Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Awaiting Surgery

It has now been three weeks since my last chemo treatment, and I'm currently in that period of "getting my strength back" before surgery.  So far, so good.  I feel pretty normal, and even went running again this past weekend.  Granted, I could only go a little less than 2 miles before I decided to walk - any further would have been pushing myself and I just didn't think it was necessary - but I was still pretty proud of myself for running at all.  I think I'll try again this weekend.

This past week I spoke to both Debra (Dr. Sara's nurse practitioner), and the nurse from my insurance company who calls me periodically to see how I'm doing (she's the one that sent me the cancer cookbook early on).  Both of them reminded me that the effects of chemo can last months, so it's totally normal if I don't feel quite like myself yet.  It got me thinking:  the truth is that I THINK I feel normal now, but what if I've forgotten what "normal" really feels like?  Oh well, it doesn't really matter.  I think I feel pretty good now (maybe still a little more tired than usual), so if I feel even better in a few months, well all the better for me.

Of course, surgery is right around the corner.  Only two weeks from today.  I have had months to "prepare" for it, but how do you really prepare?  I'm going to be unconscious after all.  I think I'm about as ready as I'll be.  I have never had any major surgery before and have never had anesthesia, so I'm a little uneasy about the unknown.  As much as I've talked to and read about people who've had surgery, I still don't really know exactly what to expect.  But, a lot of people have told me the anticipation is usually worse than the reality, and so I am trying to keep that in mind and I hope they are right!

I have one irrational fear when it comes to surgery.  I know I should be more worried about valid things like pain, but the truth is that I am a little scared of "anesthesia awareness," which is when patients wake up in the middle of surgery and can hear their doctors talking, etc., but most often can't speak up to say anything.  That sounds absolutely terrifying to me.  Ever since I read a news article about this happening to someone years ago, it's always stuck in mind as one of the things I'd be most scared of if I ever needed surgery.  And, of course, it happened on an episode of Grey's Anatomy this year, so that didn't help matters!  But, I've been told that it's very rare, and most often if it does happen the patient doesn't even remember it afterwards.  So, I've been trying to remember that and I think it's working.  I haven't been thinking about it too much lately (luckily).

I have been thinking a lot about how my body will never look the same after July 7th.  It's a big part of that "unknown" I'm facing.  Of course, I've seen photos of what reconstructed boobs look like, but I think it will be a different thing completely to look down and see it on my own body - the one I've had for 32 years.  Granted, in January my right boob started looking a little different thanks to the cancer, but the chemo has killed so much of the cancer that it looks pretty much back to normal now.  It's a little sad, of course, that just when it gets back to normal it has to come out, but I won't be holding any farewell parties for my boob.  It's necessary that it be removed and so it will be.

In addition to the mental preparation, I've also been getting ready for surgery and recovery from a practical standpoint.  Next Friday, July 2nd is my last day in the office before I go on medical leave for 4-6 weeks, so I've been busy getting things in order and making sure my co-workers have all the info they need to cover things while I'm out.  Two days before my surgery - July 5th - will be 10 years to the day that I have been in my career, and I don't think I've ever been out of the office for more than 10 days or so.  So it will definitely be weird to be out for several weeks.  I like my job so I know I will miss it, and I'll probably get bored pretty quickly, but I'm going to do my best to relax so I can recover quickly and get back to it.

To combat the boredom, I've also started making a list of movies and things to keep me entertained.  I'm not a fan of daytime TV (I find most of it unwatchable) so I will probably be running up the charges on my parents' cable bill with daily on-demand movies (I will be recovering at their house since I live alone and my apartment is too tiny for someone to stay with me and help me out through my recovery).  I'm also told I should plan on taking a nap every day to help along the recovery.  Duly noted.

From a medical standpoint, today I had a pre-surgery PET/CT scan.  Yes, this is the test that requires me to eat a restricted diet the day before, but this is my third test of this kind so I have it down pat by now.  The test was uneventful - I got my IV, went into the little room with the radiation sign on the door for an hour with my smoothie (I chose banana today), then got scanned for about 30 minutes or so.

I have an appointment with Dr. Sara on Friday to find out the results, but I have no doubt they will be good.  After all, I've only had more treatment since last time!

Next week, I see Dr. Samson (my plastic surgeon) again, and I have some more pre-surgery testing at Dr. Rosenbaum Smith's office.  Then, I will wrap things up at work, have a nice Fourth of July weekend at the shore with my family, and then before I know it, it will be surgery day.

Emily's Entourage In Force!
I mentioned in an earlier post how several of my friends are planning to participate in breast cancer awareness runs and walks in the coming months (don't I have the best friends EVER?  Yes, I think I do.).

Well, a few weeks ago was the Washington DC Race for the Cure and my sister and some of her friends took part as a team called Emily's Entourage (which is the same name as the Facebook group my sister started for my support).  They even had special T-shirts made - how cool is that!

Here are some pictures from that day:

The group wearing the coolest t-shirt ever!

The signs my sister wore pinned to her back, showing her support for me and our Grandma Betty, who passed away from breast cancer 30 years ago.

My brother-in-law and baby Claire showing support (I think she wrote that sign herself)!

These pictures truly warmed my heart.  I know I've said it before but it means SO MUCH to have people supporting me in all kinds of ways.  I am very lucky for that, and I think it has been a huge part of why my treatment has gone so well!  So thanks to all.


  1. No need to worry about boredom during your recovery time...that is why I'm planning WEEK OF FUN!!!! WOOOHOOO!!!! Recovering from surgery has never been this entertaining!

  2. I can't wait to see what is involved in this "week of fun"! Just make sure it includes lots of napping. I can give you tips on the subject if you need them. BTW, who is that weirdo wearing a skirt and old-lady hat to Race for the Cure? We need to tell her to buy a pair of shorts that fit=)