Yes, the countdown to Christmas… only 36 days to go! And, with this Christmas countdown comes my next surgery countdown… with only 37 days to go! Yes, as crazy as it seems, my mastectomy will take place on December 26th, the day after Christmas. Such an odd day to have it. It was the only date both of my surgeons are available before the end of the year. They only do surgeries together at Good Shepherd on Tuesdays and I did not want to wait until January. One surgeon travels the first half of January and waiting longer is just not an option. I need to have this done as close to the 3-month mark (after chemo and 1st surgery) as possible and that would be right about now. My oncologist said “waiting this one extra month is fine, but just don’t wait another.” We need to just remove these old friends, so the cancer does not have a chance to come back.
Keep in mind that this surgery is a bit different than your average boob job. Of which I don’t actually know much about anyway. So anyway, I am told that this surgery will involve removing all remaining breast tissue with docs inserting “expanders” under the chest muscle. They’ll add a few cc’s of saline and sew me back up. This is the start of the reconstruction process. The expanders have a metal port that is used when filling with more saline every few weeks over the course of 3 to 6 months (length of time depends on many things) – you know, kinda like balloons being filled with water. After each fill, your muscle stretches and adjusts to the new size… repeat this until you are at your final size. OMG, weird right? So, I am told that I will be in the hospital for minimum one night, possibly two. I will leave with drains on each side, tubes with bulbs that collect fluids and blood during the initial one-to-two week recovery process. I will be down for the count for a minimum of 3 weeks after this surgery and up to a couple months of light lifting, under 10 lbs. There’s discomfort with each fill, but nothing that a little Advil can’t handle.
Then, after about 6 months after all the fills are done there is one final surgery to exchange the expanders with the actual implants. This is called the Exchange surgery. It is an outpatient surgery and can take place anywhere between 6 to 12 months (or longer) after the final fill. I am told that expanders are very uncomfortable and after the exchange, women feel so much relief. Oh God, this freedom from pain and discomfort is starting to sound so far away…
All in all, it sounds like a lot of work. A lot of discomfort. I am not looking forward to this. There is an alternative to not getting reconstruction, but that comes with its own issues and I am not sure that would be right for me. So, off I go to have this bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I have faith that I will one day feel whole again. I will one day feel less anxiety about cancer recurrence. I will one day feel closer to my old self (ahem “my younger self” since I truly feel I’ve aged about 20 years). I think it is possible, okay I know it is possible and I will get there…….. eventually. Right now what I see in front of me is a long… dark… winding road with nice gray clouds over it – BUT soon enough I’ll be seeing this Road as a faded reflection in my rear view mirror. One that I will NEVER have to travel again!
Meanwhile, I am taking my daily tamoxifen and I am about 5 weeks in with no real problems so far. Score! I have had a handful of bad headaches, though, so this might be to blame? And… I do have raging hot flashes which come and go up to 10 times a day and of course at night while I sleep. It feels like the temp in the room goes up quickly to about 100 degrees and just when I start to sweat (yes, real beading sweat that starts on my head, then my forehead and then my face) BOOM it stops! I cool back down quickly and move on! I swear it is probably only a minute or two of discomfort. I can handle this, it’s the least of my worries! Lastly, my only remaining side effects from chemo are the 10 or so (??) pounds I gained along with my puffy face and eyes that do not seem to want to go away. I just look in the mirror and cry. But, hey… this too shall pass (I think? I hope.). Oh, and the numbness and tingling in feet is slowly getting better. There are positive things too… I have good energy most days and do not need naps (haha… most days!) and my hair is growing back in full force! I have unveiled my head just this week which is covered with about a centimeter of hair. While I do feel naked without my scarves or bandanas, it is freeing in some small way. Heck, I’ll take it!
Okay, enough about me! Wow, it’s hard to believe it has been so long since I wrote a blog post. As you may recall I had an interesting birthday, October 7th, with some highs (John’s beautiful gift to me) and some lows (Jake’s lacerated spleen incident!). Well, I am happy to say that Jake recovered well and just started playing hockey again. He is so happy to be back on the ice and with his team. Go Vipers! They played 3 games this weekend and Jake did okay. He definitely has lost his stamina and gets very tired, very quickly, but he is trying hard to give it his ALL. He has a great team and a very patient coach… shout out to Coach John Bailey and Assistant Coaches Matt and Tim! We also have a great team manager who keeps us up to date on everything (and that is not an easy task when these kids play so many games and go to so many tournaments)… so, shout out to Jeff Urso! We truly missed seeing all the wonderful families and kids during the last 6 weeks and are so happy to be back. Final shout out goes to this wonderful Viper family that we are so honored to be a part of! We can’t wait to go to Holland, Michigan, for a tournament in a couple of weeks. Oh, one more thing about Jake – he made the HONOR roll!!!! We are so very proud of him! He struggles with dyslexia and has had such great help at his schools over the years. He always gives it his best and it has paid off. Go Jake!!
Okay, enough about Jake… onto John now. John is doing about the same and continues to go for his Remicade infusions every 8 weeks now. He just had his 4th or 5th infusion last Thursday. Unfortunately, he’s not seeing any huge improvements which is a bit disappointing. Remember… this stuff has allowed some folks to quickly go into remission and have little to no Crohn’s symptoms – so we had hoped that this would be the case for him. It’s not. But, we have not lost all hope as it could take more time and it has made a dent in his issues whereby he is able to sleep through the night most nights and that is triumph in his eyes. Go John!
I feel like I need to have a paragraph about my dog now as I move through members in this Stanislawski household. So… here’s to Cheyenne — our great yellow lab. She is 10-1/2 years old and doing great! She still acts like a puppy with bundles of energy on most days! She takes good care of me by adding a nice layer of comfort and protection. ♥
We are finally going to Las Vegas for Thanksgiving!! We will stay at Excaliber where we had planned to stay just days after the tragedy that took place there on October 1st. With Jake’s accident we had to cancel my birthday trip. We’ll spend Thanksgiving at my sister’s house. So excited to see them and their new home! We’ll do some other fun things, including taking in a Golden Knights hockey game that weekend. It will be 80 degrees there!! I welcome that! Oh, and John wants to golf, too – who goes to Vegas to golf? Haha… I’ll just have to do some gambling and cocktailing at the casinos while they golf!
On a final note…. I am so glad to continue to hear from some of you via text, by phone, on Facebook or through beautiful cards sent in the mail – your continued thoughts and prayers are so very appreciated. I am grateful for every meal and every gift that was given to me and my family during this time. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love since my diagnosis in May and in many cases have not yet had the time or strength to reach out to you individually to thank you (I bought a large pack of Thank You cards and have yet to write them… grrrr) but please know in my heart… I thank you.
Finally, as we approach this Thanksgiving holiday, I would like to say that I am very thankful for this opportunity to write about my journey. I know not everyone has time to read my long posts and for those who are reading this, please know that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. This time that I spend connecting with YOU and telling YOU what I am going through helps me heal. This can be a very lonely road and your kindness and unwavering support helps to lift me up. THANK YOU!
Xoxo ~ Kathy