The aftermast

January 25, 2008

Warning: Slightly ooky post follows, to explain the nuts-and-bolts and set up the dialogue with Widget that follows.  But this is my reality today.  And maybe it will help another mom explain it to her kid someday.  I wish it weren’t necessary.  I wish no one else had to go through this.

So the aftermath of a mastectomy is not nearly as gory as I expected.  It’s hard, sure, but the aftermath of any surgery or hospital stay is, right?  The hardest part about this I think is managing my drains.  After the bulk of the surgery, as they were closing me up, the surgeons inserted drains at the end of each suture.  So I have one under my left armpit (simple mastectomy), and two under my right armpit (modified radical mastectomy, which means they took the lymph nodes out as well).  Each is basically three feet of tubing attached to a little bulb, which I pin to my shirt.  The bulb is squeezed a bit so that the fluid on my chest flows down the drains and into the bulb instead of building up on/in my chest where it shouldn’t be.  Then we (and by we, I mean WonderDaddy) empty the drains every few hours.  When they’re almost empty for a whole day, the surgeon will take them out.  But this might take a while.  So this is the hardest part.  It just feels uncomfortable and makes dressing awkward.

I’ve tried to hide the tubing and the drains from my little ones.  Widget in particular is a sharp and empathetic 3 year old, and I have been telling him “Mommy’s just tired,” since I returned, but he knows better.  Yesterday he hopped up on the bed and wanted to hear a story about what happened when “Mommy, Daddy go to the hospital.”  So I told him, relating it to the story of Huckle and Dr. Lion in one of his Richard Scarrey books. 

Today he peeked under the blanket and saw some of the tubing hanging out while I was asleep.  He woke me up and asked about it, matter-of-factly, so I answered him, hoping that if I just gently told him the truth it wouldn’t be a big deal for him, and he wouldn’t get scared.

Widget: Mommy, what’s that?
Me: It’s a tube.
Widget: What’s it go to?
Me: It goes to this little bulb right here.  (He had already seen that by the time I woke up fully and realized what was going on.)
Widget: What’s it do?
Me: It takes away some stuff Mommy doesn’t need anymore.
Widget: – silence –
Me: Like ear wax.  You know how ear wax comes out of your ear and you don’t need it anymore, so we take it away?  Well, Mommy has some stuff coming off her that she doesn’t need anymore, so this takes it away.
Widget: Like ear wax?
Me: Yup.

Kind of.  I mean, if ear wax were bloody and full of fluids that I don’t even recognize.  But it was a good enough answer for him, and he settled in to watch a little Arthur with me, thumb in mouth and hand on mine. 

I love this kid.


And in an odd twist of fate…

January 24, 2008

I’m ever so happy to announce that CANAPE, my best friend in the whole wide world (besides WonderDaddy, of course), is in LABOR!  It’s been such a roller coaster of a year for all of us, and this is just the most amazing way to cap it off.  First a successful surgery for me, and now labor and a BABY SOON for her!  Such a long way we’ve all come this year.  Such a long, long way.

And now it’s MY turn to tell you her good news!  So head on over there and give her a HURRAH and a PUSH and a WOOT WOOT for her happy day … her son’s birth day!

I’m home.

January 24, 2008

I’m home.  I’m safe.  My blood pressure is back to normal and they released me from the hospital this morning.  After a harrowing drive through downtown (seriously – were there that many potholes when we drove down on Tuesday?), I’m all tucked into bed and spending the day quietly recovering.  Reading.  Thinking.  Emptying my drains (ugh).  More about the nuts and bolts of recovery and what I’ve just heard about Marcia Cross’s visit to D.C. later, but for now, I am happy to be home.  Happy to be kissing my baby, talking to my preschooler (did he grow while I was gone?), and reading blogs and books to keep myself sane.

Wishing I could go out with the girls tomorrow night. 

Soon, soon.  But for now, I must rest and maybe get some sleep. 

Just wanted to let you all know I’m home safe.


January 23, 2008

Blood pressure scares and weakness aside, I’m recovering.  The surgeon unwrapped my dressing this morning and took a look at my chest.  She’s happy with the results, and so am I.  The fear that I had after seeing the mastectomy pictures in the Orlando Sentenial months ago?  Groundless.  Already, my wounds look better.  Already, I can see that they will heal nicely.

Already, I can look down at my chest and not be repulsed.

In fact, I am relieved.  All I could think of when I saw the unfamiliar flat space on my chest was HURRAH.  The cancer, the weight, the aches, the pains, and again, the cancer, is GONE. 

GONE, my friends.  I couldn’t wait to tell you.

I’m alive.

January 23, 2008

I made it through surgery.  I made it through the night.  I’m still in bed recovering (and will be for some time, I would guess), but I’m just so happy to be alive today.

