Boobs have never been something I have put much thought into over my 49 years. I was never over endowed but I didn’t feel like I was underendowed either. Mine just seemed to fit my body size and I was okay with it. They served their purpose when I had my children and didn’t seem to endure too much aging damage over the years. Breast augmentation (a boob job!) was never something that crossed my mind. I’m definitely not judging any woman who has chosen that route; it just never seemed to be a practical choice for my life and lifestyle.
However, things changed for me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2019. My treatment plan would include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation if necessary. The cancer was only present in my right breast so I had the choice of having just the right one removed and keeping my left one or having both removed. Seriously though, what woman wants one boob standing in attention boldly saying hello while the other one looks as if it’s a little tired and trying to sneak out of the door unnoticed? After much thought and consideration, I chose to have a double mastectomy and total breast reconstruction. Surgery would be scheduled just a few weeks after my last round of chemotherapy on June 3rd, 2019.
The thought of major surgery intimidated me more so than the thought of having my breasts removed. The only surgery I have had so far in my life was having my port put in (twice, by the way, because my body rejected the first one and stopped it all up!) so I had never been put completely under. I am a deep sleeper and I have very vivid dreams, sometimes nightmares – I didn’t want to be put to sleep! It scared me a little and I experienced all kinds of anxious thoughts running through my head: What if there are complications from the anesthesia? What if I don’t wake up? What if I have a bad dream while I’m under and I can’t wake myself up? What if there are complications during surgery? What if my body was too weak to handle the surgery? What if my heart rebels against me? Whew! Those what if’s will drive you a little crazy so I had to pray for peace of mind and believe that everything would be just the way it is supposed to be!
On June 5th I went in for my follow up appointment with my surgeon, had my consultation with the plastic surgeon on June 20th and my surgery was scheduled for July 8th. My body had 4 weeks to prepare for the most major event of its life so far (well besides enduring 18 weeks of chemicals being pumped through it!). I decided to throw myself a “Boob Voyage” party the Sunday before surgery and have friends and family over to help me celebrate my victory of the cancer tumors being gone, and to help me say goodbye to the rebellious boob. We had a big time filled with lots of laughter, a few tears, tons of food, corn hole, kids running everywhere, wonderful fellowship and more love and support than I could have ever hoped for. When I finally laid down in my bed, I was ready – mind body and soul to open the next chapter of this journey.
Monday morning came and the sun arose in the sky just like it should have. I didn’t have to check in until 10 am, but I woke up early, did my devotion, prayed and got up to shower. Before getting dressed, I looked in the mirror a little longer than normal. This was the last time I would see my body as it had always been. The next time I would look in the mirror, I would be changed, different, scarred. I had talked to several women who had been through a mastectomy, each one having their own experience and I wasn’t sure what emotions would rise up in me when the time had come. But here I was, looking at myself one last time and at that moment I wasn’t afraid, angry or sad, I was just ready, ready to get through this process and begin my recovery. I took my hands and I held myself for just a few moments and respectfully said goodbye to my rebellious boob.
My David, my Kaley and my momma all went with me to the hospital. We sat in the room together as I waited on the nurse to come take me down, we talked, we laughed and their presence calmed my spirit. When the nurse came in around 12 to get me I was so excited! It was the same nurse that took me down when I had my port redone. That day, on our way down to the surgery room, she stopped and prayed for me and I felt such peace. I was hoping she would be my nurse again and boom…there she was. I welcomed her prayers on the way to the surgery room again. Surgery took a little under 3 hours. Not only would I have my double mastectomy, but the plastic surgeon would come in right behind the general surgeon and place the expanders for the reconstruction process in before they sewed me up. Everything went great! I was back in my room by 4 and was blessed with family and friends stopping by to check on me, love on me and bring me gifts (thank you Pam for the socks! and Brooke for the aprons!). I was released the next day around lunch and I was ever so happy to get back home to the comfort of my own surroundings.
The month after recovery went well. I took it easy for a few days but thankfully I was back out on the trail in no time and back on the rock in just a little over a month!
July 20th we hiked Bald Knob Ridge off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Mitchell.
July 21st we visited Roaring Fork Falls and Set Rock Falls.
July 22nd We finally made it to the Emerald Forest on Unaka Mountain.
July 24th I reunited with a great friend and we headed towards upper Sill Branch Falls on Clarks Creek.
July 25th I took my oldest daughter and my grandbabies on a hike to Lower Sill Branch.
July 27th We hiked from the Jonas Ridge trail head at Rhododendron to Hawksbill and down the Ledge Trail.
July 30th was a camp-out in the bus with the grand babies (well momma Kaley slept in the bus with them, I was still having to sleep in the recliner!)
August 1st – 4th David and I took our first beach vacation together and had a blast!
Heck, I needed to get back to work to rest! 🙂
And if you are wondering, yes, I looked. I looked at myself in the mirror after surgery. It was a few days before I could take the bandages all the way off, but finally, after all the drain tubes were out and the bandages were off, and I had a wonderful long hot shower (you forget how great they are until you can’t take one for several days!) I stood in front of the mirror and I looked at myself. I looked at my now flat chest that sprouted at a young age and carried part of my femininity for years. I looked at the scars that now graced the area where my breasts once were. Although I grieved the parts of me that were gone, I was not sad. My body was different but I was not ashamed. More so I was proud of my body and my scars were a beautiful testimony. Before I even knew anything was wrong, my body fought against this terrorist called breast cancer that was lurking in the shadows and kept it contained in my breast versus spreading to my lymph nodes or other parts of my body. For the past 7 months it fought a long, hard battle through chemotherapy and surgery and we survived. Together we fought, we struggled, we endured and we overcame. As I stood there and looked at myself, I knew there were parts of me that were forever lost and my body would never be as it was before. However, as I stood and looked at myself in the mirror, I smiled and I cried. I knew that I was more me than I had ever been in my life and I was much better at this moment than I had ever been.
Next step radiation and reconstruction!