Pathology came back & i'm cancer free!!
This is why we did it.
This is why I have endured pain and discomfort.
This is what every woman in my family would pray to hear - breast cancer free!
After surgery, my breast surgeon sent off ALL of the breast tissue gathered from surgery and the pathologists literally comb through it and test it all for cancer. I'm clear - I'm healthy and we now know that this was worth it.
Short term pain for the long term gain.
Both drains have been removed and I'm home free!
As of last Thursday, both drains have been removed and I can now resume learning my body's own limitations all over again.
This last week was tough. Since I can do most things on my own now, excluding lifting heaving things and making the bed, I wore myself out and then in turn had to keep my drain in for a full week longer than originally expected.
It was a catch 22 - I felt better so I did more (like generally moving about, folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, and combing my hair), but by doing more my body fought back by creating more drainage...leaving me with the second drain for 18 days. Talk about mental torture. I knew I did this to myself - so with Tim's forceful encouragement I was put on bedrest for 36 hours in hopes to get the drains out - IT WORKED! If only I had done that the week before.
I drove for the first time on Friday. I drove to get a mani/pedi and then when I got home I napped for 4 hours. It really is hard work with limited mobility and really stressful when an unexpected bump can lead to excruciating pain exploding through my chest. Generally I am pain free these days, with a few exceptions.
One of those exceptions is SNEEZING. [I should tell you that while writing this post, I have sneezed 3 times. Seasonal allergies and boob surgery do not go well together.]
There have been only a few times during this process where I thought I was legitimately going to die, and every one of those times has been right before I sneeze. I see the light flash before my eyes. I feel the explosion in my chest. I picture my incisions opening up and the implants just popping out. [I am aware that it impossible for them to pop out...but after a sneeze...it can seem like a reality.]
We finished a 1,000 piece monet puzzle.
Somehow we lost 4 pieces, so my dreams of framing our masterpiece were dashed by our carelessness when transporting the puzzle from the living room to the dining room.
WHAT FREEDOM LOOKS LIKE:
I have managed to get out of the house and do a few things: go to the movies, go to lunch with a friend from out of town, tailgate at the Energy game (and by tailgate I mean sit in a chair and drink Sprite), and my dear friend Lauren even took me shopping at Target. It's the little things that bring the most joy - making my own cup of coffee, folding laundry, and having the freedom to drive (even though the whole experience is terrifying and uncomfortable).
Even with all the little joys, last week was probably the toughest week emotionally. Lots of things converged at the same time: my period, a sad book about a 30 year old woman with lung cancer, and a general sense of awareness of what I have actually done to/for myself.
I might have mentioned before that I am in a BRCA 1 & 2 group on facebook. These women have been such a great support system by answering questions and giving encouragement when needed. Last week, a member of our group shared the story of the horribly rude things family members have said to her after explaining what prophylactic steps she would be taking to ensure beating breast and ovarian cancer. I couldn't believe it. (But I can...because sometimes people suck for no reason.) This makes me so thankful for all of the support I have received, but also I grieve for her pain and her loss when trying to deal with a close family member who is so against the process.
I realize some people might not get it - the need to control your own fate. What do you do with that knowledge once you have it? There are a lot of genetic tests out there that can be done to give warning of what might be your medical future. I chose to take my high risk of estrogen based cancers and turn it into a high probability of survival.
One of the group members, in response to this dear woman who has had her heart broken by cruel words, posted a quote from one of my favorite Disney movies - Brave. I think this is going to be the core concept of my previvor tattoo (more on that later).
so, what's next?
What's next you ask?
I have follow ups with all of my doctors. I get cleared to return to work. And then we wait. I wait a month until I can steam & sauna. I wait 8 weeks until I can work out. I wait 2 months before we talk about getting bigger boobs (this will consist of liposuction and fat grafting...sounds fun). We wait a few months before nipple reconstruction. And, hopefully, in a years time, when I walk past a mirror naked I will no longer see my marred and scarred body, but a feminine physique that is strong, beautiful, and cancer free.
SI've written about how I spent the few weeks after Christmas and before my surgery applying the KonMari Method to our home. This really helped me prepare a clean and tidy atmosphere for my post op recovery. After being stuck in the house for a couple of weeks, I have now come up with a list of suggestions for what I did to prep along with things I wish I had done.
Now that you've done all that, here are so items that have been crucial to my comfort and recovery:
• remote controlled lights. We bought a set off of Amazon and plugged all of our lamps in so I could control them with the touch of a button.
• neck pillow/travel pillow. I use mine all day and night. It keeps the pressure of my upper back and shoulders and helps me nap where ever, whenever I want.
• back scratcher. The percocet made me itch and the back scratcher that Tim got an an office white elephant Christmas exchange has been a life changer.
• 6" ace bandage. Gave me added support. I just wrapped my chest over the bra provided to me by my plastic surgeon.
• drain dollies. My dear friend, Lauren, found the pattern online and sewed me a set. I wore mine under my shirts, pinned to my bra. What a cute way to hide the drains and comfortably carry them around.
• small pillows for under your arms. This relieves the pressure from your drain points and it also keeps you from over reaching your arms.
• zip up hoodies, front botton shirts, and loose fitting pants.
• long cords for your phone and tablets.
• fun, mindless activities to keep you occupied while you are awake. My friend Jaclyn got me the above unicorn themed gifts plus the deck of Hillary cards. #imwithher #hillary2016
The perfect image of recovery = jug of water, TV remote, Xbox remote, fuzzy blanket and coffee. Not seen in photo is my lack of pants, top knot hair, and a button up shirt.
When I thought about the steps in this process that brought me anxiety, I was mostly worried about being under anesthesia. Funny thing is...that was LITERALLY the first step. So much has happened since that (very skilled) anesthesiologist tricked me into talking about Cheevers pecan balls.
Recovery is hard.
As long as I was on the percocet, I couldn't focus on anything. I slept through most television, couldnt read, and couldn't puzzle. This left a lot of sleeping. I didn't want to NOT take the pain meds because, believe it or not, I was in a lot of pain.
I am now just taking ibuprofen to manage my pain, but there is still a lot of napping. I can read now, which is nice, and the puzzle is coming along.
Monday was my first day out of the house.
I wore pants and combed my hair. It was magical.
I also got one of my drains out!! Woohoo!! One more to go and hope to have it out tomorrow.
Tim took me to eat at our neighborhood. Mexican joint. Chips and queso never tasted so good.
I also went to target on Monday to buy myself a new bra...lets just say the recovery bra given to me by the doctor isn't that sexy or feminine.
I came home and was completely exhaust. I mean wiped out - I took a 5 hour nap and woke up in time to eat some dinner.
Yesterday, with only one drain and the gumption of Kate Winslet in the Holiday, I showered myself. How freeing!! I somehow managed to knock all the shampoo off the shelf and break my razor, but I did it. I still desperately need help to get dressed and reach things, but I can proudly say that if I fall, I think I can get up.
Recovery is hard, but I'm getting there. Slowly but surely I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can load the washing machine and make my own coffee, so I'd say I'm at 60%.
Christina Mallory Chicoraske - a 30 year old, 4th generation Okie, diagnosed BRCA2+ and undergoing a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. This is the tale of my journey with hopes to inform and encourage other young women searching for answers after a BRCA1/2 gene mutation discovery.