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The Whole Story (Part III)

Okay, well I think I took a long enough break that you all deserve to get through the rest of the story. After the scans and the notification that I didn’t have to do my last dance with the red devil, I got 4 whole glorious weeks off from treatment to heal up a bit before surgery. Now, most people have an idea of what they would do for surgery (I certainly did), but it is a whole other story when you’re in the room and they present all of the options you have or don’t have in some cases. Because I was/am stage IV, I didn’t have many options. In fact, I cried in the appointment with my radiation oncologist because he informed me that the studies show that having a double mastectomy does not improve overall survival in stage IV patients than having a lumpectomy, so therefore it is really too much of surgery to put someone through when it won’t do anything to help prevent this from coming back. Another doctor told me that the lumpectomy was my best choice and the only thing for me to decide was if I wanted a salpingo-oophorectomy as well (that is the fancy official title for having my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed), and since my cancer is fed by estrogen and progesterone they would highly recommend it. So, I met with yet another doctor, who said they would perform the salpingo-oophorectomy for me and could do it on the same day as my lumpectomy (with reduction because I don’t want to look all lopsided). So, I’m going to have a big surgery, sort of a three-in-one kind of day on August 19th. I asked for it to be the Monday after the Project Pink’d gala. It was going to be my first chance to really see Project Pink’d in its glory and I did not want to miss it.   
I was lucky enough to be able to invite 9 people to join me at this gala.  I’ve never actually been to a gala, so this was new territory for and most of the people I invited. I knew right away that I wanted to invite some of my fellow breast cancer friends and my family and friends that have supported me through the fight. So my mom, sisters, niece, two dear friends, and two breast cancer survivors, and one of their husbands joined me at a table in the back, of a large dark room with SO MANY people that all looked amazing, to participate in the gala. I was also lucky enough to have been asked to help with the program! So, I snuck away more than once to go join others on the stage to say my line, and to be a part of the crowd of survivors on stage celebrating still being here. It was a glamorous night, with people I loved, helping to raise money for an organization I was infatuated with.  It was a pretty great send off to my breasts, one last hurrah before parts of them left me forever.   
The morning of August 19th, bright and early I was at the cancer center dressed in a surgical gown and laying on the bed, chatting with my parents.  I was there maybe 10 minutes before doctors start coming in to do their pre-checks and thank goodness for the anesthesiology resident because he was the single steadying voice in the crowd of doctors for my parents. At one point my parents were asked to leave the room so that Dr. Wong and Dr. Maxwell could start marking my body for where to cut, and while they were standing just outside the door to my room so were about 6 other doctors, nurses, and surgical staff all patiently waiting their turn to take one last check before carting me away for surgery. My mom later told me that was very overwhelming for her because it seemed like so much was happening all at once and she hadn’t had a chance to kiss me one last time yet.  She wasn’t ready for me to be whisked away just yet. The anesthesiology resident saw this written all over her face and took the time to tell her what each person was there for and how I had such a great team taking care of me that day.  Plus, he gave me some pretty good meds so I don’t remember turning down the hall after getting that last kiss and hug from my parents.  I don’t even really remember waking up in the recovery room, I just sort of remember being in a room near recovery that was mine for the night. I ordered some food and passed back out for the rest of the night thanks to the pain meds they had me on.  The next day, bright and early a team come in to check my surgery sites and while I’m talking to the first person that entered my room, a second comes in and starts unhooking my surgical bra, to which I look at her and say, “You know, usually I get a person’s name before they start unhooking my bra.” It stopped her for about three seconds before she laughed at me and kept going. I still don’t know her name. Before this interaction ends, one of the surgeons that worked on the previous surgery, the one with the abscess from blog post #2, has now walked into the room to check surgical sites from this surgery. I’m pretty sure the only part of me this surgeon hasn’t seen is my back and now I just want to crawl under the blankets and hide.   
My mom spent the week with me, helping me to navigate all the things like showering, changing the dressing on my surgical sites, meals, feeding the cat, running errands, and dressing myself. I didn’t do much beyond sleep and sit in a chair watching television.  I was sad to see her go because I can’t remember a time when she and I got to just be together with no agenda for a whole week.  After she left, I got a friend of mine to drive me to a couple of dr. appointments and I spent the next two weeks recovering. I don’t recall a ton of it, though I do know I figured out how to drive myself that third week. In all honesty, I probably shouldn’t have because I wasn’t supposed to raise my arms that high, but I did more of a shuffle of the wheel between hands than a reach up and over while turning.     
I met with Dr. Maxwell during one of the appointments and I think she had the best job that day because she handed me a pathology report that stated that they had clear margins at greater than 4 mms on all sides! This meant that Kevin was officially evicted, and I was officially ‘No Evidence of Disease’ or NED. For someone who had to fight really hard to even get aggressive treatment, this final report made all of it worth it.  I also had many appointments with the plastic surgeon that did my reconstruction, to either dig out stitches, to assess the healing, teach me how to pack a wound, and even one time to stimulate the healing that wasn’t happening.  This had to happen before we could do the final step in the process, radiation.  I don’t have a clue as to how they determine how many doses a person gets, but I am glad that mine wasn’t a large number. I had 16 doses of radiation, and my skin was starting to get mad right towards the end (think slight sunburn), but the bad part was that I had to hold my breath during the treatment and because of the high dose of radiation we did was back in February, my ribs were now really tender and there was scar tissue binding them. So, breathing in a large breath to hold was hard because of the pain.   
I’ve since done physical therapy to help break up the scar tissue near my lower ribs, and I’ve had several broken ribs in nearly the same spot, for how weak and tender they are.  This just about wraps up the big part of my story.  There are more small steps, like the maintenance chemotherapy that I am still taking to this day, the estrogen blockers, the scans I do every three months, and the appointments that go with, but that stuff is easy compared to the stuff above. If you want to know where I am, how I dealt with side effects, or anything else, just let me know. Otherwise, I’m moving on. I’m past this part and I’m not letting cancer take any more of my time than it already does. I have memories to make and I’m going to spend as much time as I can doing just that.              

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