Two years ago today, I left the University of Iowa hospital with a new right breast. I had my mastectomy on 9/28/11. I felt like one lucky girl, going home after a difficult overnight stay, with a new breast. You see, the original plan was for this to be the first of 2 surgeries: 1) removing the breast and putting in an ‘expander’ which stretches the skin for an implant, and 2) removing the expander and putting in the implant. But, I went home with the implant!
Jim and I had done our homework, and had asked my plastic surgeon about the ‘one surgery’ option. He was skeptical, lots of variables and usually not great results. However, given my mastectomy went well and I’m small breasted and was not obsessed with perfect symmetry, the surgeon thought putting in the implant with the mastectomy was a good option. Poor Jim, though…he was approached in the waiting room by the plastic surgeon as the oncologist was competing the mastectomy to decide what kind of implant!
We had not really spoken much about saline versus silicone since we thought I had months to decide. Once I had said I like the feel of the silicone implants. It was that day when I had my ‘before’ photo taken and there were boxes of implants sitting in a corner of the room and I’d felt inclined to feel them.
So today I am celebrating my one-surgery journey and my return to great health, and all I’ve learned through my experience. I feel somewhat wiser, calmer, more connected with what’s important in life. My heart is singing!
Thought I’d share today’s poem because it will take you through those days 2 years ago…it’s a long one! 🙂
By Vicki L. Flaherty
Memories like a photo collage,
fleeting pictures in my mind’s eye
one image moves to the next.
At early morning light
stretching into yoga postures
and touching all of the prayers flowing my way.
Entering the hospital waiting room
so bright and sterile —
the reality taking hold.
A doctor entering my prep room
putting her initials on my right shoulder,
a tattoo for my surgeon.
Asking questions about an epidural,
wondering why I am deciding now,
hearing my survivor friends’ voices —
“take the pain meds” —
and choosing the needle.
Relaxation filling my body
as my new IV feeds me —
“It’s going to be alright. Breathe.”
I say to myself.
Whispering “see you soon” to my family
from the hall outside of the operating room,
and then whirring down the corridors,
where it’s cool and surreal,
everything a blur without my glasses.
Being given names to go with the faces
of those moving about the surgery area,
names I won’t remember,
but thinking how nice to meet them
and asking my angels to watch over them.
Electrodes and monitors being attached,
time for a few deep breaths…
before fading into sleep.
Awaking to a soft voice asking
“Do you know where you are?”
And hearing the good news:
“They put your implant in —
no more surgeries!”
My doctor-friend visiting —
her smiling face
bringing much needed light
into the recovery room.
In and out of sleep for hours
waiting to get my hospital room;
ah, well worth the wait —
a private one for me.
Feeling like a sack of flour
moving from gurney to bed,
nausea overcoming me
when I try to move.
despite a lack of appetite —
yum, yum, I think sarcastically:
mashed potatoes, broth, bagel, cake, jello, apple juice —
surely one of these will inspire in the wee hours?
During the quiet of night,
comforting myself in the love bathing me,
knowing my family is sustaining itself
with much needed sleep.
Celebrating at midnight
my first trip to the bathroom
without “the bucket.”
Even taking a short walk —
today’s version of a marathon is:
teeny, tiny, slow, slow steps about 20 feet.
Sleeping in spurts,
constant visits from nurses —
vitals to check,
meds to administer.
Waking to “the day after surgery”
and a new day of recovery —
my rebirth beginning.
Eating my first solid food:
Angel food cake —
The delicate bread
reminding me of birthday cakes past,
Mom and Mother-in-Law.
Rejoicing in my family reunion:
Holding my husband’s hand
having his strength to carry me.
Seeing Mom and Dad smiling
filled with delight
their girl has her color back.
Hearing the long awaited words:
“Your discharge papers are ready.”
Being wheeled away from room 4645,
into the warmth of the fall Iowa day.
Thinking life is good going home,
as memories of the past 48 hours
begin to fade into the light.