Monday, Monday

I was rocked by the news that I needed another surgery. Even though the doctor had told me that 20 – 30% of women require a second lumpectomy and a friend had shared her experience of having two lumpectomies I never thought it would be me.

I had 2 lumpectomy surgeries in 8 days.

I wasn’t dragging this out. All of my appointments the week after my first surgery were tentative anyway so I moved them to the next week and tried not to worry about how I was going to pay the bills.

My second surgery was scheduled for the following Monday. That meant I would have surgery two Mondays in a row.

I was really starting to dislike Mondays.

I woke up from my first surgery wearing what they call a binder. Think white tube top with a wide Velcro strip down the front to hold it together. When I first saw it I had a flashback to my teenage years when tube tops were popular and I was thinner.

When I found out that I needed a second surgery I still hadn’t seen anything but the bandage over the surgery site. There was gauze over the incision and a clear waterproof bandage covering a large portion of my breast. I had tugged opened the Velcro to look at my breast when I got home but it hurt without the binder so I tightened it back up and left it alone.

I only took the binder off to shower and after a couple of showers the waterproof bandage started to peel around the edges. Even though my breast was still swollen and tender I began to gently pick at the edges of the clear bandage to see if I could get it off. The more I pulled at the bandage the more my hands shook.

I was scared of what I would see under that bandage.

The clear peeled away easier than I expected and the gauze suddenly fell away from the surgery site. I gasped and stared at what I saw in the mirror.

Once I got over the initial shock I could appreciate the skill of what my surgeon had done. The incision followed the very edge of my areola on the side closest to my arm and 9 steri-strips radiated inward, terminating at my nipple. I smiled faintly as I saw the similarity to a flower in the steri-strip pattern.

My left breast looked like an art project gone wrong.

There was a blue line around my areola where the surgeon had drawn on me to mark her cut, a faint outline of the yes she had written on me before surgery, a half daisy pattern of steri-strips, two holes from the guidewires and multicolored bruises on either side.

And it hurt.

After a few minutes I began to breathe deeper and remind myself be present. I know I can handle this. I look at my breast again in the mirror and start to appreciate the complexity and precision of what my surgeon had done.

My fascination with how the body works took over and I headed out of the bathroom. Over the next few days I kept my husband and my girlfriends up to date on the breast art project. It was like being a teenager again…just ask and I’d pull up my shirt and show you.

Each day I got a little healthier and a little closer to another surgery.

From a physical standpoint I felt like it was better to schedule the second surgery quickly. I want my body to have the best possible healing so I consider things like scar tissue, anesthesia, stress and the fact that I want to get it over with.

My second surgery was scheduled for 1:45 in the afternoon. That sucked. I couldn’t have anything to eat or drink after 3:45am so I set my alarm for 3:30am, got up and drank a crazy amount of water. I didn’t want to be dehydrated when the nurse went looking for a vein the next day.

I was scheduled to coach a client on the phone that morning and I was so grateful for that appointment. We worked well together on that call and the hour flew by too quickly.

Again I had to focus on me.

My family was thoughtful and wouldn’t eat in front of me. I looked at the clock way too many times and tried to keep busy. The car ride to the surgical center was quiet and the walk into the building had an uncomfortable feeling of déjà vu.

The woman at the registration desk said I looked familiar. I told her that she had checked me in last Monday for the same surgery. She said something intended to comfort me and wrapped another stylish white plastic bracelet around my arm.

I sat nervously waiting for the nurse to call my name. A shiver jolted me and my husband reached over to hold my hand. I felt my emotions starting to take off and I drew in a deep breath. At least this time I knew what to expect.

A nurse came through the door and called my name. She checked my bracelet to make sure it was me and told my family she would come and get them once she got me ready. They hugged me as tight as possible and reminded me that everything was going to be okay. I gathered up my courage and followed the nurse back through the door.

Again I hit the jackpot when it came to nurses. She was very kind and shared my feelings of injustice at having to come back for a second surgery. My vitals were good and nothing had changed since last week.

I was close enough to the computer to see my information on the screen. I was watching her put in my blood pressure numbers when I noticed a little red check toward the bottom of the page. It was the only red on the page and it was right beside the word cancer. I felt my eyes well up.

Before I knew it the idle conversation between the nurse and I had turned to my work as an herbalist. The more she heard about my training and the Peaceful Spirit Enrichment Center the livelier our conversation got. She was interested in herbs and shared with me that she had ordered some Arnica oil for the pain she was having from a recent tooth extraction. I shared my thoughts of some other herbs that she should use with it; she pulled out a pen and started writing down their names.

Another nurse came by and asked if she needed any help. She replied no but excitedly told that nurse about my herbal background. Her eyes widen and she asks if I teach any classes. Why yes as a matter of fact I do. She gets called away but promises to come back.

Talking about herbs kept me from caring about the needle she stuck in my hand for an iv or the hairnet and socks that meant another trip to the operating room. The second nurse comes back into the room and shares how she met Rosemary Gladstar at an event in Maine. By the time my family comes back to join me in preop my room is filled with women and we are sharing stories about plants.

My surgery is scheduled for late in the day and the doctor is running late. She is surprised that the room is so full and a little smile touches her face when she feels the lightness in the room. Again she whips out that sharpie and writes yes on my chest. I tease her about how long it takes to get that shit off.

The doctor says this will be a short procedure and because it is so late in the day not to expect any pathology report until Thursday. She will call me when she gets it. Both nurses come by to see me before they take me to the OR, one to say bye because her shift is over and the other to tell me she will be waiting for me in recovery. Oh yeah…I almost forgot why I was here.

