On the eve before April 5, 2016, my third breast cancer surgery date, I made PEACE with God. I know it might sound funny, but that is just how TERRIFIED I was. Being afraid that I would not awaken from surgery the next day, I felt a personal obligation to make peace with my Maker, just in case. I wore a shielded expression on my face, pretending that I was okay. In essence, I was lying to all those around me because I did not want it to seem as if I was not trusting God, or that I was not strong enough to handle what was happening to me. I later came to realize that this self-imposed, emotional affliction that I put upon myself proved to be counterproductive to my emotional well-being and to the relationships with those closest to me.
I wore a shielded expression on my face, pretending that I was okay. In essence, I was lying to all those around me because I did not want it to seem as if I was not trusting God, or that I was not strong enough to handle what was happening to me. I later came to realize that this self-imposed, emotional affliction, proved to be counterproductive to my emotional well-being and to the relationships with those closest to me.
The ride to the hospital was long. My husband and I practically traveled in silence. Small talk and an occasional closed-mouthed smile made the trip more bearable.
The surgeons estimated that the surgery would take approximately eight hours, but it ended up taking 12 hours. The vein in my chest cavity did not supply enough blood to the FLAP. Therefore the surgeon had to connect another vein from my neck to the FLAP, thus accounting for the additional four hours. Nevertheless, the surgery was a success!
I remember awakening from surgery in a bit of a panic. I was shaking, anesthetically intoxicated and grateful to see my husband. I had a sweltering blanket over my body to stimulate blood flow to the reconstruction site. All I wanted to do was sleep! This was close to impossible because I was being awakened every two hours so that the blood flow to the FLAP could be assessed. I remained in the Intensive Care Unit for five days. On day three, I was forced to get out of bed and walk. What excruciating pain! I had to put mind over matter. I had to remind myself that my health and well-being are worth fighting for.
Aside from not being at home with my kids, trying to walk and maintain a straight posture were the most agonizing things about my hospital stay. After spending five days in ICU, I was released to go home. The FLAP was deemed viable, and my posture, balance, and strength in walking had improved significantly.
The factor that made the hospital stay bearable was that I had my husband, a very close friend, and my sister to stay overnight with me for the five days that I was in ICU. My husband was by my side the night of the surgery, my friend stayed two nights, my sister stayed one night, and I was released the afternoon of the fifth day. So, if I have any advice to give, it would be to make plans ahead of time to have someone whom you love, enjoy and trust to stay with you at the hospital. This time spent with my friend and sister will always be cherished and never forgotten. We shared conversation, prayers, and laughter. I felt protected. I felt safe. I felt loved.
I was released from the hospital having three drains in place. One drain was placed in my breast area and two drains were placed in my lower abdomen area. The discharge orders were extensive making me feel scared and insecure about the days ahead. Although my mother, a retired nursing attendant, and my husband would be taking care of me, I could not help but wonder if the responsibility of recording and emptying three drains would be a bit too much for them.
Looking back on this experience, I can say with conviction that my experience, though traumatic, was endurable simply because I had help and support. So, my challenge for you this week is that you reach out and ASK FOR HELP. Make yourself vulnerable. No matter how big or small the task, just ask for help.
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