Surgery Part 5: Something to Celebrate

firework

(January 15, 2015)

I received an email from my doctor today:

“I hope you are healing well from your recent biopsy. As you probably know, the results are benign and show a fibroadenoma. I just wanted you to know that I have been following your results and I’m happy for you.”

This was actually the first news I had gotten about my results. I’m happy to say I’m CANCER FREE!

Cory asked how I felt… I was honest with him. I felt a little nervous to be relieved. I was afraid I read the email wrong or they mixed my results with another patient’s. It’s starting to settle in now and life just feels normal again. We can breathe deep and move on.

(Added Note 7/26/2015)

It took almost 3 months before I was finally pain-free from the surgery. As I look back proof-reading these posts, it seems like a dream that happened so long ago. I am so thankful everything turned out the way it did as I know that’s not the case for so many.

I know I only experienced a small glimpse of the anxiety and pain that comes with going through something like cancer, but this experience has given me even more compassion for others. My heart is heavy knowing that the burden they bear is not only a physical one, but an emotional journey as well.

Every time I look back on the hard times in my life, I’m thankful for them. It’s during these times that my character is developed and I am required to trust God fully. It’s during these times that I am reminded of how hopeless life would be without the reassurance of Jesus Christ as my savior. To know the God who created the entire universe has my life in His hands and He is in control is all the reassurance I will ever need.

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Surgery Part 4: Under the Knife

scalpel

(January 8, 2015)

The day for my surgery was finally here. My appointment was scheduled horrendously early in the morning, but was a bit of a blessing since I couldn’t eat anything or shower anyway. We arrived at the surgical clinic and I was a bundle of nerves. I was the first patient of the day, and was quickly whisked away to get ready.

Before I could have my surgery, I had to submit a urine sample so they could perform a pregnancy test. What an awkward way that would be to find out you were pregnant! When the nurse announced it was negative, I have to admit I did let out a rather loud, celebratory “woo hoo!”. I donned a fashionable paper gown and bright purple socks, then was brought to a curtained off section with a bed. As soon as I laid down, the nurse placed several heated blankets on top of me and it felt WONDERFUL! The paper gown I wore was interesting as well. It had an attachment for a hose to be hooked up and they pumped warm air through the gown to keep me warm and toasty.

The staff were all very attentive, friendly, and compassionate. It did little to ease my fears though. I wanted to panic. I was terrified and wanted to burst into tears. A nurse came by and inserted an iv into my hand without any trouble and I could feel the cold fluid trickling up into my arm.

Then I was left alone to wait for the doctor to come see me prior to surgery. I remember laying in bed wishing I had taken the time to read my Bible before coming. Wanting some kind of comfort. I was afraid I would be put under anesthesia and that would be it. I would never wake again. I began to sing Psalm 23 over and over in my head.  “Even though, I may walk, through the valley of the shadow of death. I will not fear. For you, oh Lord, you are with me.” And just like that, God gave me peace.

The doctor came in and signed his initials onto my left breast to make sure there was no error during surgery and they would cut into the correct side. Then I was wheeled away to the surgical area. I stared at the ceiling as the fluorescent lights whizzed by. The surgical room appeared and I moved myself over onto the operating table. I was a tangled mess of wires from a heart monitor, iv tubes, and the like. It felt like an octopus was surrounding me as all I could see were a tangle of arms everywhere as nurses, doctors, and assistants tried to untangle everything and make sure all the equipment was hooked up and working.

All of a sudden I thought I must be panicking. The world was beginning to spin and I was afraid I was about to pass out. Just as I was about to reprimand myself for my lack of bravery, the anesthesiologist let me know she had started my sedative and I might start feeling dizzy. The last thing I remember was the nurse trying to get my blood pressure cuff to work correctly and holding an oxygen mask over my face. Two deep breaths and I was gone.

I heard my name being called. There must be something still wrong with my blood pressure cuff, I thought to myself. They need me to do something to help fix it… But when I opened my eyes, I was back in the surgery prep area. I was thoroughly confused. There was no way they could have done the surgery already, I didn’t even feel any pain! I groggily asked if my husband could come see me, and someone went to fetch him from the waiting area.

