Updated: May 5, 2022
So many updates to share - I don't want to forget any of them.
After I submitted my last update, I received my pathology report in MyChart, on a Saturday afternoon. We read through them, we sent them to all the medical professionals in the family and determined it must be mostly good news. I am still waiting to actually talk to my oncologist, however, all lymph nodes appear to be negative!!!!! The results we were hoping for.
However, we also came across a term I had never heard - Paget's Disease. It's a rare form of breast cancer - found in only 1% - 4% of patients. It's specifically breast cancer of the nipple. I found it strange because I had zero symptoms that would point to that. Paget's is not fully understood but one theory is it originates from a malignant tumor under the nipple and travels through the milk duct to the nipple. In my case, this theory makes sense. My DCIS (ductal) was directly under my nipple. Luckily, I had opted for the non-nipple sparing mastectomy otherwise I would be planning another surgery right now! Again, I haven't talked to the oncologist yet, but in theory - we should have cut it all out during my surgery. While I want to scream that I am Cancer Free, I'll wait....just to be sure!
I had my pre-op appointment with my plastic/micro surgeon on Monday as well. She took that tight binder off and I could breathe again! It was immediate relief. She told me to shower (thank you), that I didn't have to wear a binder or anything anymore (thank you) and that I could drive as long as I wasn't on pain meds (thank you). The one compromise was that she wanted me to keep these damn drains in until the next procedure (sigh).
I closed my eyes while she removed the binder in fear of pain and the unknown of what it looked like. I have spent hours on the internet looking at post-mastectomy photos. I knew it wouldn't be pretty. I watched Jake's face as she revealed my naked chest. He was unmoved. He then nodded and said "it looks really good." I mustered up enough courage to look down. It really wasn't a good angle, but what took me by surprise was being able to see my stomach! I haven't seen the top of my tummy since I was pregnant. I told Jake I had "tummy-do". That my tummy sticks out further than my boobies do. (I am not posting pictures, however, am happy to share to those who are curious...I won't even ask for a tit pic in return!).
It wasn't until I got home that I could stand in front of the mirror, alone, to face the reality of the situation. I removed that loose ace bandage the DR wrapped me back up with for the ride home and just stared. I thought I would cry. I thought I would grieve. Perhaps I'm all dried up. Perhaps I did all the grieving before. Perhaps I am just immune to it all now. Perhaps I just view my body as something medical now and not as a woman. I just looked. No tears. No negativity. Just looked. Jake was right - it looked good. I mean, it was actually horrifying, in reality, but good in the sense that there was literally no bruising or infection. The healing was looking good. They did save all my skin, Jake said it looked like deflated balloons. They are just waiting to be refilled on Monday. They are disfigured and deformed. But I know it is temporary. I also know it was necessary.
Next Monday I will undergo a DIEP Flap Reconstruction. It's a 6-8 hour procedure with two microsurgeons. My surgeon is bringing another expert down from UW Madison to help with the procedure. The recovery is a little harder and a little longer because they cut my abdomen from hip to hip to "harvest" tissue and skin to transplant to my chest. I can't take donor donations of stomach fat (despite all the offers)!!!!!. They carefully separate the tissue from the blood supply in my abdomen and then reattach it to a different vein in my chest when they form breasts out of it. This was the right reconstruction choice for me. I knew I did not want implants for a lot of reasons - I did not want the likelihood of future surgeries, my lifestyle puts me at risk for rupture (helllllooooo muscle ups!), and I am not a fan of having anything foreign in my body. It also leaves all my muscles alone. They do not cut my abdomen nor pectoral muscles. With owning a gym, this was really important to me. Although the DIEP is the "harder" reconstruction procedure, it lasts a lifetime and it's natural. These were important to me. Want to know more?