I went to the surgeon on January 4th to finally schedule my surgery. At that point, I had two other potential health issues and had been waiting to deal with this one since October. I had been testing for it since September. Four months and a lot of doctor's visits and tests had passed by the time that I was eligible for FMLA and able to schedule the solution to one of my problems. At last we were moving past the detection phase of my issues. It seemed like forever. Anyone who has ever been through something like it will understand exactly what I mean.
The surgeon gave me two dates. January 9th, which was only a few days away. January 23rd, which gave me a little time to get my life prepared for the consequences of major surgery. My surgeon, I must note was going to be gone during the week in between those two dates. He does work in Haiti once in a while, which is a wonderful thing. That middle week was one of his mission trips to Haiti. To tell the truth, it made me like the guy a little more. Anyone who travels to another country to do charity medical work can't be all bad.
I chose January 23rd, because as a wife and mother I had to get my life ready for this event. I'm the typical woman. I'm a control freak and I do a lot of things around the house and manage the household. I wanted to make things as easy as I could on my family for the time that I would be down and out. My poor husband hadn't even paid the bills or anything for decades. My son was just about to take his driving test for his license and had just started a new job that he needed a ride 11 miles one way to get to and from work. I had to consider that someone would have to take my shifts at the group home where I worked, and that would be no easy feat since I worked awake overnights on the weekend. There were a lot of factors.
The first thing I did was give my dates to my place of work. I wanted to give them as much notice as I possibly could. Now, this was based on the idea that I would be able to get back to work in four weeks. That was what the doctor had said. I had told him that I had to be able to move freely and lift 50 pounds to go back to work. I was very hopeful at the idea of four weeks. I had a lot to learn.
The next thing the I did was to get with my human resources at work and get the paperwork turned in for my FMLA and my short term disability. I had to have the insurance in order to pay for the surgery and subsequent medical treatment. There would be visits, follow ups, physical therapy, and eventually that other biopsy. My medical life was about to get complicated, busy and tedious.
After I took care of the business of preparing work, I let the family know what was going on and when. I had a great support system with my friends, mother in law, aunt, and assorted other relatives all volunteering to help out. My husband talked to his boss and told him that he would have to be out for a while to help me until I was able to handle a day alone in the house. His boss is a great guy and told him to take the time that he needed and not to worry about work. We should all have a boss like that. Incidentally, that's what my boss has said the whole time too. We both have great bosses.
The doctor said that I would have a drain coming out of my side for a week or so. This said to me that I might need my husband for a bit while that was happening. He told me to tell him when he needed me and he would be there. It was the most wonderful thing that I could hear. My husband has spent this entire time during all of my woes telling me how much he loves me and all that he cares about is me getting better. He's been very supportive, and I don't know what it would have been like for me otherwise.
Now, I have a sixteen year old son, a husband of almost 19 years, a 14 year old neurotic mutt that weighs about 40 pounds, and a 14 pound cat that likes to run in and out of the house 24 hours a day. I wanted to make sure that they, and the household were prepared for the absence of my participation. I wanted to make sure that there was food for pets, food for family, cleaning supplies, stamps to mail bills, toilet paper and many other things. I didn't want them to have to run errands all the time on top of the work that they would be stuck with around the house. They had work and school and driving tests to take care of. They had no idea how hard it was to handle everything else. At the time, my son had a girlfriend that lived 40 minutes away, and would need a ride to see her off and on. There were a lot of factors that my family had never really had to worry about, because I normally took care of it.
Don't get me wrong. I didn't think that my family couldn't handle it. It's just that there is a lot of work. There are days that I never quit moving just to keep the bare minimum done. To have a whole other life of responsibilities fall in your lap along with a wife and mother that needs to be taken care of is a lot to ask of anyone. My son would still need to make it through school and have the time to do his work and pass his classes. My husband would at least need to sleep. I was always the one that slept 4 to 5 hours a night and took care of everything while trying to lose weight, keep up on my side projects and work. It took years of practice for me to be able to juggle it all, and I still wasn't that good at it. I used to do a spring cleaning every winter while it was cold and dark outside, but I hadn't been able to do that sufficiently in a couple of years. Home is a lot of work.
