It’s been a full week since my reconstruction surgery. A week of healing, laying low, & resting. This surgery brings a different feel than my mastectomy. A feeling of completion, yet still so much anxiety. I should be excited that this awful year is over and I get to finish it out in this positive way but it’s actually been quite the opposite.
Let me explain......
When I had my appointment with my plastic surgeon at the end of summer and he checked to see how my skin was healing from radiation, I was thrilled to hear that he would be able to schedule my reconstruction surgery at the end of 2018. He said I was healing quickly and everything looked great! I would look forward to starting 2019 in a much better place physically and mentally, I thought. I went home super giddy and couldn’t wait to talk details. My mind went to fantasy land, “what would I look like? Will I have great breasts again? No more expander? I’ll feel like a sexy woman again!!”
I was on this “high” for a couple months! My surgery was set for 12/29/18, and I would have reconstruction on my right breast, a lift on my left, fat grafting, & a hernia fixed on my belly button. HELLO 2019, I’m coming for you. Mama is BACK!!
BUT then I went in for my pre-op and the tone completely changed. My plastic surgeon (who is fabulous btw) came in and was brutally honest with me. He told me that my case was EXTREMELY challenging and I would never look even, let alone perfect. He said that having a unilateral mastectomy, radiated skin, & being thin on top was the trifecta of challenging. He kept reassuring me that he would do his best BUT the surgery was going to be long (5 hours) and to not set high expectations. He also stressed that I will have to have more than one surgery to get everything right. He then reassured me that our goal was to look even under clothes, not naked in a mirror. Even under clothes..... meaning no one would see my scars, uneven breasts, & one nipple. No one would see all the insecurities that still lay underneath all my clothes.
I went home and cried. I cried because somehow I knew that after my mastectomy I looked uneven but this was temporary and something I could live with for a year. But I thought after reconstruction I would look better, complete... like me again. NOPE. Now I’m going into surgery thinking that this is permanent and the way I leave the hospital after my exchange surgery is going to be the way I will look. I somehow need to dig deep to feel like I’m ok with this. UGH. I’m bawling by this point....... I know that going back into the operating room would open up more wounds both physically and mentally. The diagnosis reminding me that it’s not quite over yet.
Meanwhile all of my friends keep texting me saying how exciting this surgery will be, “You will get your new rack! I’m super jealous! A free boob job, so awesome! Are you going to go bigger? You are so lucky that you get a matching set after babies. Aren’t you so excited?!?!”
No, no, & NO.
For the record, I’m not getting a free boob job, I’m not going bigger, & all I want is to feel normal again. I want my old breasts back, sure they were a little saggy after babies but they were mine and they made me feel sexy. Now I feel like I’m an ad for a connect the dots game with all my scars. It’s awful.
It all sucks. Can I say it again..... this ALL sucks!!!
When I announced last year that I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew I would smash it in the face. I knew I would beat the crap out of the disease and I knew it messed with the wrong mama. I knew I could do it and I did it with an incredible tribe of friends and family, lifting me up when I was down, exhausted, depressed, & barely able to move. But I conquered this part and now I feel like it’s just me on an island...Fighting alone, trying to stay positive and thrive after cancer.
And damn it’s hard.
So yes, it’s been a week. A full week of recovery, feeling lonely, looking at my very swollen, cut up body and not recognizing myself. A full week of intense pain and finding it super challenging to do simple tasks around the house. A full week of being a prisoner in my own home and not able to drive. A full week to completely take in what this diagnosis has taught me and what 2018 has truly meant to me.
So yes, I’m still waking up every single morning and the first thing that pops into my mind is cancer while the first glimpse are scars on my chest. I’m still trying to understand what this all means and what it looks like moving forward. I’m still trying to find my new group of friends that are survivors and can understand my struggles. And I’m still searching for my new normal.
But I had my 1 week checkup today and everything is healing nicely. I’m still very swollen and have to wear compression bands on my belly and chest for 3 more weeks (I look 4 months pregnant!). But I’m truly proud of my body. I’m proud of how healthy I am, how quickly I heal, & how I’m beating this. Yes, it’s exhausting, terrifying, & stressful. But I’ll overcome this, I’ll continue to learn while teaching others, & I’ll continue to thrive.