Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
Healing from my mastectomy(ies) was a long process. I felt fortunate, however to have the opportunity to “live” with my mom again at this stage in our lives. She took care of me, my animals…not to mention my house hadn’t been that clean in probably 7 years! lol
I had a visiting nurse twice a week for the first couple weeks, then once a week for another 5-6 weeks. When I had my lumpectomy a couple months before, I ended up with a seroma and hematoma (seriously, the seroma was like something out of a science fiction film) and my Dr was going to order a visiting nurse then, and I refused. I said “my mom can do this”…. Basically every day I had to be “packed” with new packing. It was not fun, and I really couldn’t watch it being done, or I would pass out. Upon getting home from Boston with all the packing supplies, dressings, antibiotics, etc., I told my mom that I’d have one of my closest friends (an rn) come down and show her how to do this…. My mother was pretty quiet. When Mark came down the next day to take out the packing and insert new, my mother confessed… “I can’t do this… It has been years, but this is my daughter, I can’t do this”…. So, my dear friend Mark did this for me for 10-14 days. A new level of our relationship…. lol. I was so grateful to have him do this for me. I realize, now, that by refusing the “visiting nurse”… it was denial on my part, and also, if I had a visiting nurse, it means I was “really sick”….. sighs
Weeks after my mastectomy I still had no feelings of anger, or tears. I had cried after my lumpectomy when my ex boyfriend dumped me… but that was really more about loss, and financial problems that I was having. I really didn’t “feel sorry” for myself, or hadn’t gotten emotional about the diagnosis of cancer… I didn’t hide it from others, I was very open and honest about it. I have learned years ago, that you are as sick as your secrets, and while I do not judge or condemn anyone for choosing to keep this information personal, for me, I knew from the beginning, I had to pull this up front and talk about it, to make it “real”. It’s sort of hard to imagine , now, that I had had two surgeries for cancer , and still… emotionless. I was addressing it head on, getting my treatment, educating myself on it (as well as my brothers cancer), and “doing what I could”.
It was about 4 weeks after my surgery, four weeks of sitting in the recliner, day in or day out, or laying on my back, propped up with pillow in the privacy of my bedroom that things came to a head. I was having pain in center of my chest (sternum) where the expander was rubbing against the bone, and when this happened, it would drop me to my knees. My plastic surgeon assured me this would go away as we started to do fills… but he was fairly slow in starting or allowing me to start this process, I believe due to the complications that I had had from the lumpectomy. More oxi’s, more drugs… more rest…. I woke up one morning feeling very depressed. My neck hurt from laying around so much even the back of my head hurt from the recliner… (that was given to me as a gift from close friends to help me on this journey). I came downstairs, sat in the recliner, my mom was bringing me something to eat, I didn’t want it. I was aggitated and most probably rude. I wanted all of this shit behind me. I wanted the pain to stop, and the expansions to start, I wanted to get back to work, to my life … I didn’t want to do this anymore…. My mother told me I was “ugly”. I said, yes you are right, I’m very ugly today. A couple hours later my visiting nurse stopped by, my mom let them in, and I was sitting, wherelse? but the recliner that I feel had become a permanent part tof my back/neck/legs/butt. She came in and asked how I was doing, and I said, not well. She asked if it was physical or emotional, and I said both. This certain day there were two nurses who came, one was new and in training. The new one went into the kitchen with my mom, as my regular visiting nurse sat down beside me and asked if I wanted to talk about it. I cried, and once those tears started, they didn’t stotp flowing for hours, I’m seriously talking hours…. 5-7 hours of immense sobbing. I could hear my mother in the kitchen asking about the grief process… (I know that well, I have studied elizabeth kubler ross’ work for years.. I knew about the stages… but my mom wasn’t listening to me. That made me cry more. lol. I heard her say to both nurses “Donna has NEVER hit an angry stage in any of this, I am concerned about this. That day, I did. It wasn’t like I was throwing things around, or anything of that nature, but I did ask the question once and only once “What have I done in my life to deserve this? why is this happening to me?” That was the extent of my anger, but the tears carried it out a little longer, in that one day I went through anger, depression stages of the grief process. Acceptance followed within a day.
That night when I went to sleep I looked down at my scarred, swollen and foreign chest and noticed some fluid leaking from where my right breast used to be. It looked as if I had slipped a stittch, and that my inners were exposed. I didn’t sleep well that night…because I had felt a little ball in the scar/stitched area, and was also concerned about that. The next morning Icalled my Dr’s office, they asked me to come right now. My mother, who knew the difficult day I had had the day before, called a friend to bring me down to boston, clearly I shouldn’t be driving myself down. I refused. I had decided the night before, that I was going to drive to boston, go to my appointment (and if needed, stay at the hospital), but if not, stay at a local hotel, and just “be”. Get away from my house, from the bed that felt like it had potential to become my future grave, to get away from the recliner, everyone, and just “be”. My girlfriend had made me a reservation at a hotel. This was set up before I had shared with my mom (and the friend she made tthe arrangements with unbeknownst to me) My mother, her friend protested… I should NOT be driving, I should NOT be going alone…. I said, thank you for caring, thank you for your concerns, but I AM and I WILL be driving into Boston and I will be spending thte night in Boston, will be coming home tomorrow…. Much to their dismay, I did just that. They helped me load the van with my clothes, computer (as I wasn’t to lift yet)…. and wished me a safe journey.
The next day when I got home, I was fine. I could cope again… I was me again, not the crying, upset, angry woman of yesterday.
So one day I was weeping emphatically, feeling sorry for myself, working thru a couple stages of the grief process, and the next, I was doing for myself, and came home, accepting…. It was really quite interesting.
Everyone deals with things different, and in their own time. This was my time, and the excruciating emotional pain of that day was gone as quickly as it came in.
I will get thru this, I want to get thru thtis, I CAN get thru this… was what I kept telling myself, and …. I DID!