Sunday, September 25, 2011

I feel like something isn't right

I haven't been feeling well at all.  I am still having a lot of pain in my right breast.  I have been being so good and I have stayed in bed most of the day.  The drain had really slowed down and the color of it was light.  It was looking like I would be able to call and get my drains taken out.  Unfortunately the last few days the drainage has been back to the amounts close to what they were right after the surgery.

This afternoon when I woke up from my nap, I felt like I had been hit my a Mack truck.  I was having really bad stabbing pain in my breast and I definitely felt feverish.  I laid on the couch and watched TV with Josh and it got worse.  I have decided to head to bed early and I am hoping that I will feel better tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 9 Post Op.....

 I really need to start taking it more easy around here.  I keep forgetting that I am only eight days post op from a very big surgery.  When the waves of pain come it is definitely a reminder.  Laying here tonight after making sure I took it easy all day, I want it to be done.  The pain is exhausting and makes me want to call my surgeon tomorrow and beg him to remove my implants NOW!  I'm being as strong as I can be, but it is wearing me down.  Please Lord bring me comfort and strength that I so desperately need right now.

Day 8 Post Op.....

I have been grounded to my chair, couch or bed today.  Yesterday I made the mistake of shopping with Josh at the Army Exchange while we were down there for my appointment.  We had gone early for my appointment with my plastic surgeon, so we could get a few Christmas presents for the kids.  It just ended up being too much time "vertical".  I was hurting pretty bad in the evening, and it got really bad in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 7 Post Op.....

9:09 am    Josh and I are driving to Madigan Army Hospital this morning for my post op appointment with Dr P.  I have A LOT of questions about why my breasts look the way they do.  They are just scary looking!  Anyways, getting out of the house and spending time with my honey will be awesome.  I've got cabin fever!

11:26 am   The appointment went very well.  When he walked in I said "You've got some explainin' to do!!"  Basically he said the same thing has Dr. M had said.  They had not realized how big my boobs were!  They had both done pre op exams, but they had underestimated the amount of skin that was there.  He told us to plan on at least 2-3 more surgeries, which I was already prepared for.  He said to plan on the next surgery being somewhere around Dec ember, but assured me we will work around the ship's schedule so that Josh will be here.  The other good thing is that the next surgeries will be painful, but the pain should be MUCH less!! YAY!!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 6 Post Op.......

Today I received a card from Nan.  It says....

          "Recovery is a process.
             It takes patience,
            it takes everything you've got.....
           And you've got a lot
               a kind heart,
             an amazing spirit
               and people who really care about you"

The words on the card really touched me.  I thank each and every person that continues to pray for me.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 5 Post Op.......

10:00 am    After being so careful about staying reclined and not doing anything that might  aggravate the pain, I had another horrible experience like I did in the hospital.    I think it was about 4:00 pm and I told Josh I wanted to go upstairs so that I could relax and maybe take a nap.  I climbed into bed and was catching up on facebook.  I was very comfortable and was enjoying how wonderful it felt to be in my awesome bed, surrounded by comfy pillows, and I felt like I was going to drift off to sleep.

                    Then it started, first slowly, the pain in my right breast. I knew it wasn't going to be good because it felt just like it did that night in the hospital.  So I text Josh and asked if he would please bring an ice pack up to me, hoping that the ice would help the pain to stop escalating.  By the ime he was at my bedside the pain was unbearable.  I laid there hoping it would subside, but instead it just continued to get worse and worse.  After about 15 minutes, I told him I needed to go into the ER.  He rushed me in and fortunatly once we got there they were able to get me back to a bed and get an IV in me fast.  They gave me pain meds as soon as the doctor was able to talk to me about what was going on.

                    They sent me down for a chest xray because I had been running a low grade fever the night before.  Other than  that, they just went over all my symptoms,  gave me a little more pain medication in my IV and then sent me home and told me to follow up with my doc.  I really hope that I never feel that pain again.  On top of the fact that the pain is horrible, it's also very embarrassing to be breathing and moaning like I am in labor.

