After receiving the news that the lump I had discovered in my left breast was malignant, the nurse called within a few days to schedule the initial surgery. The date for the surgery was set for March 9, 2011. During this surgery, I was to have a lumpectomy and lymph node dissection.
Before having surgery, I had a few of appointments. The initial meeting was with a bra specialist. I was encouraged to purchase a particular bra which was designed to hold surgical drains. The doctor informed me that after surgery, I would have a drain at the surgical site and a chest binder. The bra looked like a sports bra with hook and eye closures in the front. On the lower edge of the bra hung two little pockets which were designed to hold the drain(s). The bra cost about $60, but it was a worthy investment. Another appointment was for an MRI. The MRI would allow the surgeon to see the tumor, its location and possibly its size. On the day before surgery, I had an appointment with a nuclear medicine doctor. At this appointment, I was injected with a special kind of dye which would allow the surgeon to detect and remove any lymph nodes with cancer during the surgery.
During surgery, the tumor was removed along with 6 axillary (armpit) lymph nodes. The lymph node dissection revealed that one of the six lymph nodes was the sentinel node which acted like the “freeway” for the cancer cells to travel. The tumor that was removed was sent to the lab for the pathologist to review. Thank God, there were no complications during the surgery, and I was released the next day.
My husband and my mother emptied the drain, measured and recorded the level of its contents every day. This was to be done over the next 7-10 days following surgery. The binding was tight, and the drain hose was very uncomfortable. I remember praying so hard that the drains would be removed sooner than later! The determining factor for drain removal was that the fluid level could not be more than 30 milliliters TOTAL during a 24 hour period.
Three days after the surgery, I received a phone call from the surgeon stating that the pathology report revealed that he did not get a clear margin in the area surrounding the tumor in my breast. Whenever a tumor is removed, it is imperative that the surgeon also removes enough area surrounding the tumor so that no cancer cells can be detected in the tissue surrounding the tumor. This clear margin assures that all cancer and cells that could have been surrounding the tumor itself have been removed. So, because there was not a clear margin, the surgeon told me that I needed to undergo another surgery so that he could excise more tissue to get a clear margin. The second surgery was scheduled for March 16, 2011.
After hanging up the phone, I felt helpless and angry. My head was spinning. I had questions: “Does this mean that the tumor is massive?” “Why didn’t they cut enough out the first time?”
I was frustrated. I felt that I had been through so much already. Little did I know, there was MUCH MORE to come. After processing the news and accepting the fact that another surgery was necessary, I started to pack my “emotional luggage” for the next “trip” which was to occur on March 16th.
One thing I discovered about going through breast cancer treatment, is that you must LEARN HOW TO QUICKLY ADJUST TO CHANGE. I say this because the treatment plan can change at any given moment, depending on how your body and how cancer responds to the particular treatment being administered. As you continue this journey with me, this FACT will become more evident.
Although the treatment plan is almost always guaranteed to change during your breast cancer journey, there is one thing that we can know for sure will not change…God’s plan for our lives. It is paramount that we not beat ourselves up about having cancer. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it is scary. Yes, you feel like your identity has been beaten up and pushed aside by this BULLY CALLED CANCER. But it is crucial that we understand, that everything that happens to us is for a reason. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
After having endured all of the chemotherapy, surgeries and emotional changes, I was changed as a person. After completing cancer treatment, I found myself drawing from the strength that I gained, and using that power in other situations. I found myself saying, “If I made it through chemo, I know that I can make it through this.” “If I healed from a mastectomy, shoot, I know that I can heal from this.” Whatever your story, YOU WILL EVOLVE BEING STRONGER AND MORE FIERCE THAN EVER! “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1Peter 5:10
This week, I invite you to reflect upon your cancer treatment thus far. What have you endured up to this point? How has this strengthened you for life’s challenges? If you have not begun treatment yet, how do you imagine that this will strengthen you? If you are not a cancer patient, I invite you to reflect upon your own life. What have you gone through in the past that has made you stronger today? How will you use your strength to overcome other obstacles?
The last challenge for the week is that you share your story with someone else to give them hope. In my humble opinion, an experience is not an experience, unless it is shared with others. I would invite you to share with me. You can leave a reply below or email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you. Until next time, Ciao!♥
“His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:2-3