I began to get my bearings and asked if it was possible to see the tumor they removed. They brought out a big canister, but unfortunately you couldn’t see through it, so I wasn’t able to see what it looked like. I was told that when they removed the tumor in the operating room, everyone started shouting. They were surprised at how big it was! They told me it was the size of a baseball. Oh. My. Goodness!

I worked on trying to wake out of the anesthesia fog as quickly as possible so we could go home. About 3.5 hours after arriving at the clinic, they released me. I was wheeled out to the car and our first stop was to get some breakfast. I was absolutely STARVING! I downed a breakfast sandwich, hash browns, and orange juice. I was still hungry, so I made Cory take the next exit to pick up a cinnamon roll and cookie from a bakery.

Once we got home, I rested in bed all day and felt surprisingly good (with the help of several vicodin). It’s been over 48 hours since the surgery now, and I was able to remove the bandage. The doctor had to make about a 3 inch incision to get the tumor out. Quite a bit larger than he had originally anticipated. I have spent quite a bit of time resting these past two days and have found I’m a terrible patient. For some reason, I had convinced myself that after 48 hours I would be ready to bounce back to normal. Instead, I’m dealing with an achy, sometimes painful, breast. My children miss me and want to cuddle, but have the unfortunate habit of constantly bashing into my chest making it hurt worse. It will take a little bit longer to recover than I had anticipated, but I am so relieved it is over. Now it’s just a waiting game. The tumor was sent to a lab to be biopsied. Eventually, I will find out if it is cancerous, and also if it is the kind of tumor that will grow back. It’s a small percentage, but if that’s the case, I will have to have surgery again right away to try and take more tissue out to prevent that from happening.

So now I wait. Wait for the healing process to be complete, and wait for the results.

Surgery Part 3: Day of Reckoning

Rollercoaster__by_andrearossi

(December 3, 2014)

The day had finally come. My mom graciously took time off from work to watch the kids so Cory could join me for my appointment. Not only did I want him there for moral support, but I have this funny way of misinterpreting everything that doctors tell me. He accompanied me to almost all of my OB appointments when I was pregnant with our kiddos, and there were times we would leave the office with two completely different ideas of what had just been discussed.

We were whisked back to an exam room as soon as we arrived, and then sat and waited. And waited. If I learn anything through all of this nonsense, it will probably be patience! Nurses kept popping their heads in the door profusely apologizing for making us wait for so long and were offering us tea and coffee. Apparently the doctor was doing a minor surgery prior to seeing me when ‘something came up’. I don’t really think you can be annoyed at the fact that your soon-to-be-surgeon is kind enough to take time to solve problems with his patients!

The surgeon was finally able to see me and did a thorough exam to see what he was dealing with and to make sure I was healthy enough for surgery. He said I seem to have what is called a fibroadenoma. Basically, a solid non-cancerous tumor. He said he is 99% sure that the tumor is NOT cancer. He could actually tell this by just feeling the tumor. Cancer tends to send out roots so the tumors have jagged edges and are not able to move around easily because they are anchored in. My tumor is very smooth and moves easily. Ew.

Then I received the best news yet… The tumor was too large to take out in an in-office procedure, so I would need to have surgery. Completely anesthetized and ignorant to everything that was happening. Cory was in shock when I told him that I was actually more worried about having to stay awake for the surgery than I was worried about it being cancer. I had a tiny cyst about the size of a pea removed from my stomach about five years ago and I almost passed out. It was not a pleasant experience and I was dreading having something roughly the size of a small lime removed while awake!

The reason I need to have this removed right away is because it is growing rather aggressively and I was told it will continue to grow if not removed. It has been two months since I discovered it, and with each passing day it seems to be getting worse. I am now actually experiencing slight pain from everything expanding so quickly.