11:26 pm    I feel so blessed to have such an amazing family and awesome friends surrounding me.  The pain is still pretty bad.  I am spending my days reclined.  If I sit up or stand up for more than about five minutes,  that is when the searing pain starts.  Sometimes if I get back into my reclined position it goes away pretty quickly.  Other times I have to put an ice pack on various spots to get the pain to subside.  The pain has still not been under a 5 or 6 with some spikes that get up to 7 or 8.  This pain is exhausting.  I say a prayer every night that God will give me comfort and strength.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Day 4 Post Op......

11:00 am   Today I am going to be very diligent about laying or sitting in a reclined position.  It seems that as long as my chest is at about a forty five degree angle I can keep my pain level at a 5 or 6, which has become the level I am at most of the time.

2:30 pm    This experience has lit a fire in my heart.  I want to raise awareness about proactive care.  It was so frustrating, when I was researching this surgery, to not find more websites that were more than just the clinical info.  More than anything I wanted to read real life stories and see real pictures.  All I seemed to find was informational websites.  That was good, but after reading a few of those it started being the same information over and over again.
                   Through my journey, I am going to make things different for women who come after me on their own journey.  Its scary to go into something this big without feeling that there are others out there that have been there and can support you through it.  I want to start a website with message boards and more of a support network than only a informational and formal site.  I just know I want to be very open about my journey in hopes that more women will find the strength to be proactive.  I've heard over and over again that what I did was brave.  Yes, the decision to have the Double Mastectomy was something I knew was a drastic choice, and something a lot of people thought was crazy.  I don't expect every woman with a high risk to make the same choice I made.  I just want to do everything I can to encourage the high risk women to do their research their options so they can make the right decision for them.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 3 Post Op.....

2:13 am  I woke up to use the restroom and deal with my drains.  By the time I got through with all of that, my pain level was really bad.  Now I am laying in bed, with tears streaming down my cheeks, silently sobbing and trying not to wake Josh up.  Its moments like this that makes me wonder if I did the right thing or not.  The pain is like nothing I have ever experienced before.  It plays tricks with my head.  I just need the pain to end.

8:00 am    I just called the clinic and talked to the Resident.  She changed up my meds a little and hopefully it will help with this pain.  She told me to call back if it doesn't help and they will have to either figure something out, or they might have to re-admit me for pain management.  I am hoping and praying that won't be necessary.  I just want to be home with my family.

12:15 pm    Applying ice to my breasts has helped.  I am interested in trying to hot packs too today.  I think I am going to make some cold/hot packs up real quick today.  Rosie (my little yorkie) has been so sweet. She stays on my lap anytime I am sitting, and she brings me a lot of comfort, I am really enjoying having her close.

8:36 pm   The pain is still bad most of the time.  It is so frustrating because I really want relief.  I've started sleeping more during the day because when I am asleep I don't feel the pain.  I know I have said it already, but when the pain is the worst is when I am having negative feelings about the decision I made.  I was not even close to being prepared for this.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day 2 Post Op.......

11:13 am    Still having a hard time managing the pain.  I'm trying to use the Morphine as little as possible so that I can break out of this place.  I have already had to have it twice this morning, so I might not get to go home today.  I guess we will have to wait and see.

4:11 pm   I had just woken up from a nap when my nurse and the Resident came into my room.  She let me know that she had the papers drawn up for me to leave.  I was kind of taken aback because because Dr. Mason had stopped in this morning and he felt like maybe another days stay might be in order, since I had to have the strong medication still that morning.  I t seemed that I should stay until I was not needing anything stronger than the oral medication I would be sent home with.  The Resident was set on me going home so I gave in.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Day 1 Post Op......

