19 days and counting…

Yep, 19 days and counting. I have had my JP drain tubes in for 19 days. Two drains are on my left side and one on my right. They were placed there before I came out of surgery to drain the fluid as I heal from the mastectomy and let me tell you they are awful. They are actual sewn in to my sides. Initially, I had to drain them every four hours and did for the first six or seven days. I don’t recall but now it’s just a couple times a day. A couple pictures of the contraptions are below. They have pretty much kept me from doing anything. I can’t drive. Can’t walk very fast. Can’t pick up my girls. Can’t hold my girls unless I’m sitting down. I have to put them in a pouch when I shower and then can’t wear many of my own clothes because the tubes need some leverage to move around. They get sore easily since they are in my side and gravity pushes them downward. They suck. Oh yeah, and I have to keep gauzes on them so that they are somewhat protected but also to catch any fluid that may make it out of the incisions verses going into the tube. When I feel above the incision I can actually feel the tubes inside my body. That’s pretty cool.

Now let’s rewind just a bit to day eight when I met with my General Surgeon. Meeting with your GS post-op more less entails them taking a look at your incisions and drainage numbers to see how things are progressing. They also review your pathology report with you. For those of that don’t know what that is, it is a description of the tissue and cells based on microscopic evidence of what was found during surgery. For me, I certainly came into the doctors office in better spirits than when I left. For me, they weren’t able to get all of the cancer out. For me, the GS said it looked as if a salt shaker had been shaken around the lymph nodes that had been removed and microscopic cancer still remains. Certainly not the information I wanted to hear. Per the GS, he said that the radiation is expected to take care of it. Fortunately, radiation was in my treatment plan either way so that wasn’t a surprise. As my appointment ended, my GS told me that everything else looked good including my incisions. He kept saying I was every color of the rainbow. He was referencing the bruising I had which is still present today. Once he left the room I began to get dressed and began to cry. My mom walked over to me and just hugged me. Why was this happening to me. Why couldn’t they just get it out when they were in there. I had been through 16 rounds of chemo. Four of which kicked my ass. I had just had my chest opened up, my breast and 10 lymph nodes completely removed, eight lymph nodes of which had cancer and now I had just been told that there was still cancer inside of me. How was this even possible. I had thought chemo would get it all out. Other than radiation, what else can be done to get it out. More chemo? Please God, no. I was so discouraged. I came home and talked to my husband and the tears poured. I told him how it all just sucks. No one should have to go through this type of thing, this turmoil, this hurt, this pain, this anger. None of it. I recall the remainder of the weekend feeling let down. I don’t recall talking or really smiling much. Fortunately, my husband and girls had given me a night with just my mom to lounge around and relax so the three of them didn’t have to see me feel that way. I didn’t care to talk about what was going on and certainly didn’t want to think about all the ‘what if’s’ but as we all know it’s so hard not to. Each day came and went and my mind adjusted to the fact that I still had cancer inside my body. To get it out would entail more work and I was up to that challenge.

My anticipation was swirling high as the day drew closer to my first post-op appointment with my Oncologist. What was she going to say. Was the treatment plan going to change now that cancer was still inside. Good news is that once I met with her not much would change. Lots of things were added though. On May 7th, I will have yet again another Bone Scan and CT Scan to view the inside of my body. These scans will detect any cancer cells that may have spread since my last scan in October. The reason is this. Chemo was administered to me for 16 weeks to shrink the cancer that had been found. Surgery was performed to remove the tumor and infected lymph nodes. Now this is the scary part for me to digest. Chemo nor surgery suppressed the estrogen which is what has been found to feed the type of breast cancer I have, diagnosing me as ER+. The really awesome news is that my cancer is growing at a very slow rate so in my mind it hasn’t gone anywhere else in my body. On May 11th, I meet with my Radiology Oncologist for the first time. They will scan the area of which they will apply radiation and mark me for the radiation to begin. I’ll share more on that once I’ve been through it.

In the next two to four weeks, I’ll begin to take hormonal medication. Given I am ER+ (estrogen positive and at my Oncology appointment found out that I also PrG+ (progesterone positive) due to findings during surgery), all of the estrogen in my body has to be shut down. I’ll be placed into early menopause at age 36 after being administered a shot every 28 days to more less shut down my reproductive organs. Now as a women that carried two beautiful girls, pregnancy has always been so incredibly fascinating to me. My body created life. My body grew a person that will forever have an impact on me, other people, and this world. I felt them inside of me as they kicked and moved around. And now being told that the organs that made those lives will be taken out of me is really hard to come to grips with. I have no idea if Aaron and I would have ever had more children. We had never said we would but we never said we wouldn’t. If you’ve read previously blogs about my journey you know that I had a really hard time with that thought initially. But this is how I’ve started looking at it. God gave me two amazingly beautiful girls that I love more than anything in this entire world. God allowed me to grow them inside my body, he allowed me to birth them, and is now allowing me to raise them to the best of my ability. There are women I know that could never conceive. There are women I know that have been pregnant and lost their unborn child. There are women I know that carried their child, birthed their child but never took their child home due to complications. I do have cancer. I will never be pregnant again. I will never have the opportunity to birth a child again due to cancer. But God did give me two girls that I am forever grateful for. It has taken me time to get to that place and I know that shutting down my reproductive organs is necessary to keep me healthy for my husband and my girls.

Now moving on. In addition to the shot, I’ll take a daily oral medication that will lower the chances of the ER+ cells attaching to the cancer cells and helping them grow thus keeping the cancer away. I’ll also have an IV administered every six months that will help with bone health given the fact that menopause causes both health to deteriorate. Moving forward, once these drugs start to flow through my body I’ll begin to experience some of the menopause side effects including hot flashes, mood swings, and potential weight gain. So just a heads up if I come walking in and you see me sweating, pissed off and 20 pounds heavier!

I have no idea why God has placed cancer inside my life. I’m not sure what will come of this challenge he has put me up against but I do know that I’ll be better for it. I have already learned a lot about myself and my body. I have chosen to let certain things bother me because they should and to let the majority of things just roll off my back. Life isn’t easy. Life actually sucks sometimes in every way possible but what life does give us is faith, hope and love. Those three things can get you through the really bad times and when you get through those really bad times you’re smiling on the other side and grateful for all you have.

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