Tag Archives: surgery

Healing Energy

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healing energy

Today is the day after her surgery. I don’t know what she decided to have done…lumpectomy, mastectomy, single or double, implants or not…and I don’t need to know. I hold her in my heart, sending her my love, my heartfelt prayers for her recovery, my intentions for her life of health and happiness. So many memories come flooding to me today as I think about my friend M in a room at the UIHC hospital, recovering with her dear sister at her bedside. My soul smiles upon her, knowing she is moving ever closer to clarity and grace and hope in her life.

I dedicate today’s poem – that I originally wrote in the fall of 2011 after receiving a beautiful gift of flower essences, prepared especially for me by my friend Ginny, to my friend M.

Flower Essences
By Vicki L. Flaherty

My friend’s sweet hands blend the essence of flowers.
She creates a healing elixir, especially for me.

Her beautiful gift created with hope at her fingertips.
Each flower representing a need;
each accompanied by an affirmation:

Self-Heal to bring me healing —
I awaken the self-healing power within me.

Sweet Chestnut to comfort me in the darkness —
I feel a shining light through my suffering.

Hibiscus to honor my femininity —
I experience loving warmth in my body and soul.

Love Lies Bleeding to connect me with universal love —
I can bend but not be broken.

Rock Rose to address my fear —
My courage is rock-bott om strong.

White Chestnut to release my anxiety —
A calm presence creates freedom within me.

Star of Bethlehem to support me through shock —
I see my star shining renewed and whole.

Walnut to move me through this transformation —
I welcome new possibilities into my life.

Other posts about my dear friend M and how she touches my heart:

Soul touching – https://mostlymyheartsings.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/soul-touching/

Where the clouds end – https://mostlymyheartsings.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/where-the-clouds-end/

I can’t seem to let go of her – https://mostlymyheartsings.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/i-cant-seem-to-let-go-of-her/

Healing waters – https://mostlymyheartsings.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/healing-waters/

(Any WordPress bloggers know why the hotlink button on my blog might no longer be active?)

My surgeon’s hands

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As I reflect on all I have to be grateful for, one of them is the excellent care that I received at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics during my diagnosis and treatment. I feel so fortunate to have a breast with which I am happy, a breast that feels natural, that gives me a sense of wholeness and femininity…a breast that I am not ashamed of or embarrassed by. I thank Dr. Sugg, my oncology surgeon, and Dr. Lawrence, my plastic surgeon, for their care and expertise. My friend – let’s call her AngelM – has the same surgeons as I did. I hope that she may trust them to help her find wholeness in her loss as well. (See previous post entitled Soul touching).

My Surgeon’s Hands
By Vicki L. Flaherty

Wise from experience
Certain in their task
Precise in their movements
Sure of their actions
They move with grace for me
My surgeon’s hands

I depend on them
I trust them
To remove the bad
To keep the good
To shape my body
My surgeon’s hands

Their work enables me
To let go of my fear
To feel whole
To be feminine
And alive
My surgeon’s hands

Relief

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Two years ago, the phone rang here at my house. It was Jean, my surgeon’s nurse, calling to give me the results of the biopsy of the removed breast tissues and lymph nodes taken during my mastectomy.

No cancer. “The report is very, very, very good!” she had said, leaving the details for my surgeon to share with me. It’s impossible to put into words the sense of relief I felt. In a moment it was like I could breath again. No chemo.

After the relief came gratitude. I had been so fortunate along this road called cancer. No radiation. No chemo. Only a few lymph nodes removed – low risk of developing lympedema in my right arm.

I relished the calm that washed over me and the moments of celebration…

Chugging Train
By Vicki L. Flaherty

Finally, the train has stopped.
I’m clean — no cancer.
Nothing suspicious
That can be seen or detected.
At least for now…
It’s OK to celebrate this moment.

But, the engine was meant to move —
and so it begins again, chugging slowly forward.
At this juncture, there are questions
About prevention, recurrence.
What to do? How to live with the odds?
No conclusive answers.
The engine was meant to move —
and so it begins again, chugging slowly forward.

Navigating the course ahead
It’s up to me to decide:
Do I take the medication?
What tradeoff s, given the benefits and risks?
Choices, decisions — the signals along the journey.
The engine was meant to move —
and so it begins again, chugging slowly forward.

A related post is Waiting Game.

Anniversary

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About to leave the hospital after my mastectomy & reconstruction, 9/29/11

About to leave the hospital after my mastectomy & reconstruction, 9/29/11

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!  🙂

Flashes
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.

Ordering dinner,
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 —
how symbolic?!
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.

The darkness is an anchor

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One of my fellow blogger friends posted a poem, A Dark Thing Inside the Day, on her lovely and inspiring Radiating Blossom site today (thanks, Carol). Linda Gregg’s piece of art really resonated for me – I have no idea the meaning it had for her; no matter, she’s touched me.