At any rate, I set about doing what I could. I stocked up on things that I could like cleaning supplies and paper goods, toiletries and frozen foods. I made some soup and other things that I could keep in the freezer for when I or the boys didn't want to cook. I bought three dozen Chinese food containers on Amazon for $13 to freeze things in single servings to make it easier. It was really great for soup. I made sure that my son washed the dog right before surgery so that it wouldn't have to be done for a while. I cleaned the house and washed all the linens. I paid all the bills, some of them in advance. I made sure that there was animal food, cat littler, laundry detergent and so forth.
I also made plans for me. I'm very active and would probably lose my mind if I hadn't planned something to keep me occupied. I didn't know how long I would be truly incapacitated, so my first plan was to rewatch an old television series that I loved. Northern Exposure had six seasons and I had purchased it years ago. I had it and I decided that it would be part of my schedule to watch it all over again. That should keep me busy along with the things that were recorded on the DVR and the things on TV. I also scoped out some movies on Redbox that I intended to rent or have my husband rent and return for me. I always have a stack of books around that I haven't gotten a chance to read, so I knew that I could read. I do adult coloring, so when my arm felt a little better I could do that. I was hoping that very soon I would be able to use my computer, because I do photography on several sites, I write blogs, and I wanted to take a shot at self publishing one of the 12 novels that I have written over the years. That would take editing. So, activities were planned.
I talked to the ladies that I supported at work and tried to explain that I would be gone for a while, but I would be back. I didn't know if they understood, but it made me feel better to try and explain it to them. The people that I work with have been great through the whole thing. they've pitched in to cover me and I don't even know if I will ever be able to make it all up to them. I work with a great group of people and I really like them. That has helped me get through everything.
I talked to my husband about how we would try to make sure that my son's life wasn't completely disrupted by my being down. He was happy to help out with things. He's been really wonderful about all of it. He promised that he would help run my son to his girlfriend's and that he would take him for his driving test. He also said that he would help around the house so that my son didn't end up stuck with all of it. That made me happy.
The one thing that happened during this time was that I fell over my dog and hurt my knee. I couldn't catch a break this year. I had it x-rayed because I was afraid that I had broken my knee cap. It was just badly bruised and it still hurt really bad when I went in for surgery. The day that I went to the Anesthesiologist, they asked me the abuse question of have I fallen in the last 90 days. I had limped into the room so they said that they could tell that I was injured. When I told them about the fall and the dog, we all had a good laugh. I understand the questions, but sometimes I really hate them.
I didn't really have time to get ready emotionally. I still wonder how anyone has time to dwell on these things. To be honest, I've never really given much thought to the fact that I only have one boob left. Life is busy. I focus on so many other things, that I don't really have time to focus on that. I wish I could say that it's been really hard, but the hard part of it only lasted a short time. My husband has been so supportive that I've not really thought about it in a negative way too much. Support is important, so if anyone reads this and has someone in their life that is going through it; take note of that. Support is the key. You can do anything with strong support.
So, everything was as prepared as I could make it. The night before my surgery, my husband and I scheduled some time together, which I would have regretted had I passed on it. Personal time is important, and it would be my last time to be whole physically. I needed that, and he understood that. Like I said, support is important. My husband understood that I needed the time with my body whole that one last time. By the time I went to sleep that night, I was as prepared as I could possibly be to go into surgery and come out with a piece of my body cut off.
I don't know that you can ever be truly prepared for a thing like a mastectomy. I tried, and I did pretty good, but I still had phases that I went through emotionally. I will talk frankly about them in the hopes that it will help someone. Like I said, I did pretty good and so did my family. We all knew that we had to go through this together. There's a lot of love in my house, and we needed it all to get through this.
The next morning, I was going in for the toughest surgery of my life so far.