The second surgery on March 16, 2011, went well. The prayer and the idea of the surgery were that they would be able to get a clear margin. The surgeon informed my husband that we would receive a call in the next few days to inform us of the pathology report.
My husband and I waited with much anticipation for the phone call. About four days after surgery, we received the much-awaited phone call. The surgeon informed us that unfortunately, the pathology report revealed the presence of cancer in the “extra” tissue that was extracted from my left breast. He requested that we meet to discuss the next step.
Daniel and I met with the doctor within one week of the surgery. The meeting was somber and short. The surgeon stated that the best option would be for me to have a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. After the mastectomy, he recommended that I have chemotherapy as well. He told us that I would now have a team of doctors who would be responsible for my care during breast cancer treatment. He recommended that we meet with the plastic surgeon and the hematologist as soon as possible so that the surgery could be scheduled.
After meeting with the doctor, EVERYTHING seemed to progress in slow motion. I felt like I was in a movie where people are talking, but all you see is their mouths moving. The only words that I could remember from the conversation with the surgeon were MASTECTOMY and CHEMOTHERAPY. “The cancer is so terrible that I have to have a mastectomy and chemo?” This thought echoed through my mind like the loud, lingering sound of a bell after it has been ringed.
Daniel and I met with the plastic surgeon and the hematologist over the next several days. The plastic surgeon discussed my options for reconstruction very thoroughly and carefully with me. I appreciated his patience and wealth of knowledge concerning the reconstruction.
I was told that I could have implants inserted into both breasts to assure symmetry or that I could have a FLAP procedure, which would utilize the fat from my belly. This procedure would be sort of like having a tummy tuck. The surgeon would remove the breast tissue and then replace the breast tissue with fat from my lower abdomen. After getting all of my questions answered, I decided to have the FLAP procedure done. I believed this would be the best option for me because it utilized my own flesh.
After meeting with the plastic surgeon, we met with the hematologist. According to the hematologist, I would need to have six rounds of chemotherapy. He informed me that chemotherapy should happen a few weeks after surgery so that my body would have a chance to heal.
After discussing reconstruction options with the plastic surgeon, and now chemotherapy and its side effects with the hematologist, I began to feel VERY SCARED AND OVERWHELMED. So much so, that I blurted out to the hematologist, “I just want cancer out! Reconstruction is not important to me. I just want this to be over with. If I am left without a breast, then so be it. I just want cancer out of me!” The hematologist looked at me with eyes full of compassion, patience, and understanding and gently said, “I have had many patients tell me the same thing, but because of your age, we strongly recommend that you have reconstruction after the mastectomy. The reconstruction just might help you to be able to move on and have the life that you want after all of this is over.”
The third breast surgery to include a mastectomy of the left breast with immediate reconstruction was scheduled for April 5, 2011. The days leading up to the surgery were long and emotionally hard. I was scared. My mind filled with ALL of the things that could go wrong. I frantically asked myself, “What if the FLAP does not take? What if I do not have enough blood supply to keep the FLAP “alive”? What if I don’t wake up from surgery? What if they can’t get enough fat from my abdomen to adequately fill my breast cavity to match the other breast?” I lost a lot of sleep. I worried a lot. I tried to appear calm for my family, but inside I was trembling and terrified. I felt so alone and found it tough to find comfort in God’s word.
Nevertheless, I continued to read God’s love letter to me anyway. The words that God continually whispered in my ears are found in Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” This verse brought me strength and courage over time. The reason being is that I imagined myself on the operating table with the surgeons working on my left side and Jesus holding my right hand. This visual brought me MUCH needed peace.
I encourage you to remain diligent and to persevere through breast cancer. Even if you do not feel strong. Even if you do not have peace immediately, continue to pursue strength and peace until it comes to you. Continue to pray. Visualize yourself in God’s presence. Look for words to soothe your soul in God’s love letter to you, the Bible. Admit your fears and your limitations to yourself and to God. Ask Him to carry you. He will.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble” 2Corinthians 1:3,4
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Until next time, Ciao!♥