As I sit on the cusp of the 2-year anniversary of my breast cancer surgeries (lumpectomy on 9/7/11, then mastectomy 9/28/11), and cope with the fears that seem to spit up days before my annual mammogram, I found special meaning in the poem. My deliciously abundant life – blessed with a wonderful husband (I love you, Jim Hogan), a family full of love and lightness (thanks Mom, Dad, Mike…), an awesome collection of inspiring friends, a wonderful home where I am nourished and comfortable, a challenging and satisfying job, and fantabulous vacations (just back from two weeks in Portugal) – is like strokes of bright and beautiful pink coloring over a deep, dark purple spot. I find it significant the author says “The thing is hardly  visible (a lot like mostly a heart singing?) – it is not completely hidden. It’s there. It lingers. Not quite haunting. Like a haze that passes over from time to time (like the clouds that swept over the coast of Portugal one morning as we headed to the beach – photo above).

One might think cancer haunts me. No. It’s not like that. It’s more like an anchor. A counter weight. Something that keeps my life in balance. Blesses with me with perspective, understanding, grace, clarity. Something that holds me in place, in peace.

Running into strength

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I remember how grateful I was to be back to running after my surgery last fall. Days like yesterday have an amazing power to lure me outside for a run. I posted a blog on This Abundantly Delicious Life about Running, which includes a poem with that name that appears in my book Mostly My Heart Sings. After my surgeries, finding my way back to a daily fitness routine gave me focus and called on my strength. I know I danced on the line between pushing too hard and doing what I needed to do to feel normal and whole. My parents encouraged me to pace myself, and my husband supported me in stretching into my challenges. In the end, I found a wonderful balance.

© copyright Vicki L. Flaherty, Mostly My Heart Sings, 2013

Hup

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Friday I was inspired to blog about the dogs in my life (Furry Foto Friday) and that got me thinking about my stay in the hospital, especially the overnight. I didn’t see any reason for my parents or Jim to stay there with me – they needed their rest and I was well cared for with UIHC staff. I think the day had been more stressful for them than for me. I was medicated and out of it – they were wide awake and wondering how things were going, especially since I was in recovery for over 3 hours – waiting for a room to become available (and it was worth the wait because I ended up in a private room!).  Who would have guessed a little stuffed animal would help a grown 47-year old woman get through the night? (Jim, of course!) That night was rough with the nausea and fear, and each time I awoke in that groggy state induced by pain meds, Hup was there, reminding me that everything would be alright. If you could have been a fly on the wall, you would have seen how I smiled each time I awoke, Hup in my arms or at my side, reminding me of the love in my life. He sits on my bed these days, with a pillow I bought for myself in the spring, reminding me that life is like a garden and I am like a flower. When I make the bed each morning and  place Hup on the pillow, I am inspired to Grow Tall and Be Beautiful!  (Check out the Furry Foto Friday blog for the poem I wrote about ‘Hospital Hup’.)

© copyright Vicki L. Flaherty, Mostly My Heart Sings, 2013

The Survivor In Me

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The journey began on July 6, 2011.  That’s the day the radiologist called to ask me to come back for another set of mammograms.

I remember July 8, 2011 – the day the radiologist told me that there was something suspicious on the mammogram.

Then there was July 25, 2011 -the day I had the breast biopsy.

Mostly, I remember July 27th, 2011 – the day the nurse called to tell me that there were cancer cells in my right breast. I guess you never think someone will say the words “You have cancer” to you.  I certainly had never imagined it. It was surreal. I was home alone and scared. I remember crying like I have never cried before. So many things I didn’t know, making me fearful and uncertain. My journal on August 5th says “I remember trying to be strong but the tears coming anyway.” and “I have cancer.  I need surgery to remove part (or all!) of my right breast. Wow!”

The first threads of the poem appear in my journal dated August 3rd. I’m amazed that just days after the diagnosis, I was already moving to a place of strength and resiliency. The survivor in me, I guess.  Here’s what I wrote in my journal that day, just a series of words:

Strong.

Resilient.

Informed.

Great care.

Options. Choices.

Fortunate.

Reaching for family, friends.

Being held, supported.

Feeling love, light.

Healing.

Growing.

Path – Obstacle – Overcome

Stumbling forward with Grace.

Here’s the poem that evolved and which appears in Mostly My Heart Sings:

Strong
By Vicki Flaherty

It’s scary in the darkness.
It’s sometimes lonely,
even resting on a pillow of love.
Often the light is hard to see,
a flickering in the distance.
Questions unanswered linger in the air,
uncertainty leaves me fragile.
Out of seemingly nowhere tears well up
from some primal place deep inside.
I feel numb and empty and raw,
feelings I’m unable to fully understand.
My mind is a furry fuzz;
I can’t focus or think straight.
Then suddenly in this place of deep emotion,
I’m reminded just to be.
It’s time to rest — there is nothing I need to do.
With grace I gently move along
to a peaceful place of strength.

 

© copyright Vicki L. Flaherty, Mostly My Heart Sings, 2013