The appointment went very well and gave me a lot of hope. I still struggle with worrying from time to time. I’ve had a few days where worry gets the best of me. There is no denying the fact that surgery always comes with risks. Then there is that 1% chance that the doctor was wrong and it really is cancerous.

I am always thankful for the trials God allows me to go through. Romans 5:3-4 says it so well…

Romans5.3-4sqfrost

Don’t get me wrong… This totally sucks. I would love getting to skip out on all of the garbage I’ve been going through, but I just hope that through all of this, I will come out stronger.

Surgery Part 2: The Longest Two Weeks

Falling Rain

(November 18, 2014)

Two weeks. Fourteen Days. Three hundred and thirty-six hours. You get the idea.

It felt like I had to wait forever to go see the surgeon. I was an emotional wreck. The only people who knew anything was going on were our parents and my best friend. It’s hard to explain how I felt. I didn’t want anyone to know, but at the same time, I wanted to scream out to anyone who would listen that I could possibly have cancer. But most likely not. But maybe.

You don’t want to jump to the worst possible conclusion, but it’s difficult not to. Facing the reality of my mortality and my complete lack of control was SO HARD. I tried to be normal throughout the day in an attempt to not freak my kids out. We try to be as honest in our house as possible, but wanted to keep things vague when talking to our 2 and 4 year-old. When I just couldn’t keep myself in check and would start crying, I would just explain that “mommy’s body isn’t working right and it’s hurting right now”. They seemed satisfied with that answer, and would always lovingly run to the kitchen for a towel for me to dry my tears on.

I would go through my day and feel ripped apart. The thought of leaving my sweet babies motherless and my husband alone was just too much. I know that if I have to face death, I can rest easy. I know Jesus as my savior and while the unknown honestly freaks me out a bit, I know this: I really love my life here on this broken earth, so going to heaven, a place designed in perfection, can only be more wonderful. The part that freaks me out is knowing the pain that would endure for everyone left behind. And the helpless feeling knowing I can control nothing.

The days passed by and I was an emotional rollercoaster. For a few days I would feel amazingly confident and calm. I was sure everything would be fine. Then something small would happen that just seemed to tip me over the edge, and I would be a wreck. I dealt with my issues by eating trashy food and gaining weight. Other days I would clear my mind by going running. I was snappy at times and yelled at my kids when my patience wore thin. My husband was, as always, kind and patient. Speaking words of encouragement and truth while giving me extra amounts of grace for my craziness.

If I could only allow myself the same amount of kindness and grace. I spent almost the entire two weeks trying to suppress my fears. The reason I was on such a crazy rollercoaster was because I would bottle everything up until it would explode just a tiny bit and I would be allowed a small amount of relief, only to do the same thing over and over and over.

I had convinced myself that it was not okay to be upset about this. If I was upset and worried that I might have cancer and then found out my biopsy came back just fine, I would be a fraud. I would be stealing from all of those who actually were suffering from this awful disease. It was not okay to be anxious or upset.

If all of these thoughts were told to me by someone else, I would have told them they were being ridiculous! That they had every right to worry and I would support them as much as possible. But I am my own worst critic. My own enemy. My expectations of myself are frequently unattainable.

Somewhere along the line it finally clicked. Whether by my husband’s quiet reassurance, or that one final GIGANTIC meltdown where I sobbed buckets of tears, I realized it was okay. I gave myself permission to hurt. Permission to be scared. My appointment with the surgeon was just a few days away, but I finally felt as though I could continue living life normally and not gripped in constant fear and anguish.

Surgery Part 1: This Can’t Be Happening

flower

I wrote the following posts earlier this year as I was going through this journey, but I just now decided to share my experience…

(October 23, 2014)

It started off as an ordinary, nondescript day. I put the kids in their rooms to play and went to take a hopefully uninterrupted shower. Why is there always a princess emergency/crisis that comes up while I’m trying to shower?

