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Forrest Gump had it wrong.  Life is not like a box of chocolates.  It’s a kaleidoscope.  In the flip of a wrist, realities are shredded, and the world takes on a totally new shape…. Carolyn Haines

Well, here I am, twelve days out of surgery and ten out of hospital.  I haven’t had much strength to sit and write as I’ve been unbelievably tired, so have rested as much as possible.  Last time I sat down here to write was the morning of the operation.. I was terrified, angry and sad, all rolled into one big bundle of nerves.  But now, feeling a bit better, I’ll keep up to date on what has happened so far.

Lachlan and his beautiful partner Rachael drove me down to the hospital bright and early.  I went straight  to Radiology dept to have a procedure called a hook wire done.  The day before I had radioactive dye injected into my breast to help surgeons find lymph nodes.  This was all part of the pre surgery procedure.  The thought of both procedures terrified me but the reality was by far easier than my overactive imagination would have had me believe.   Leaving there, I was so lucky to go back to theatre and be in within a very short time with very little time to sit and worry.

Being wheeled into the anaesthetic room I felt really calm actually.  Then my surgeons (incredible, talented and ever so kind men) starting drawing over me, marking where I would be cut.  I looked like a road map, full of blue marks.  I stayed fairly calm throughout that procedure too.  A young anaesthesiologist came in and started asking me questions.  They all needed to be asked and all information such as the things that could go wrong, needed to be said but he said it all quite off hand. That was terrifying.  I’m not stupid, I know any operation can cause death but right then, I didn’t want to hear it said so matter of factly.

Just as my stress levels rose again, a wonderful female anaesthesiologist came in.  She was more mature and had the most calming aura around her.  She asked the same questions and gave the same information in a way that made my shoulders sag with relief.  I explained to her that I wake up from anaesthetics either quite distressed or very withdrawn.  She took that in her stride and made me feel like it was the most normal thing in the world.  Phew!

At around 11.30am, when all the preparations were done and they said those magic words..”okay we’re going in now”, I totally lost the plot.  I thought I could perhaps just cry a little bit without gaining too much attention,  but the moment the anaesthesiologist rubbed my shoulder to comfort me, I started sobbing like a baby.  Loud, ugly sobs that wracked my whole body.  She stopped the whole procedure, told me she was giving me something to calm me down, all the while still comforting me with soothing words and kind actions.  A few more pats on my shoulder and head from her and I remember nothing.

I don’t remember going into theatre and I don’t remember waking up.  Both were done so gently that it was all so much less traumatic than it has been in the past.  What I mainly remember was being wheeled into my ward and Lachlan and Rachael were there almost immediately. Relief.  Faces I knew and loved plus no pain.  I was sure it must just be that I was as high as a kite on medication and would feel pain later down the track, but honestly, the pain was minimal, barely anything at all.

The next day when I woke up in the morning, there was still little pain so I went to have a shower.  That is when the emotional pain kicked in.  I wanted to look in the mirror.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful for this life saving operation and my old breasts were certainly no longer anything special to look at but I barely recognised the body in the mirror.  Nothing about it looked like me, except the head above the shoulders and even that looked old and tired.

As I said in the last post, I have come down about 7 cup sizes and now have fairly small  breasts.  They are fantastic but there is still quite a bit of healing to do.  When I saw them, they were covered in dressings and there was a lot of dried blood and bruising.. I expected all of that and more.  But if I’m honest, I felt deformed.  My waist seemed longer because there were no large breasts there to make it appear shorter.  The breasts were exceptionally high, incredibly rock hard and were covered in scars.  The nipples were there but the areola had been cut down considerably.  I knew that they had somehow reconnected the blood flow and I was bowled over as they had explained there was a risk of that not being able to be done due to the previous breast size.  I know I should have been over the moon with the results but I just stood there and stared at the strangers body that my head was resting on.    I couldn’t cry,  that would appear ungrateful and I think I was still in post surgery shock to some degree.  I looked away, had a quick shower and went back to bed.

Coming home on Saturday morning, not even 48 hours after surgery, I felt good but exhausted.  I slept on and off all day and again on the Sunday.  By Monday, my friend Cheryl had arrived from Victoria to stay with me until today to help me out.  I still feel weird.  I’m not going to lie.  This does not feel like my body still.  Everytime I look at myself I see breasts that don’t belong to me.  The wounds have started to give way to scarring and I know this will continue to improve. Considering this all happened 12 days ago, the healing process is unbelievable.

I’ve had a few trips back to the clinic where I’ve had to have dressings changed as there has been a bit of an infection and considering I’m cut from one underarm to the other underarm  and around both nipples, that’s completely understandable.  I’m still waiting for results back from what they took out which was 1kg from one side and 1.3kg from the other side.  There doesn’t seem to have been anything found in the lymph nodes which is a positive sign.  Still, I’m nervous about those results.  I know that I’ll be okay whatever the results are.  I’ll cop it on the chin, roll up my sleeves and just get on with it as I always do, but I’m still scared.

I am still getting used to this new body.  I have to lose weight as I look so out of proportion.    Hopefully the scars will continue to heal brilliantly as they are already doing.  The swelling will subside and there will be a softer curve than the rocks that are currently there.  And I will start to own these breasts as a new part of me.  In six months I have no doubt that I’m going to love them but right now, I’m still in adjustment mode.  I have to reiterate that the surgeons have done the most AMAZING job here.  It’s my mind that is playing up with reality.  The reality is, they took unhealthy, large, pendulous breasts with cancer and have shaped them into healthy, perky, small breasts.  It is in my mind that I am mourning the demise of what I have known for so many years.  It’s in my mind that I feel a bit less  than I was before.   I know this too will  pass and I’ll celebrate them soon but I’m not up to it yet.

When people have asked me in the past if I’d ever consider a breast reduction (as people feel they have a right to ask a large breasted woman), I’ve always answered with “Why? These are healthy.  Women with breast cancer would love to have healthy breasts.”  Well now I’m one of those women and I’m hoping to start to love my new healthy breasts.  It will just take a little bit of time.  But I am so grateful for having the chance to have them.  We certainly do live in a privileged country.  I will never take that for granted.

My arms are now getting really tired from typing, so I’m going to go and lay down on the couch again and await the arrival of my youngest son.  As I type, he’s on a plane, flying up from Victoria and will be here tonight to spend a few days with me.  I can’t wait.  This sort of experience in your life makes you stop and smell the roses.  My children are my roses.  I’m looking forward to spending a few days with him and just letting the fear take a back seat.

Happy smelling the roses…. Livvy xxx

The other side of fear