series. Here are Kelly's updates:


My healing process has had its ups and downs, but I’m still so thankful that I will not have to have any radiation or chemotherapy!!  The recovery from the surgery has gone at least as well as I expected, if not better.  My only remaining symptom from the surgery is the fatigue that I expected, but wish it would progress a bit more quickly.  I continue to work on patience!

The reconstruction process has been a bit more than I expected, but, I guess if I stop to think about it, it all makes sense.  When they did the mastectomies, a plastic surgeon placed “tissue expanders” as the first step in the reconstruction process.  I guess I didn’t stop to think exactly what expanding the tissue might entail.  Each week (or every couple weeks depending on our travel schedule), I have to have saline injected into the tissue expanders, thus stretching the tissue.  At first I described the process as being similar to having your braces tightened, but I’m now realizing that the similarities are pretty limited.  Luckily I only have two more “fill” appointments and then I will have about three months to heal from this process before the next surgery.

Kelly and Damon

I continue doing well with my cancer journey.  My last “fill” was July 18th and I expected to be back to myself by the next week, but realized that it was another time to practice the art of patience.  The reconstruction process continued to be challenging, but I finally felt like I had a breakthrough last week.  I started sleeping without ice, sleeping almost through the night, and being able to sleep on my sides for a few minutes at a time (all things I took for granted before this journey).

I have discovered that physical therapy is a great tool during this process.  I have found a therapist who knows what she’s doing and is incredibly supportive.  She helps me remember that it’s not uncommon to take five steps forward and then a couple back, but I’m so thankful that she’s helping me through this process.  We started with the simple art of breathing because I had to re-train my body since I hadn’t been able to take a deep breath for so long.  She has taught me some great stretching exercises and we’re hoping to progress to some weight work in the next week or so.

My next surgery is scheduled for November 9th so I shouldn’t have any more appointments and will continue the healing process until then.  During that surgery the tissue expanders (or rocks as I fondly refer to them) will be removed and permanent implants will be placed.  That surgery will be a day surgery and should be much simpler than the first one.  As Madison says, the surgery will also probably be easier than the fills.

Kelly and Damon


One of the most moving points of our fall was our participation in Race for the Cure.  Damon and I used to do the full walk/run before we had the girls and even up until Molly was walking.  We still look back at that last year because Damon had Madison on his back in a backpack and I had Molly on my front in a pack and they both kept getting in and out of the backpacks and it wasn’t a whole lot of fun.

Each year since then we’ve done Sleep in for the Cure which was just our speed.  This year Molly talked us into going down for the family event and we’re so glad we did!  We were amazed at the number of people who come for that event.  It was an emotional day for me, realizing that I wasn’t walking for the women in pink shirts, but was now wearing the pink shirt.

It was also a day to remind me of my good fortune.  Seeing the women without hair and talking to a woman who went through lots of radiation and chemo helped me keep my perspective and continue to feel lucky in my situation.

The next surgery in my reconstruction will be next Wednesday.  During this one they will remove the tissue expanders (AKA rocks) and replace them with saline implants.  I’m looking so forward to having something more comfortable and I know it will be nice to be able to comfortably cuddle with the girls.

Damon and I went to the pre-op appointment yesterday and learned that, although this surgery will be SO much easier than the last one, some of the restrictions will be the same.  This surgery will be about 2 ½ hours versus the 4 hours for the last one.  This recovery is expected to be shorter, hopefully only a week or two.
I’m still coming to grips with the fact that I won’t be able to lift my arms over my head (including washing my own hair) or drive for two weeks and I won’t be able to work out for a month.  I will only be able to lift 5 pounds for about a month.  I guess these are small sacrifices compared to other things I could have gone through.  I am especially thankful that I won’t have drains this time!

As I continue to focus on humor, I’m picturing the “Iron Maiden Bra” that I’ll be wearing for a couple weeks.  I’m sure it’s going to be very sexy, but I promise not to send pictures!

Kelly and Damon