Anyway, while showering, I happened to notice a lump in my left breast. Not great. I sent off a quick email to my doctor about it and decided it was most likely a non-issue. The doctor’s office called me back a few hours later to ask a million and one questions. Of course they decided to call at the worst possible moment – while I was visiting my husband at work and his male co-workers were right there. Thankfully almost all of the questions were yes or no so it wasn’t too horrible. I was asked all sorts of questions, but the answers were all negative. So, since it was just a lump with no other symptoms like pain, etc, the doctor told me to just wait it out a bit and call her after I had my next menstrual cycle in case it was just something weirdly related to hormones.

My period came and went and the stupid lump stayed. On November 17th, I called to make an appointment with the doctor. I did not want to make this appointment. It’s not like I don’t like doctors, but it seems like every time I see a doctor for something (like maybe twice a year) they happily take my co-pay and tell me there’s nothing wrong, so just take some ibuprofen and I’ll be fine.

I called to schedule my appointment. I sat on hold. I sat on hold some more. After about twenty minutes (not even kidding) I was finally directed to scheduling. When I told them the reason I needed to be seen, she automatically told me she couldn’t schedule me until I first spoke to an advice nurse. “Are you freaking kidding me?!” I wanted to yell, but instead I politely informed her I had already spoken to a nurse previously and just needed an appointment. It didn’t matter, she transferred me anyway. Only instead of transferring my call, she hung up on me. And I burst into tears and decided I hated my doctor’s office.

Knowing I would have to spend quite a bit more time on the phone, I waited to call back until later that afternoon. My family and I were driving to Cory’s hockey practice, so I decided the drive would be the perfect time to sit on hold. I attempted to connect directly to an advice nurse this time. I sat on hold for SO LONG that it became a race to see if I would finish my phone call or we would reach Vancouver first. Spoiler alert: it was a very close race, but I did finish the phone call with about 5 minutes to spare. And I managed to get an appointment to be seen the very next morning. That’s never a good sign…

I went into my appointment the next day blissfully kid free. I could only imagine how that appointment would go with a curious 4-year-old and 2-year-old in the room while the doctor inspected my boob. Well, the doctor gave me a customary exam and I was ready for the usual “it’s nothing blah blah blah”. Instead, I was told stuff needed to get done. I was scheduled for an ultrasound and told that I shouldn’t worry about it being a tumor or cancer because at my age (thirty-something-ish) it just is not very likely. My doctor was guessing it was mostly likely a cyst and would be easily taken care of, but took the time to talk worst-case scenarios with me so I knew what could possibly happen.

I started worrying a little bit more.

I went in for my ultrasound a few days later. I watched on the screen as the tech took pictures and measurements and just kept thinking to myself that this ultrasound was not nearly as fun as my last one where I got to look at a cute little baby in my belly. The ultrasound wasn’t terrible. I am an incredibly modest and private person, so you would think having to lay there while a lady takes a wand and smooshes your boob around might be extremely awkward. When I was in high school I had to see several cardiologists (almost all of whom were males) and have ultrasounds of my heart done (also by males) so I’ve kind of gotten over it. Anyway, the tech finished her job and told me I could get dressed and then wait for the doctor (radiologist?) to come in and talk to me about my results.

I sat and waited. And waited. I’m starting to sense a theme here…

The doctor finally came in and told me I needed surgery. Everything is a bit of a hazy fog, but she told me that whatever this “thing” was inside of my breast needed to come out. It was too large and would continue to grow if left alone. I would skip the step of having a needle biopsy done and just have this “thing” removed then biopsied after. I wanted to cry. I just wanted to burst into tears and sob for hours, but I couldn’t. As soon as I got home, I was supposed to be getting a family picture taken for the holidays. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a picture with swollen and puffy red eyes!

The doctor went on to explain that again, because I’m so young, it’s most likely not cancer, and blah blah blah. The problem was, as she was explaining all of this, she just kept looking at me with this look that seemed to say “I’m so sorry. You’re probably dying”. It was awful. And I couldn’t cry.

I was whisked away to a private room to schedule an appointment to see a surgeon for a consultation. The soonest they could see me was in two weeks. I would soon find out this would be the longest two weeks of my life.