Chemo #9 completed, 75% done. Blood count normal.
What a few weeks I’ve had. I haven’t written because it would have been the voice of a woman depressed, on the brink of dark thoughts taking over her life, and I suspect I would have worried a few people. Thanks to the power of anti-depressants, sleeping tablets, and finally an answer to the infection in my right breast, things are looking a bit brighter. I can see the tiny pin prick of light at the end of this long tunnel. And that’s a good thing. I’ve been waiting for some good news – even though this good news is all relative.
About two weeks ago, Dr L (the doctor who is in charge of infectious diseases and hence administers all my antibiotics), said they had a breakthrough with the culture. They managed to grow some bacteria, and knew the general strain of it. So now, it was clear that all that fluid build up in my right breast was due to the infection. Which was such a step in the right direction. Because now, we had a solution. The solution was to operate to take the right expander out, and to further culture the bacteria to find the actual strain. Once the actual strain was found out – which happened to be yesterday – they then do a sensitivity testing with different sorts of antibiotics to see which one has the Jedi skills to finally eliminate the infection.
With that in mind, last Saturday 20th Feb, I was admitted into Mount Elizabeth Novena hospital (again where I had the tube put in on the 9th of Feb under local anesthetic). This time, the surgery was to be done via General anesthetic. Here’s the thing. I’ve had a GA about 4-5 times in the last 4 months. And every single time, I’ve felt nothing. Just went to sleep. This time, as they were giving my oxygen, and the anesthetist started to inject the anaesthesia into my IV, there was such a burning pain in my veins. My eyes bogged out and I was so close to screaming stop, it hurts, but seconds later, I was out like a light. He explained later, that due to the chemo my veins are smaller. So that’s why I felt it more this time.
In the surgery, Dr W took out that irritating right expander. Sewed me up, and put one tube in me. I woke up, groggy, in my room, with The Rock there. As usual, my throat hurt, as it would for a few days, because they put the tube in me to help me breathe. This time, although I could have left the same day, I stayed the night. I learnt my lesson from previous day surgeries. The Rock stayed the night on the sofa bed. We had arranged sleep overs for Monkey and Bimble so they’d have a fun night with friends while we were away in hospital.
As you can imagine, or not, with the right expander out of me, I was left with nothing. No shape. It was sunken down in me. To this day, and it’s 6 days post op, I haven’t looked directly at the right side of my chest. I am not ready. I can see it from the corner of my eye. The day I came home from the hospital, I struggled to step into the shower, to see the new me for the first time. And even though I didn’t get a full look, just from the corner of my eye, I saw enough. I saw enough to crumple into a heap on the shower floor, and howl and sob. I was bald. My left breast still has an expander and an angry horizontal scar. My right side was nothing. I felt so incomplete as a woman. Everything that I thought wasn’t important, at the start of my journey, I now realise is incredibly important as a woman. I was so damn cocky – so positive about taking the bull by it’s horns and riding with it and being that strong Super woman who doesn’t give a damn what people think. How wrong I was.
I’d always thought I’d just have a bilateral mastectomy and not care, not bother with reconstruction. But now I’ve seen for myself how I look with a t-shirt, (no prosthetics yet), I realise, I’ve got about another 40+ years of being alive. Hopefully. And I’d like to experience those years, as close to normal as possible. And if that means that I need to have the shape of my chest looking like a woman, then that is what must be done. My oncologist, Dr KW, feels that I’ve been through enough and has said that if I chose not to do any more reconstruction then that’s okay. As has Dr W, my plastic surgeon. They’ve both given me their blessings so to speak, to discontinue my journey of reconstruction, if I feel that I can’t take any more emotionally.
But, first, there’s the matter of dealing with the infection. Once the sensitivity testing is done, the antiobiotic may either be an oral one, or administered intravenously. I’m hoping that the former is the one that works. Because, if intravenously, this is done via a PICC line – which is a line going into my heart, the tube coming out and strapped to my arm, and then the pump attached to that tube. The pump is then strapped onto my torso which I wear under clothes, and the antibiotic is pumped over a 24 hour period. I change the pump daily. And the kicker? I may need antibiotics for 8 weeks. It’s not uncommon for some to need it for 6 months. This would be a huge impact on my life. Well, for small things like just getting everything wet in the shower for instance. No Swimming. And just the daily administering of it. But, one does what one must.
So, until we get the antibiotics sorted, I’m not going to go through any more reconstruction. I need a break. I need to just chill. I have 3 weeks of chemo left, my hair should grow back over 2 months or so. I’ll be on antibiotics, and okay, so I have a completely flat right side of my chest, but I can still do stuff. I need to mend my mental and emotional health back. So that I’ll be ready for the next round of surgeries, for my reconstruction.
I suppose that yes, I’m a fighter. People keep telling me that they think I’m strong and a fighter, and I’ll admit, I haven’t felt that way. But now, with that light blinking on the horizon, I can see that yes, I will keep going. I am going to get through this, and I will be a different person at the end of it. I suspect, a better person.
Oh and yesterday Dr W took out the tube. So I’m now tubeless and bottle-less. It may not sound like much, but this, has hugely perked me up.