I’m on the other side of surgery now – surgery to cut out the Cancer. It’s been a week and a half. The title of this post lists a few of the hurdles I am experiencing now. Pain – for sure. Still taking the good drugs around the clock (which is also why there are no automobiles. Can’t drive on the good drugs), but have been able to cut them by half since coming home from the hospital. On full dose I was sleeping all the time. In fact, when I looked at the calendar to see how far past surgery I was, it surprised me. I honestly can hardly recall much of last week, living it in a drug induced haze. That’s probably good. I have pain and soreness in my reconstructed breasts, but mostly in my abdomen, where the tissue for reconstruction was taken. I have a long and gnarly scar from hip bone to hip bone and a newly created belly button. (For some of you this may be WAAAAYYY too much information, but I have had a lot of questions). I also have JP drains in my abdomen. I don’t want to gross you out explaining the drippy details, so feel free to google that is you want. They are a nuisance to keep out of the way, especially when trying to bath – which is difficult enough. I feel like I have completeld a marathon when the shower is over. One drain quietly does it’s job of removing excess blood and waste from the surgical sight. She gets in my way, but we can peacefully co-exist. The other drain has been mean and contentious since I woke up from surgery. The only explanation offered to me by medical staff is that it must be sitting on some nerves or something else that it is irritating. I have named said drain Brutus. Because he is constantly stabbing me. He delivers sharp pains if he is bumped, stripped (that is a whole process that must be done on both twice a day), or just feels like reminding me he is there. My sweet Shelby sat down next to me on the couch yesterday and stuck her elbow unknowingly into Brutus and I screamed like one those banshees everyone talks about but no one really knows. Scared Chuck and Allie out of their ever loving minds as they came racing from the other side of the house. I am praying the drains will come out at my follow-up appointment on Thursday, and I will not be sorry to see Brutus banished for all his crimes. I do, however, plan to double up on the pain meds in anticipation of his removal. I can only imagine it will be at least as painful, if not more so, as our co-habitation.
While still dealing with the physical aches and pains, I am now dealing with the emotional pain of the final pathology from my surgically removed tissue. Where I had been previously told they could find nothing but Stage 0 non-invasive cancer, actually having the tissue to examine unearthed a 5 mm tumor of invasive cells. This discovery has only upgraded my diagnosis to a stage 1, but because my cancer is not hormone receptive and the proteins multiply quickly (did that sound like I understand it all? I don’t.), my doctor isn’t sure we can completely rule out chemo anymore. My surgical oncologist is referring me to a medical oncologist for consultation. When she gave me this news I could barely hold it together long enough to get out of her office. I cried in the car all the way home. I cried because I was afraid of being sick and loosing my hair. I cried because I couldn’t imagine my rock star husband having to take care of me any longer than he already is. I cried because every piece of news I have been given on this cancer journey has, initially, seemed like a small problem (as far as cancer goes), but I keep getting surprised with bigger issues. So I cried Friday afternoon – actually sobbed. But by the time we got home I wiped away the tears and they have not returned. After the initial emotions of shock and fear, I am left with what I have always held in my possession. The assurance that God is in control. His presence all around me. My mom texted me this scripture, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” Psalm 42:11 NASB
God gave us our emotions. They are a part of the whole human experience. He understands and expects our fear, sadness and even anger. But when we know Him, and trust His love and care for us, we don’t have to live in those negative emotions. “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5 I am choosing to let my morning come. I’m not on the other side of cancer yet. I still have a lot of recovery to do before I have found my new normal. And I’m still waiting to find out if chemo is in my future, but I am focusing on the joy in this. The joy of getting to see my family and friends more often than usual. The joy of having time to write and read books because I am on leave from work. The joy of getting delicious meals delivered and getting a break from the kitchen. The joy of having more people than ever reading this blog because cancer is so universal. The joy of getting cards and sweet texts and being prayed over. Isaiah 25:4 says God is “…a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” So I will praise Him. I “…with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that [I] may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” And even if the tears come again, they are as welcome at His throne as my praise.