This was my view all weekend from my bed fighting off an infection from my final drain site and incision area. Compare it to mastitis but of the leg. My friend sent me a card that says “Damn boobs nothing but trouble” and it made me laugh so hard.
My first failed reconstruction was the “easy” way (still not easy nothing about reconstruction is easy ever) where an expander was put in under my skin where my breast had been removed. This expander slowly gets pumped up over a few weeks so the skin stretches and an implant can be inserted in its place. My body rejected, with a painful infection, the expander mid way through the process and I had to have an emergency surgery to remove it. This was about a month and a half after 5 months of chemo and it really was one of the lowest points of my life, for various reasons.
I needed to recover so I let myself have time and wore a prosthetic breast that I just slipped in my bra. And it wasn’t really that bothersome. Except when it was. It would fall out if I bent over (I never bothered to get the right kind of bra) and that would annoy me so I would just leave it out and set it somewhere. It wasn’t unusual to hear in this household “Has anyone seen my boob anywhere!” or “Hey Mom I found your fake boob in the garage!” It was hot, sticky and annoying.
I found a new surgeon (better for so many reasons a big one being I couldn’t walk back into the old place without major bad memories resurfacing) and we came up with a plan. I was no longer a candidate for the expander – chance of infection was huge again.
There’s this crazy thing they do called flap surgeries (this is all layman’s explanations) where they take skin and fat from one part of your body and transplant that (microsurgery) to your chest wall to make a breast or breasts. Amazing. But not easy. Surgery wise, recovery wise. But there are some advantages – your own skin and fat for once so this is something that lasts forever and carries no risk of an implant if so desired. It’s a multi step process. The big surgery, and the matching/scar fixing surgery.
I had skin and fat from my thighs transplanted, called a DUG flap surgery. Unfortunately, I had complications related to some weird blood vessels I had and had to go back twice that same day to surgery-I was a long long day and a longer stay in the hospital than usual and added factors that have made it a little more gory and painful.
Because of that it’s been quite the recovery, with some thick emotions brought about by bad memories, but laughs too, and tons of care from friends and family and kids. I watched this excellent TED talk from a woman who spent years being treated for leukemia and I loved the message. Basically this is life. We don’t have to constantly be yearning for perfect health and thriving, successful lives. I can be content where I am at.
That is difficult. I have two little birds on my shoulders. One is chirping this sucks, I don’t deserve this, why always is there complications, haven’t I been through enough, my body looks butchered, my kids don’t deserve this, I am taking time from everyone, cancer has robbed me of so much, it hurts like hell, this is scary, and awful and I hate it all…
And the other little bird chirps, you are lucky to be alive, thank God you have a good doctor, a great prognosis, this surgery is miraculous, the nurses were incredible, the hospital clean and efficient, look at all these friends, and a sister who is a nurse and a helpful mom, and a warm house, and fresh water and your kids are all alive and healthy and what a miracle this is and you have time to recover and scars don’t bother you….
And you know what? All of those things are true. All of them.
When we are going through something tough, some days and moments warrant listening to the chirping of the first and feeling those feelings and some days and moments warrant listening to the second little bird and feeling those feelings. I know when I am weak physically the first bird is loud as heck, and as I gain my strength back he shuts up fast and it’s so much easier to lean towards the gratitude and sunshine.
Grace to know that I can take a deep breath and feel, and hope that brings the joy back into life full throttle.