Friday, March 1, 2013

A Year Later (My own words)

As I crossed off more days on the calendar moving closer to February 27th a this year, and even as I hit other smaller milestones earlier this year, I made sure that I looked upon these dates with a positive attitude. I don't look at it as though it's been a year since I lost my breasts; I think of it as being one year of being healthy.  It's been one full year since I changed my life and freed myself from the heavy burden of my genetics.

Mitch embraced this philosophy.  He arranged for the girls to go Grandparents and took me out to celebrate this new anniversary. We had a delicious multiple course dinner that included a dessert combination of ice cream, scotch, and bacon.  We reminisced a little and relaxed.  It was great!

In some ways in feels like I cannot believe it's been a year already, but then again it in other ways it feels like the day of surgery was soooooo long ago.  In the same, some memories of the day are crystal clear ingrained in my memory forever.  Other events even in the week following are still a mystery to me.  It's strange how the brain works.

I have no memory of leaving the girls that morning.  I don't know if we left while they were still sleeping or if I purposely tried to sneak out so that it wouldn't be a big deal, but thankfully that moment doesn't haunt me.  I remember how I cried as we dropped off Aila on the way to the hospital to have Adrienne, but nothing like that happened a year ago for this. 

I remember arriving at the hospital and being surprised that I had to check in at the outpatient surgery department.  For insurance reasons, apparently they cannot plan on a mastectomy being an overnight stay.  Instead, they anticipate 24 hour hospital stay and then the doctor must provide a reason for additional stay. I had all this stuff, my red bag of necessities and pillow that I had to cram into this little locker that they use for people with outpatient surgeries.  Then I was brought to this obscure little corner area that where I was forgotten.  But I'm not going to go back to that painful wait.

The strongest memory I have of the morning was when I finally moved to get the nuclear injections  before surgery.  They insisted that I be moved by hospital bed when at that point I felt perfectly capable of walking.  I thought that there was no way that my gigantic bed would fit through the doorways, but of course it did.  The man, while he looked like the cute Indian character from the show Heroes, was horribly awkward while he did the injections.  The pain was the sharpest, strongest shot pain I have ever experienced despite the useless numbing spray he would put on first. I had remained strong the entire morning, but it was at this point that I lost it.  I was alone in this room with intense pain and broke down.  I remember sobbing to the nurse that earlier today they offered me some anti anxiety drugs and I turned them down but I am really regretting that now and I'm sure it's too late now to do anything about that and...sob...sob...sob.  The kind nurse tried to comfort me and reconnected me with my family.

Finally from there, I only remember bits and pieces.  I find that I was totally disoriented as to where I was in the hospital.  I thought they moved me up several floors and around lots of corners, when Mitch says no, it was all on the same floor just around one turn.  I remember how nice the waiting area was in the second pre-op area in comparison to the area we were tucked in earlier in the day.  I remember clearly one specific nurse in this area who really knew his stuff and finally got things taken care of.  My sense of the elapsed time in this area was totally off in comparison to what it actually was according to Mitch.  We'll have to take his word for it because at this point I was already given drugs.  I remember that nurse saying that from this point on you're going to have amnesia right after I swallowed the little cup.  I remember saying good bye to my parents and the look that Mitch gave me, the love and worry behind that smile.  I remember Dr. Colette holding my  hand when we were in the operating room as the anesthesiologist starting working.

And then there is nothing. Nothing until the recovery room and even from there things are very patchy for the rest of the first week.  I am glad that I wrote things down or I would have no idea!

The first thing I remember was hearing things.  I heard this moaning. "Ughhhhh....ahhhhhghhh....arhhhhh"  I remember thinking "Oh no, is that me?"  Then I realized no, that it was coming from a few feet away.  As they kept saying "Sister, SISTER, you are OK" trying to calm her down.  Apparently she was a nun.  I remember asking my nurse, "Is she ok?" because the painful moaning was so bad.  Then I remember hearing the slide of the curtain being pulled closed as though that were going to solve the sound problems.  I cannot tell you a single thing about how this recovery area looked, every things was very dark. My memory is so blank that I don't even know if my eyes were open at this time.

The only other memories I have of being at the hospital are my mom feeding my ice-chips during the night, waking up at what was like 3:30 or 4 am the next day and feeling like I needed to brush my teeth. Everything else over the days is very vague other than the sense of fear when they said it was time to go home.  Even with all the preparing I had done I still felt like I couldn't possibly be ready to take care of myself at home.

Even that first week home, my memories are pretty patchy due to the pain meds, so if keep that in mind if you visited me and I said or did something strange :)

Just a few days after surgery, I insisted that I was going to go to Aila's dance recital.  They let me sneak in early, giving me preferential seating so that I wouldn't have to fight the masses when the doors opened.  I know that I was there, but I don't remember any of it.  Thankfully we have the pictures and videos.  We watched the video of it just the other night to get the girls excited for this year's recital.  There was a hilarious moment by another 3 year old that I had no idea even happened.  But at least I was there.

Now one year later, I am thankful.  First of all I am thankful that I had the opportunity to do this surgery. Just the medical discoveries and health care battles, I am lucky to have this opportunity. I have been so blessed that I've been supported by such amazing family and friends.  And most of all, with the uncertainty surrounding my suspicious lumps discovered in December, I am so thankful that I can say this is the one year anniversary of me taking control rather than it being the anniversary of when my life took a very different turn.  One year later, I am thankful and happy.

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