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Angela’s Corner: Surgery #2

2013-06-02_Horse-Lake-Homestead_9905_fullA week from my first surgery I was in the operating room again.  This was definitely not a planned surgery, but in life, we have hurdles to jump over and this just happened to be an extra hurdle thrown on the track.

To tell you what happened, if you haven’t been reading all my posts, I would need to go back several days.  My choice of surgery was nipple-sparring bi-lateral mastectomies with immediate reconstruction.  Unfortunately, my nipples did not survive the procedure and needed to be removed immediately.  I had twenty-four hours left with my dead, black nipples.  I didn’t throw a good-bye party, but I definitely mourned the loss.

In the bathroom the night prior to my surgery, I took a close look at myself in the mirror before climbing into the bath.  This was the first time in a week I allowed myself to look in any mirror without my clothes.  I was devastated at what I saw.  Incisions from my arm pits down to the nipples.  Nipples, black as night, dead on each breast.  Little bumps at where my perky breasts use to sit.  No matter how much this course of action was planned, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.  This was the second and last time I shed a tear over my cancer. Okay, it may have been a minute-long cry, with my sister by my side letting me have the emotional time, and then it was over.  “It is what it is.”  I’m unable to change this hurdle in my recovery, but I can rise above it and become stronger from it.

My second surgery was scheduled as the last one of the day.  My sister took me back up to Seattle that day.  Driving there for that appointment seemed to be one of the longest drives as disappointment shot through my veins.  Erica, as quiet as I was, knew just how sad this was for me.  Trying to talk about irrelevant and mundane topics, like the weather, was a way to take our minds off the surgery.  Once we rounded the bend and had Seattle in our sights, everything intensified.  Even though I came to accept the outcome, my sadness grew deeper.  I simply was not as prepared for this surgery as I was for the one the week before.

Arriving at the hospital and getting checked in was different than previously.  Surgery was scheduled in another part of the hospital all together, and had a completely different atmosphere.  Heading back to the surgery prep room was like walking the plank, jumping in feet first.  My plastic surgeon had his game face on and there was no joking allowed with him.  That was disappointing on our end since humor is often what kept me from falling apart.

I was not in surgery for very long; I was probably out within an hour.  Afterwards, the doctor took my sister to a private conference room to discuss the surgery.  Everything went well, but there at the end of the day the surgeon let his emotions go and almost broke down in tears.  “She’s so young and healthy.  I just can’t believe she has to deal with all this.”  It was a moment between the two of them that very few ever experience.  This is just proof that doctors are indeed human.

This was what could be called a “drive thru” surgery.  I was in and out in a very short time and then sent home.  That drive back home was longer than the drive there, despite it being the same distance.  I was still woozy from the anesthesia, leaving me to feel sick to my stomach.  Driving home in a stick shift in heavy traffic didn’t help.  I had my sister pull over several times to allow me to regain my bearings before I became worse.

This surgery definitely was a small hurdle to jump over.  Despite the extra bump in the road, I was on my way to better health, to a quality of life I wanted, and without sounding condescending, a life I deserved.

Learn more about Angela’s battle against breast cancer.
New posts every Monday and Wednesday.

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