As they roll me down the hall I have that déjà vu feeling again.

I wake up much better this time and don’t have the violent shakes. True to her word my nurse friend is there and helps me make a smooth transition back. A little apple juice and some help getting dressed gets me out the door in no time.

I already know how to stack the pillows and gently place ice on my breast so I can quickly start down the road to recovery. I eat something light and go to bed early. I have to get up during the night to take some pain medication but the leftover anesthesia helps me fall back asleep easily.

I remember how Tuesday is going to go. Regular pain meds and lots of naps. I keep the ice close by and tell myself that I am already getting better faster than last time.

I was startled awake by the phone ringing just before 4:00pm and was puzzled when the caller id showed the name of my surgeon. My husband handed me the phone and I answered it.

As soon as she started talking I knew this was too much for me. I fumbled with the phone trying to put it on speaker so we could all listen at the same time. She wasn’t supposed to call until Thursday and my medicated brain was trying desperately to understand what she was saying.

She told us that the pathologist had called her already. Not only did we still not have clear margins but there was also evidence of a micro invasion.

The cancer is trying to spread.

I will need a 3rd surgery and this time they will have to take a lymph node out.

It feels like all the air has been sucked out of the room. I struggle to breathe as she tells me I may want to consider a mastectomy. I’m shaking so hard I drop the phone.

I listen silently as she tells me about the test results. Her words are hard to hear over the voice in my head screaming “No, this isn’t fair”!

I tried to catch everything she said but at the same time I desperately wanted to hang up the phone and pretend it hadn’t happened. Finally she tells me to keep my appointment with her the following week and says goodbye.

I slump to my knees and cry uncontrollably. A deep heart wrenching cry that makes my whole body shake. I cross my arms over my chest as wave after wave of emotion crashes over me.

When my awareness returns to the room I can feel arms wrapped tightly around me, holding me in the floor while I cry. I look up and see two faces filled with the most compassion and love that can flow between beings. And I see their tears.

It reminds me that I’m not in this alone.

 

24 replies
  1. Bonnie Burns
    Bonnie Burns says:

    Melanie… you are NEVER alone… many love and adore you in case you did not know that.. but i am sure that you do!! Healing energies to you and love and light to all!! we are here.. always!

    Reply
  2. Barbara South
    Barbara South says:

    Hello Melanie. I want you t know that my heart is heavy just thinking about what you are going through. I won’t give you a pep talk or any suggestions….I just want you to know that I care for you very much. Love Barbara

    Reply
  3. Esther Zack
    Esther Zack says:

    This is from “your bosom buddy” Esther. Doesn’t it just suck???? There are no words I can say other than every woman you know, or have ever met, is in this with you!!! Keep on writing about your journey as we all need to pray for you and hold you in our hearts!!

    Reply
  4. Dawn Milligan
    Dawn Milligan says:

    My heart aches for what you are going through, but I’ve never known a stronger more resilient woman. You are loved and adored, my friend. Sending you and your family light and love!

    Reply
  5. Betsy Timmerman
    Betsy Timmerman says:

    Your story is gripping and frightening to read. Just know your energy has healed so many of us in big and little ways and our energy is yours as we follow your journey.
    You are an incredible writer and I am riveted each time I read another entry.

    I also am made more aware of my solitary life reading your story. I have a tiny family and no family in the area. Should something happen to me I would be alone for such procedures and testing. You have so many blessings as you say. I am grateful you are supported so well.

    My love and light are with you

    Reply
  6. Noelle Stanley
    Noelle Stanley says:

    Sending you love and healing. That is such a profound and touching account of your experience. I really appreciate your honesty and authenticity. Your helping so many people with your candor. Lots of Love

    Reply
  7. Barbara Chatzkel
    Barbara Chatzkel says:

    Melanie — I agree that all of this is not fair! It hurts to read about what you had to experience as reality. Sending you lots of positive energy and the knowledge that other folks in New River are there for you.

    Reply
  8. Christine
    Christine says:

    Hey girl so sorry to hear you are going through all of this. Transports me back almost 30 years and my eyes well up with tears for you. Please know though that I did have two lumpectomies, was counseled her to have a mastectomy. Tests were not as accurate then so there was no known whether I would have a micro invasion or not but I had all of the lymph nodes removed and they ended up being OK so I am just sending you hope that things can really still be OK and to follow your heart and if you need to chat you can always give me a call in the meantime sending light and love healing and peace to you.

    Reply
  9. Kristine Brobst
    Kristine Brobst says:

    Love and healing energy is being sent to you and will continue to be sent to you from so many sources right now. You are never alone.

    Reply
  10. Terrie Poiles
    Terrie Poiles says:

    Thinking of you Mel! Can’t imagine the emotions! You are a strong woman! So blessed to know you! Sending prayers, peace, Love & Light your way!

    Reply
  11. Marilu Haley
    Marilu Haley says:

    I love you Mel!
    Sorry I’m not in New River presently…
    In So. Cal for new grandma duties and supporting my sister with bladder cancer treatments.
    I hear your voice as I read your blog and it makes me smile. I can only imagine through my minds eye what it must be like for you . I see you at the Goddess Conference speaking your words of wisdom and giving us all strength!
    I want you to draw on that strength now, the strength of the all of your goddess friends present and those that have gone before… We are one!
    Kiss and hug those two beautiful lovies with you and tell them to give you some kisses and Hugz back!!
    Love and light!
    Marilu

    Reply

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