Greetings from the other side of cancer treatment! Life seems to be very much back to normal, and the past 8 months have been both long and short. High and low. But, I’m still cancer free!
Since my last post, I’ve had 31 radiation treatments, one CT scan (clean!), one major surgery (latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction surgery in December), 3 expansions to my tissue expanders (ouch), countless doctor appointments and many valuable physical therapy sessions. And, I still have one impending surgery, but from what I hear, this one is a breeze compared to the others.
Many people seem confused about the reconstruction process. I was too until I had no choice but to understand it (which if I am honest wasn’t really clear until I was marked two days before my surgery). Different people can have different types of reconstruction and varying degrees based on the type of mastectomy, their size, whether or not they have radiation and more. If you care to know more, keep reading. If not, skip down a few.
Because I had radiation, I couldn’t just go straight to implants for reconstruction. For starters, there was not enough skin present, even though my mastectomy was considered skin-sparing. This is why it was recommended that I go with the latissimus dorsi flap surgery which basically takes the skin, tissue and muscle from your back (area just below your shoulder blades) and re-routes the muscle to your chest to rebuild the breast. The skin flaps are, for lack of better description, cut and pasted to the front to create the needed skin. Tissue expanders (think of a deflated balloon with a port entry for fluid fills to expand it) are inserted and filled initially with a small amount of fluid. Then every two weeks, I go in for “expansions” where fluid is added to further stretch the skin. I am at the end of that phase now, thank goodness.
This coming Monday, I meet with my plastic surgeon and most likely will schedule my exchange surgery. This is where they remove the tissue expanders and replace them with the permanent implants. It should be sometime in early April. Not too much recovery time. And then….I’ll be done!
The recovery from this whole reconstruction process has not been easy by any stretch, but as always, I’ve had lots of help and support and prayers. And I do feel like I am on the other side. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and brighter. And I’m still standing, albeit sore, with slightly less range of motion and some massive scars.
Cue Elton John. “I’m still standing…better than I’ve ever been…looking like a true survivor…”
So life today is more about spending weekends in our cabin in the mountains, crazy family FitBit challenges which I lose daily–even to my 70-year-old dad who by the way is rocking his daily steps–(and I won’t have my post-surgical crutch excuse much longer), lots and lots and lots of work, impending hip replacement surgery for Millie, our 7-year old English Cream Golden Retriever (because we didn’t have enough medical bills in the past 18 months) and just trying in general to get back to normal life that is not driven by disease management.
I’m most looking forward to my post-cancer trip to Europe this June and using my paid time off days this year for fun things instead of un-fun things.
Another thing that has me looking up is the progress being made in research for Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Last year, my family, friends and the awesome Rhythm Dance Center family helped raise $55,000 (gasp!) for the cause at Bullseye Bash!! In recent months, triple negative breast cancer has gotten more attention, new clinical trials on a possible vaccine, and more ongoing genetic studies. In a discussion with my oncologist a few weeks ago, she told me they are very close on being able to classify triple negative into what they think are 6 different subtypes. The more they learn this aggressive disease, the more likely they can develop targeted therapies. This is huge. This is not information that existed last year. This is PROGRESS!
That’s why I support the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation and am serving as a Champion for them. It’s also why I am asking once again this year for your support in raising money to fund MORE RESEARCH for the most aggressive form of breast cancer.
TNBC day is 3.03.15. So in keeping with the family FitBit challenges, I am committing to walking 3.03 miles on 3.03 to raise awareness, with my FitBit step counter hawks watching my every move to make sure I do it.
I’m asking others to do the same, and if you are willing and/or able, make a tax deductible donation to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. 100% of your donation will go toward research for targeted therapy and a cure! Even if you can’t donate, I challenge you to do 3.03 of SOMETHING on 3.03 and post your activity on your social media page(s) … a la Ice Bucket Challenges, sans the cold water and the obligatory nominations. You don’t have to walk…you can hike, bike, run, ski, sled, swim 3.03 miles, laps, hills, minutes. Be creative but spread the word. Tell one person about TNBC on 3.03 who doesn’t know about it.
When you post in social media, tag me and/or the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation page and/or this link:
That’s also how you donate too (via that link).
My goal is to raise $15,000 for this amazing Foundation that gives me and my fellow TNBC survivors and current fighters HOPE in this scary disease.
Thank you for your support, no matter how you provide it!