CATSTIR [kat - stur] noun: Code word for the other "C" word that rhymes with "dancer"
What Breast Cancer Taught Me
Read, research, google, as much as you can stomach and then STOP. You will know when you've had enough.
I will recommend one book because it was recommended to me, Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book.
It's a really BIG book. Even if you don't open it, holding it, or simply owning it, will make you feel better. It has more information then you'll ever need. It covers all the different types of cancer and treatments available.
Go for several opinions. Some will be recommended to you by doctors or friends. Some will whimsically cross your path. See as many as you can stomach and then STOP. You will know when you've heard enough.
You might encounter a lot of EGO. You do NOT have to put up with it. You have the right to have a doctor who is compassionate, patient, and informative. Someone who will take time to sit with you, look you in the eyes, and answer your questions.
Don't worry about who's the best. Trust your gut. You will know when you're in good hands.
People who love you, and people who don't, will say stupid things to you about your cancer. The stuff they say will piss you off. Write it down. Crumble it up. Shake your fist at it. Toss it away. Burn it. Save it. Do what your pain tells you to do. The point is, get it out of your system. Don't wallow in it. Don't feed into it. Don't hold it against them. They can't help themselves. They are scared to death. This could happen to them.
Try not to panic and rush into a decision. But if you do, forgive yourself. Cancer is scary stuff.
Go to breastcancer.org. Join the DISCUSSION groups for support, information, opinions, rants, tears, and laughter. This is your new FACEBOOK.
Most of us will be facing surgery. If this is you, make sure you know who will be doing the surgery. THIS IS IMPORTANT especially if you're going to big, teaching hospital. Ask your doctor point blank,"will you and you alone be doing my surgery?" If he/she says, "I'll be there for the important parts," are you comfortable with that?
I realize doctors need to learn but do you want them to learn on you? If that feels comfortable to you then go with it. If it doesn't, don't do it. Do NOT let someone talk you into it ESPECIALLY if they have a vested interest in it. For example, breast doctor recommends plastic surgeon because they work on the same days.
Do NOT rely on "TOP DOCTOR" or any published reports claiming to know who is the BEST of the BEST. Do not be impressed by a title that immediately follow a doctors name. For example, "Head Plastic Surgeon at ..." or "Head Breast Surgeon at ..." This does not guarantee you a successful outcome.
OKAY... time to talk about immediate reconstruction.
Prior to my Bilateral Mastectomy, I attended a tea party between good friends and several of the guests questioned my decision to have immediate reconstruction. One of them had a medical background. I was probably a bit defensive at that point because I had already made up my mind.
Following your diagnosis you will be given information about reconstruction and somewhere along the line you might find yourself marching to the immediate reconstruction beat, thinking I can take care of all of this in one procedure.
You can, but you don't have to. There are a lot of options regarding reconstructions and they vary in complexity. Sadly, complications are not uncommon. The process, even at best, is mentally and physically challenging. Give yourself time to digest and prepare for it.
I had a doctor say to me, "Cancer should be your main concern."
I bought that hook line and sinker. Still do. But that doesn't mean it should be your ONLY concern. Your reconstruction decisions deserves just as much attention as your cancer decisions.
Once you decide on your course of treatment, your doctors, and your hospital, you will feel calmer. You are brave. You are doing everything in your power to heal yourself.
I am one of the luck ones. My cancer treatment ended with my choice to have a bilateral mastectomy. I have never regretted this decision. But it's my reconstruction decisions that have tormented me.
Post Surgery Updates:
I am home. I am in more pain then I expected but one part vicodin mixed with one part valium is a decent cocktail.
I was lucky enough to get an experienced oncology nurse who got the IV in my foot in one try. This is always the most stressful part for me. Apparently, my feet have poor veins and due to the risk of lymphedema from having lymph nodes removed from both sides, all blood draws and IV's must be from the foot. This request will freak out even an experienced nurse. But not nurse Nancy. She looked me right in the eyes, smiled and said "point you toes and don't move." I closed my eyes, Mark held me tight, and in it went.
The surgery went well (?). It lasted 4 hours. I have 2 drains, 2 slings of alloderm and a multitude of sutures. My ribs are doing most of the anchoring so I'm having a hard time breathing comfortably or doing anything comfortably other than pointing my toes.
Because not everyone can stomach the SHOW part of my SHOW and TELL catstir adventures. I'll link the photo's instead of posting them.
I don't know what that "pinch" is on my right noob. I'll find out more when I see my doctor on Monday. I'm not crazy about the shape but I'm going to try really hard not to complain. Right now I need to focus on healing - visualize my body accepting the alloderm and the new implants.
Please know that your generosity continues to uplift and heal me. Thank you for your love, prayers, healing light and energy.
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO PREPARING FOR SURGERY
Monkey DO, Monkey LEARN, Monkey pass it FORWARD