Saturday, April 30, 2011

Feeling Numb

Not really sure how else to describe it.  I just feel  a little numb.  I know that without realizing it, the reality is really setting in and I'm having some bad days.   I was speaking to someone today and she said she could tell that something was "off", that I wasn't myself.  I'm trying to pick myself up when I start feeling it, but some days are a little more difficult than others. As I have mentioned before, I KNOW I am making the right decision in having the surgery, and I am at peace with my decision.  I have prayed many a prayers, and my God has even gone as far as sending what I believe was a direct message through a dear friend.  Because of the words that she was compelled to share with me, I was reminded of the biggest reason that I started researching this surgery several years ago and I felt a wonderful feeling of relief.

It was in 2007 I think.  We were new to the neighborhood and I had met an amazing woman who was a Survivor.  From the first time that I met her, the energy and vibrance was inspiring.  Her two children were friends with my Hunter and Zachary, which is how I came to meet her in the first place. I had been told by one of the boys that they had seen a picture in Lucky's mom and she was bald.  I of course knew that this was most likely due to chemo.  In the months that followed I learned of her story, and her fight.  I couldn't help but think of what my children would have felt, watching me go through what she did.  Another very inspiring gift she gave me was the opportunity to accompany her to Balboa where she received Iron infusions.  The room that we would sit in while the infusion was taking place, was the same room where the other treatments, including chemo treatments were happening.  It was amazing to sit in there and watch all the different experiences that these people were having.  Some seemed very hopeful, upbeat and positive.  Then there were others that my heart was breaking for.  Fragile, scared, and lonely.

It was in building this bond with Kerri that I made the decision to be even more proactive then I already was.  I just really don't want to put my family through that battle.  If I can drastically reduce my chances of someday having that diagnosis, I will do whatever it takes.  I have gone in for my mammograms each year for the last 7 years, I not only do my monthly breast exams but I go in and have a clinical breast exam done every 6 months because I don't want to miss something.  In addition to those precautions I also nursed two of my children for an extended period because studies have shown that this can help reduce the risks.  So yes, I am proactive.......but I want to do more.  So it was about 3-4 years ago that I started thinking about having this surgery.

I had to fight for this at first.  At Balboa, the breast health clinic wouldn't even put in a referral to a genetic doc, because they said my risk percentage was "not high enough".  Fortunately the staff at Madigan Army Hospital has made this process very easy.  This has made me realize even more that this is all in God's plan and now is the time for me to go through with it.  We are near family, and I have an AMAZING group of Nimitz wives that I know will be there for my family with whatever we will need during this surgery and recovery time.  In addition to my "blood" family, and my Navy family, I have an awesome "extended family" that lifts me up in prayer, which brings so much comfort.

Thank you to EVERYONE who has lifted me up in prayer, or just kept me in your thoughts.  I have received so many wonderful notes of encouragement and it brings me so much peace knowing that I have all that positive energy on my side.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Journey Begins

Today I had my second appointment with the general surgeon.  It was short and sweet, basically just went to get a referral to Plastics.  He had gone over everything at my first appointment.  They will try to do a Nipple-Sparing Double Mastectomy.  The plan is that they will go in and take out all the tissue and Plastics will then put in my tissue expander's.  Over the next few months I will go in for expansions until we have reached the implant size that Plastics and I agree on.  I will then have a second surgery to insert the implants.  Hopefully it will just be the two surgeries, if there is a need for additional surgeries it will be to fine tune things after the implant is in.

The general surgeon mentioned at this appointment the option to do a tissue flap implant in one or both breasts (most likely just one).  I am not sure how I feel about doing that, I will need to do more research and talk to the Plastics team before I make a decision either way for that.

In general I am at peace with the surgery.  I know that I have an amazing support system here locally and that I have so many people around the world that will be supporting me in prayer. Just because I am at peace does not mean that I am not scared.  I am very nervous about the surgery and the recovery afterwards.  I need to just have faith that God will not give me more than I can handle and that He will protect me through it all.

I have prayed many times, asking God to help me make a decision about this surgery.  This morning I was given a gift from God.  It came in the form of a message from my best childhood friend.   She told me she felt that He was giving her a message for me.  It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear today.  Basically her message was "remember why you started looking into this surgery to begin with".  In that moment I knew what the answer was.  The biggest reason I want to do this is because I want to be around to watch my kids grow up.  By decreasing my chances as much as possible, hopefully I won't ever get a Breast Cancer diagnosis.  I really don't want my family to have to see me go through that.

Thanks to everyone who continues to show their support as I continue on this journey.  I means more than you will ever know!

God Bless,

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Little About Me

My name is Gretchen.  I am 34 year old Navy Wife and mother of 3.  I have several family members who have had a Breast Cancer diagnosis, two of which were diagnosed in their early 30's.  I have been having mammograms since I was 27 and I of course do my monthly breast exams, but it never feels like enough. This year I pushed to be seen by a Genetic Doctor.  He tested me for the BRCA 1 and 2 genes and I was negative, thank goodness.  This was wonderful news, but for me, I still felt like my risk was too high.  With just my family history my lifetime risk percentage is over 60%.  The average persons lifetime risk is approx 11% so I am still way above average.  The surgery will decrease my chances by 90%, and that sounds wonderful to me.

I discussed my options with the Genetic Doctor, and spent months praying about what the right answer might be.  I have chosen to have a Prophylactic Double Mastectomy with Reconstruction.  I have thought about this option for years.  I have thought and prayed and prayed some more.  My husband is by my side and I have an amazing group of family and friends that i know will be there for not only me, but my husband and children through it all.  I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful support system around me.

This blog is going to be where I can write my story, and share my thoughts.  I have been fortunate enough to have come across a blog of a lady who has recently had this same surgery.  Her blog has been a very valuable resource for me as I go through the steps leading up to my own procedure.  I hope that my story will be able to do the same for someone else someday.

Tomorrow is my second appointment with general surgery. My heart races every time I think about it. I am a little freaked out.  How am I supposed to know if its just nerves, or my gut telling me I shouldn't have the surgery? 

God Bless,