Saturday, October 26, 2013

It's Time for Some Updates and Reflection

I am well overdue for a post surgery update.  I am around 12 weeks post surgery at this point.  My incision finally healed at 12 weeks.  When the doctors and nurses tell you that radiation can cause delayed wound healing, they are not exaggerating.  The left side (no radiation) came out of surgery practically healed right away.  The right and radiated side took a bit longer to finally heal.  Because of the delayed healing, I am still on the lifting, pushing, and pulling restrictions.

About two weeks after surgery, I started to notice an infection brewing on the right side, and it quickly gained strength.  I was prescribed two very strong antibiotics, and the infection cleared up in about a week.  The infection caused a lot of pain at the incision site, swelling, redness and was warm to the touch.  I was so relieved to be able to have the external stitches removed around 4 weeks, despite the infection complications.  Having these stitches removed was such a relief, and I started to heal better, but still taking 12 weeks to heal is a long time.  I still have full range of motion, but when I lift heavier things, I really feel the pull in the chest muscles, and I get pretty sore afterwards.  I have my next follow-up in another week, and I am hoping they will lift the restrictions, and I can start to do more things.  I definitely pushed things and overdid it a few times over the last 12 weeks, and I would notice the incision would start weeping, which did not speed up the healing process.  My advice for others who have had reconstruction after radiation, listen to your doctors and don’t push yourself.  It’s easier said than done I know, but there is a reason behind the rules, and the worst thing would have been for the incision to have pulled open requiring yet another surgery.
It’s hard to believe it has been a year since my mastectomy on 10/1/12.  With October being breast cancer awareness month, I have been doing a lot of reflecting back on the past two years since my diagnosis in early 2012.  This coming February will mark 2 full years since my diagnosis.  My life has been a bit crazy, but I think now that I am back to work yet again, we are finally getting into our new “post-cancer” routine.  There are definitely not enough hours in the days or enough days in the week.  I am trying hard to balance, friends, work, non-profit, plus making time for myself.  I am also learning how to manage my stress level as I try to take things in stride.  I am constantly telling myself to stop, take a deep breath, and don’t stress out.  Most of the things I stressed out about pre-cancer seem so small post-cancer, but it’s a work in progress to re-train myself.  Stress is just as toxic as eating processed foods, so I will eventually get to the point where I can deal with stress in a healthy manner.   
Many people fear the words and you hope and pray you never hear….“you have cancer.”  I can say I have been there and done that, so I no longer fear those three words.  I now fear a new term being directed at me by my oncologist……..”recurrence.”  Now that things have settled down, and I am presumed cancer free, I find myself thinking about this word.  My fear of recurrence is not something I feel consumed with, and I am not sitting around constantly thinking about it, but it is definitely something I think about more often than I probably should.  I also have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, which also plays into my thoughts since this is hard to find and detect early.  I think part of my drive and effort I have chosen to put into the non-profit stems from my determination not to focus on my chance of recurrence or feel sad about the changes cancer has brought into my life.  I look at it as, I can work hard trying to help educate the community, or I can be depressed and unhappy.  Every day I am pulling up my boot straps and looking forward to what’s just around the corner.  I feel happy to be here and focusing on the future.  But, it is not without some serious focus that I push my thoughts of recurrence aside.
As I reflected back over the last year or so, I was struck by the love that poured out of so many people.  There were just so many people who reached out and were extremely supportive, and they continue to be there for me as I learn to deal with life post-cancer.  I gained new friendships, had friendships blossom into closer and more connected relationships, and some that did not really stand the test of cancer.  I think most cancer patients can relate to the friendships that didn’t make it through their journey with cancer.  Cancer is a hard thing for people to deal with, and not everyone is able to be there for their friends who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis in the way you need them to be.  Cancer is a hard thing for people to relate to.  I think my perspective about what’s important has also changed, and I don’t really look at things the same way I did two years ago.  In a lot of ways, I am a different friend as well.  Some friendships flourish out of tragedy, while others do not.  But, the friends that do make it through the hard times are the people you keep close, because it’s these friendships that get you through the hard times.
Stay tuned for what’s next in my journey with breast cancer……………………..      

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