Progress Report on the mastectomy front: as of yesterday, I am all "filled" so that the muscle with the expander is now stretched as far as it has to stretch. Now, the next month is spent letting the muscle realize it must relax, and then I go through a second surgery. In surgery #2, the expander is replaced with a permanent implant, fat from my thighs squished into my breast to make it look nice and smooth, and if I want it, the "normal" breast can get a facelift to match the new one. Not sure if I am willing to shell out $5,000 for that bit of nonessential vanity. The surgery is no cake walk -- it is still a three hour ordeal, but I am told not as bad as the mastectomy itself.
My doctor was pleased to learn I had kayaked a couple of days ago. The more I use my arms and muscles, the more I will heal and hopefully, without limitations on range of motion.
However, all was not rosy yesterday. On an advisory note, always read your hospital bills line by line. I was charged for two drainage tubes (not cheap) when I only had one, and two breast implants ($5000 each!!!!) when I only had one. They also charged me for the compression stocking to prevent blood clots...which they never used! (You may recall from earlier blogs that there are three anti-clot procedures they do with breast cancer patients undergoing surgery. NONE were done for me, and I did develop blood clots. Praise God I didn't die...but it was still an enormous expense I shouldn't have had.)
Another disturbing addendum yesterday: the pathology report. This was two pages long with incomprehensible names of things that made no sense to me. I read it line by line anyway. On the second page, it noted a total of four biopsies on my neck, scalp and shoulder. This was news to me! I wonder how they accomplished those biopsies with no wounds, and without me knowing. Then, listen to this: based on those biopsies, the report added diagnoses of basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. This was a month ago, yet if these were my biopsies and diagnoses, no one has informed me yet!
Given escalating issues, I called Patient Care Advocates. They assure me they will investigate all my concerns and get back to me.
Fortunately, yesterday was also filled with joyful events. I went on the first run since my surgery. I ran 5 1/2 miles, and then walked another two or so to cool down. It felt great. It didn't hurt at all, except for a few little twinges when I was too vigorous with my arm swings. While I will win no races, my time was not too dismal.
After returning from my final breast "fill-up", I went on the first bike ride since the mastectomy. I only rode for a little under an hour, but it again proved to me I could. It didn't hurt, even the uphills. I have a lot left to endure, but the milestones each day of cancer survival are monumental.
This is an important key to contentment that cancer is teaching me. The process of recovery and treatment is long, and involves slow progress at times, and long periods of waiting. Since each stage must be healed and completed before the next stage can begin, it cannot be rushed. Every victory, no matter how small must be noticed and celebrated. Things I took for granted, simple things, I now find myself praising God for...and meaning it! Like eyebrows. I dread chemo for many reasons, but losing my eyebrows which I never cared one whit about is very disturbing to me.
This is the way I should have lived all along. What if every day, as soon as I awoke, I listed with gratitude to God all I should be thankful for? Opening my eyes, walking unaided, putting on my clothes myself, seeing the sunshine, seeing the rainfall, hearing the birds, sitting in my own home, reading the Bible, tasting the coffee, smelling the roses, having eyebrows...etc.
That list would take every moment to honestly complete. If my heart were so swelled with all the praise I should be lifting up to God, there would not be a single moment for despair or complaining. I hate that it takes enormous loss to gain perspective on what really matters, but so often, it does.
The Mountains Will Burst Forth with Song
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