I'm trying so hard to be strong, but this pain is close to breaking me.  The pain is unbearable most of the time.  Nothing could have prepared me for the pain that is rocking through my body.  Last night I had a pain wave through my body that was beyond anything I have ever felt.  It started as a pinching pain in the side of my right breast.  I pushed the call button and when the corpsman came in I had begun to cry already.  I explained that the pain was building quickly.  "Building quickly" was and understatement, the pain became more and more intense and my cries turned into sobbing, wailing, moaning and even screaming.  The nurse came in and said she would need to call my doctor and ask what he wanted her to do.

For the next twenty minutes I was in hell.  I was white knuckling the bed and crying out in prayer "PLEASE God, give me the strength. PLEASE Lord, bring me comfort."  I was alone and while I laid in bed in excruciating pain, there were people in the hallway laughing and chatting.  No one came to my side.  In those moments, I have never felt so alone, and I have never felt so much misery.  As hard as it is for me to say, I actually felt some suicidal thoughts.  I wanted nothing more than for the pain to stop, and actually had thoughts of taking my own life.  How is that for raw and real?

After what seemed like a lifetime, the nurse returned and me a double dose of the Morphine and well as a dose of Toradol.  The relief came quickly and I was so grateful for the calm that took over my body.  I still can't believe that with a ward full of caretakers, no one came to my side to even TRY to take care of me.

Josh, Carol and the kids came again tonight to visit.  Seeing them really lifts my spirits.  They were not able to stay too long because I was really struggling with the pain.  I am exhausted, it really wipes me out.  I am going to try to go get comfortable and see if I can rest.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Everything went well, THANK YOU!

Pastor Wes arrived shortly after we did,  We visited with him for a little while and then the nurse cam in and said it was time for me to go.  He prayed for me and for the doctors who would be operating on me, and then I was off.  I was led back to the "staging area" and I got onto a gurney and settled in.  Even as they prepared me for the operating room, I still felt totally at peace.  It really was an amazing feeling and I quietly said a prayer thanking God for the watch he was keeping over me.

The surgery went well, according to the doctors.  It took about five hours for the surgeons to finish their work and then about an hour for me to wake up in recovery.  When I arrived in my hospital room the pain started  coming on very strong.  My nurse and corpsman were amazing.  They used Morphine and Toradol to help with the pain and it worked very well.

I had not planned on having my kids come to the hospital tonight. I thought I might be really groggy and out of it, and I didn't want the kids to see me like that.  It ended up that I was pretty alert so I called Josh and asked them all to come see me.  Even thought it had only been a short time, but I missed my family so much already and I just wanted to hug and kiss them.

When the family arrived I got very emotional.  I had made it through the surgery and seeing their faces reminded me again why I had gone through all of this.  Preventing a Breast Cancer diagnosis so that they don't  ever have to see me sick, or go through the worry.  I also knew, looking at their faces, that they were the strength I would need to get through the next several months of healing and the other surgeries I might need.

Off to get some rest.  Thank you again, sooooo much, for all of your thoughts and prayers.

Here we go.....

We are on our way to the hospital.  I am not sure if I am just too tired or what, but at the moment I am at peace.  I think it is more likely that my Pink Army and all their prayers and positive thoughts have been heard.  I know I have a few awesome guardian angels with me today too.  Thank you again everyone.

See you on the other side!

Preparing to leave for the hospital....

The day has come.  The past week or so has been miserable.  My days have been filled with anxiety and panic attacks.  I tried so hard to calm my nerves but struggled and I just want to get on with it.  Pastor Wes will come this morning and meet us at the hospital.  I think having him pray over me before I go back to the operating room will be nice.

Amazingly this morning I feel calm.  From the moment I woke up this morning I felt the presence of my guardian angels surrounding me.  As I got dressed and got ready to leave, I literally feel like I took some Xanax, that is how calm I feel right now.  It has been a VERY pleasant suprise.

Gotta finish getting ready, its almost time to go.

Monday, September 12, 2011


My Aunt Carol arrived today.  She will be here through Friday and I feel so comforted having her here.  My family and I are very close with my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin.  I know that she will take great care of my home and I feel relieved that her motherly love will be with my husband and kids in the coming days.

