Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Mom's Story

Let me share my mom's story with you.

My mom briefly toyed with the idea of not having the surgery. Heavy monitoring by doctors and possibly taking preventative medications were mentioned. She quickly felt confident that surgery was the right choice for her.

Once surgery is scheduled, the breast surgeon orders a mammogram and a very in-depth MRI.  These help the doctors know what they are dealing with.  My Mom's MRI had a very suspicious spot turn up on her right side, which needed a biopsy.  It was a huge scare. We truly had a phone conversation where we both said, "this is it." This is the breast cancer we have always known she would get. For whatever reason, we just knew she had it. My late stepfather even appeared in one of my sister's dreams. My sister came over to my house, I mean apartment (remember, building a house) in tears. She said, "I had a dream about Bill last night. I was so startled to see him that I was just crying in my dream. I was so happy to see him. He was just sitting there smoking a cigarette when he calmly looked me right in the eyes and said, "I'm here for your mom, Geri. Your mom is going to need my help, so I'm just here to make sure she is ok." If you know us, dreams are something we rarely take lightly. We knew my mom had breast cancer, we were just praying that it hadn't spread.

You can imagine how surprised we were when her doctor called with the news that she was fine. Well that was all the confirmation that any of us needed. We would do anything in our power to make sure we were able to prevent that kind of scare again. Double, preventative mastectomies for us! Yes please! We could only be so grateful that we didn't have to schedule around chemo or radiation. Who cares if we might be a little loopy from pain medication throughout the holidays? At least we didn't have breast cancer! For us, we were doing the right thing.

While we were so relieved that she didn't have cancer, we were both very anxious for our upcoming surgeries. We had no idea what to expect. I was busy reading everything I could find while my mom just continued on with her day to day life. Her breast surgeon referred her to a plastic surgeon, who concluded that tissue expanders followed by implants would be her best bet. My mom was in her late 50's at the time and wasn't too concerned with the vanity side of things. She wanted to look good when this was all over, don't get me wrong, however her main concern was eliminating her breast cancer risk. She felt comfortable with her doctors and was on board with whatever they suggested. Her propolactic (preventative) double nipple-sparing (skin saving) mastectomy was scheduled for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. She had a full hysterectomy years prior, so that element of her equation had already been removed.

While my mom's surgery was completely covered by her insurance, she was notified that this would be an outpatient procedure. This horrified me, but my mom wasn't worried. My aunt is a nurse and she would be by her side, along with my uncle, my mom's boyfriend and her close friends. Due to my husband's work schedule, I was unable to get there until the next day. My mom was really adamant about her siblings not missing Thanksgiving with their respective families. I was going to be there to take care of her for two days, my aunt would go home to Nashville, then my aunt and I would once again switch places. I would return to Nashville while she would return to my mom's bedside. We were all set and more than ready to have this behind us all.

Fast forward a month to her surgery. I was on pins and needles waiting for my aunt to call letting me know that my mom had made it through surgery. Everything went great. Doctors made the comment that she had "very dense breasts" but everything went well. Her expanders were in place, along with drains, and she was in recovery. She experienced some major nausea and vomiting in the hours following, but was released to go home that evening. My aunt took her home, took care of her, and made her comfortable.

My mom was in and out the sleep the day of surgery. She barely remembers it. I spoke with her and knew she was going to be just fine. The next morning I flew down to Orlando to take care of my mom and celebrate Thanksgiving with her. (My wonderful hubby took our four kiddos to my aunt's.) My aunt and I had a hug and a debrief in the airport, then we went our separate ways. My dad picked me up at the airport and took me over to my mom's. (My parents divorced when I was three but maintained a wonderful relationship, which I will forever be grateful for. )

When I arrived at my mom's she was in great spirits and didn't appear to be in too much pain. She couldn't use her arms at all for anything more than brushing her teeth and pushing buttons on the tv remote. She was really sore but was able to get up and walk around. There was a drain on each side and she seemed to be dealing with them just fine. I, however, was absolutely appalled by the drains. To this day we laugh about it. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I was completely unable to help her care for them. My reaction to them is one that I'm not proud of.

The drains needed to be emptied and cleaned at least twice a day. I was prepared to man up and do the job. I didn't even make it to seeing her incisions before my world started swaying, I heard that dreaded freight train and I started to see black. I ran for the couch and apologized profusely. No way could I do that without passing out. I didn't even want to see her chest. I was feeling so badly and couldn't stop apologizing, my mom couldn't stop laughing at me. Who were we kidding? I am probably the last person that could help her with them. Fortunately, my mom is as tough as they come. I helped her up, I left the room and she took care of her drains herself. I attempted to do it two more times and each time I ended up in the same position on the couch, fighting off a fainting spell. Luckily, insurance provided a nurse to visit her at home daily, redress her incisions, clean her drains and evaluate the situation. The nurse came by later, did her thing and we called it a day. I was so impressed by how easy this seemed. I woke my mom up every four hours, gave her antibiotics, pain medication and food. She was doing great and it was me who insisted she take it easy and relax. She wanted to be up and moving around.

The only thing she ever complained about was not being able to get comfortable, and the pulling from the drains. She couldn't use her arms to adjust her pillows, her clothes, her hair, etc. Imagine being on your back in bed then deciding you wanted to sit up, turn over or get out of bed. Now try doing any of that without moving your arms...

Her incisions were vertical and didn't seem to be bothering her at all. Truly the main concerns were making sure she didn't develop an infection, and keeping her fed so she didn't get nauseous from the pain medication. She was doing great, sleeping well and feeling grateful the hard part was behind her. We celebrated Thanksgiving, and I had to head home a day or two later.

Once I arrived and settled back home in Nashville, it was go-time to prepare myself for my upcoming surgery. I had just under three weeks to get ready and to WAIT. I knew I would be living in button-down pajamas and shirts for awhile, so I decided to hit the mall and pick up a new mini-wardrobe for post surgery. I had just pulled into my parking spot when my mom called. She and my aunt were leaving her doctor's office after having been called in for a meeting. The pathology report came back and revealed a surprise. My mom had breast cancer. It was in her left breast, and was in a very early stage. Yep, her left side,the one that looked perfectly fine in the mammogram and MRI. We were shocked, freaked out and grateful, all at the same time. Our worst fears had come true. Luckily though, her doctor said the surgery had saved her life. Clearly it never would have been detected early. It WAS early and no sign of it popped up on either scan. It had not spread, and all of the surrounding tissue was removed during the surgery. She was to now be considered a 'survivor' and wouldn't need to undergo any sort of treatment. Maybe my step-father and my mom's guardian angels did work a little magic from above. Who knows, but we were 350% sure that we both needed to have these surgeries.

 photo brca-sig_zpsg9ykqr3t.png

No comments:

Post a Comment