24 hours ago, WonderDaddy and I hopped in the car to go to the hospital.  21 hours ago, I was being wheeled into surgery.  Some time after that, I lost my boobs.  5 hours in recovery, and then they brought me up to this room, a teeny tiny room with a view of the city and the most beautiful sunrise I’ve seen since those Easter mornings at Stone Mountain (Highly recommended.  The Easter sunrise service on Stone Mountain just outside Atlanta, GA, that is.  Not the surgery.  Unless you need it, of course).  We had a little scare during the night, as my blood pressure kept dropping and my pulse slowed, but all seems to be well this morning and the resident was happy with my progress.

We’ve already been visited by a number of doctors, separately, and at rounds.  My surgeon will come by in the next hour or two and make a decision as to whether I should stay another night or released right away (#$%@ U.S. insurance policies!).  Either way, I have a room with a view and the most wonderful company in the world … WonderDaddy and all of you.  Thank you for your beautiful comments, prayers, and posts yesterday.  I am overwhelmed.  And grateful.  Just as I hoped, WonderDaddy read me your comments last night to help me sleep.  But there are more to read today, and I am settling in to read them now.  Thank you.  For everything.

P.S. I will twitter updates throughout the day — you can find them on the right-hand side of this page if you haven’t already.  It’s so easy to use twitter for short posts and conversations with friends….

Bedtime stories

January 22, 2008

I had all these things to write about last night … but instead, I read bedtime stories to my children.  I sang to my littlest, his special song, and We Shall Overcome, which I have sung as a lullaby to each of them for years.  (Part of my heritage of growing up in Mississippi in the 1970s, I suppose.)  I read to my oldest; I told him his favorite story (about the day he was born), and I snuggled him close.  When he didn’t sleep, I brought him in to our bed and tucked him in gently.  He finally went to sleep as his Daddy and I read our books and waited for sleep to find us.

And now, the day of surgery has arrived.  I’m heading off to the hospital now.  I’ll check in, have an IV put in, see my surgical oncologist one last time, and then the anesthesia.  There will be a long surgery, some recovery, and then I’ll be okay.  I will be okay.

For updates, check back here or over at Stimeyland.  Stimey has agreed to post that I’m okay once she hears from WonderDaddy. 

We’re also going to Twitter for as long as we can this morning, and then again from the hospital when I’m able.  To view Twitter updates, look over to the right on my sidebar; the most recent will be posted over there automatically.

Thank you for all your comments yesterday.  Keep ’em coming.  WonderDaddy is going to login and read them to me as a bedtime story after my surgery.  And it will be so nice to be reminded that once again, even alone in a hospital room, even recovering from a double mastectomy, even struggling with inflammatory breast cancer, I am not alone.


January 21, 2008

When I started this series of posts on reasons I’m looking forward to surgery tomorrow, the double mastectomy that will remove my cancer and give me better odds against recurrence, I first thought, oh no, what I have I done?  How on earth will I come up with 15 more reasons to look forward to a surgery so painful and disfiguring?  But the truth is, I’ve got reasons left unused.  Reasons left unsaid.  There are so many reasons I want to live, and here are just a few important ones I never even got to write about adequately:

– Because I want to spend more time with my friends in MOMS Club, getting to know each other better as people, not just as moms of kids the same age and facing the same issues;

– Because, as Sandie reminds me, there are friends yet to meet;

– Because Spring is coming, and I want to enjoy the forsythia, the fresh air, and the clear blue sky;

– Because I want to see my faraway friends again, and to hold Little Bird, about to become the newest member of the universe;

– Because I miss my sense of taste, and I want to be reminded of the joy of eating my favorite pasta dishes, a taco, and pancakes with syrup;

– Because it will be so much easier to exercise, and I do enjoy it now and again;

– Because my hair will grow back, and I am curious to see what color;

– Because I want to live life without pain for a while;

– Because I want to start fostering dogs again, and relieve their pain and lonliness by giving them a place to live, enough to eat, and a friendly belly rub when they’re ready;

– Because there are books left to read;

– Because my children will surely surprise me;

– Because my husband and I promised to grow old together;

And the number one reason that I’m looking forward to surgery tomorrow, January 22?  Me.  I had a good time away this weekend, and some days I just like being me.  I’d like to be me some more, please.


We were at Wallops Island, part of Goddard Space Flight Center, this weekend. As tourists.


Thank you for all your prayers, well wishes, positive thoughts, healing energies, and everything else.  I am going into surgery confident, strong, and with the knowledge that I am not alone.  You have come through for me.  You have encouraged me and given me strength when I did not feel strong.  Thank you for being there for me.  Thank you for being my friends.  I have one thing left to write and post before my surgery – a short account of the story of how this all came to be.  I’ll leave it up while I’m in the hospital, and WonderDaddy or Stimey will post updates on my condition as comments to tomorrow’s post.  Thank you all.  For everything.

Please pray for me one more day — for strength.  For healing.  But most of all for clean margins — that the surgeon can remove all the cancer from my body successfully.  It’s the only thing I need.