Well, here I am at last, over three weeks post-mastectomy. I’m sorry to be so long in posting, but sitting at the computer was (and still is) a bit tiring. In addition, despite being neurotically careful in my clicking and anti-virus software, I got a really nasty computer virus called a rootkit that rendered my computer unusable. I’d never even heard of a rootkit, but trust me, they are very, very bad indeed. I couldn’t help but notice how much rootkits are like cancer cells—they spread in a particularly insidious and stealthy way.
The truth is, I’m not even sure what to tell you about how I’m doing. I really don’t know how one is supposed to feel three weeks post bi-lateral mastectomy, so I’m uncertain whether discomfort and pain (which I am still experiencing) is to be expected at this point. I will say that my breast surgeon (whom I like very much, by the way) certainly appears to have sewn my incision very tight indeed. I hope what she tells me about how much our skin can stretch is true. I actually was feeling better after my surgical drains were removed, but unfortunately developed something called a seroma, which occurs when fluid collects in the surgical cavity. My surgeon drained it, but it began to fill again only two days later, and the discomfort is discouraging. I should mention, too, that during surgery, my heart went pretty wonky and, unfortunately, it continues to be so, which means I’m having to take heart medication that works well, but keeps me from sleeping. A heartbeat regularly in the 150 BPM range along with poor sleep are not optimal for healing, I suppose.
I’ve always bounced back quickly after injuries, surgeries, childbirth and such, but this has been different. I thought I’d be doing more by now than lying about like a big, useless slug. It’s been humbling.
The funny thing is, I often feel like people are disappointed when I don’t say, “Great!” when they ask me how I’m doing. I feel like apologizing for the fact that I’m still hurting, that I’m feeling tired. But then I feel annoyed. Why should I have to put on some kind of happy-face front when I’m not feeling that way? I’ve got breast cancer, for Pete’s sake. It’s not that I’m being negative—those who’ve been around me since the mastectomy would tell you that I’m been quietly cheerful and positive. I still feel enormous joy when I walk up the driveway and see the goldfinches, with their funny, squeaky-toy twittering burst forth like bright sparks from the sunflowers, outraged that I’ve interrupted their sunflower seed snacking. Yep, for sure a positive attitude helps…but it doesn’t change the fact that I feel weary.
Despite the seromas and such, I’ve had good news, too. While my pathology report wasn’t perfect, I was thrilled to read that the lymph nodes that were removed during surgery were clean. That was very good news indeed, and I’m grateful for it. I know I have further treatment in store, but I’m not certain exactly what it will be. I was a bit unhinged when I saw the medical oncologist last week, and he mentioned that dreaded word “chemotherapy.” With the clean lymph nodes, I thought I might avoid that. We should know more in three weeks after yet another analysis (called on Oncotype DX) is performed on my tumor.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to take pleasure in the good things—in having unfettered time to read, in the hint of fall in the evening air, and in still being able to laugh. And I’ll be forever thankful for kind and loyal family and friends who listen and allow me time to grieve and feel sad, while encouraging a positive healing spirit. As always, I’m grateful for goldfinches, for sunflowers, and for the cool, cleansing breezes blowing through our open windows—somehow making me feel that everything will be okay.