I am ready to get this over with.  I am off to bed, my arrival time is 630 am.  Goodnight!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

One Week.....

The kids started school today.  I love my kids soooooo much!  I can't believe that my oldest started Junior High today.  He is getting so big and he is growing into to such a neat young man.  Zachary is a sixth grader this year so he is at the top of the totem pole this year at the school.  My princess Olivia is a first grader this year and could not be more beautiful.  She is such a sweet little girl and so much fun.

So, we are down to just one week.  I am starting to put things together for my hospital stay.  It will be at least a 2-3 days stay.  Most likely I will be pretty drugged up the first day, but I am going to bring some yarn for crocheting and my iPad so I can read my book.  I'm not looking forward to being away from my family.  Hopefully time will go by quickly and my stay won't be extended.

I'm still having really bad panic attacks.  Pretty much anytime anyone brings up my surgery I feel my heart start to race and my chest tighten. Its a HORRIBLE feeling.  Part of me is dreading surgery day but another part of me just wants to get this over with.  I don't understand why I am having such a hard time with this.  I am so incredibly blessed to have so many wonderful supportive people around me.  So many people have sent me emails and messages on facebook, my blog, etc. and have told me that they will be wearing pink and that I will be in their thoughts and prayers on Wednesday.  It is such an amazing feeling to know that so much positive energy will be going up on that day.  Thank you to everyone who is by my side through this journey.  If you would please send up some thoughts and prayers during the next seven days, that would be awesome too!

Something I have realized in the last week is that there really isn't enough support out there for those of us that have this surgery.  My goal is to hopefully open a website with information, message boards, real life stories, etc.  I would also LOVE to someday publish a book along the same lines. There needs to be more information/support out there for those of us that are high risk.  Real life stories help so much when it comes to things like this.  To help you know at least a little bit more about such a major decision.  So I hope to have the opportunity to get the word out, as best I can.

That is all for now!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

All The Preop is Finished......

Yesterday I met with the general surgeon for my preop appointment.  We went over all the details again and he made sure I didn't have anymore questions or concerns.  He explained that his part of the surgery would be 2 1/2-3 hours and my plastic surgeon's part will take at least another 2 1/2 hours. I asked him the few questions that I still had and that was it.  Then I went upstairs to the APU and did all my preop stuff with the anesthesiologist, admin, nurse, etc.  So that's it, now I just call the night before my surgery and get the official arrival time.

I met with my plastic surgeon the August 23rd.  He is awesome!  He is so patient, and takes the time to answer any question or concern I bring to him.  I had requested that they do the nipple sparing surgery if at all possible.  It is important to me because I feel like it will help me not be so detached from my new breasts. He said that instead of doing the incisions around my nipples, they will do the incision under my breasts in the crease.  This will make the nipple sparing surgery more successful.  If they do the incision around the nipple there would be a risk of some or all of the tissue dying and then I would lose my nipples for sure.  He also said that he would like to try to do the surgery a little differently than we had originally planned.  He was going to put tissue expanders in and then eventually do another surgery to put in the implants.  Instead, he would like to try something that is a newer procedure.  After the mastectomy is done, if the skin flaps are not too "angry" he will put implants in that same day.  That would cut down on one surgery which would be great.

I am so grateful to have such awesome support from my family and friends.  I know that I have so many people who are praying for me and sending up positive thoughts.  I came up with the idea of making an event on Facebook called Gretchen's "Wear Pink" Day.  I invited my friends and family to wear something pink on my surgery day.  The idea behind it is that if my loved ones wear something pink that day, when they see the pink they will remember why they are wearing it and say a prayer or send up positive energy, so I will have all that to draw strength from.  I can't wait to see the pictures of their smiling faces when I am awake enough to sign on.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my husband.  I would not be able to do this without him.  He is so patient and reassuring when I am breaking down.  He sat on the floor with me last night and listened to my semi irrational thoughts.  He was so patient, and he sweetly brought me back to reality and held me tight.  Amazing, that is what he is.  Having him by my side through this is going to be my saving grace.  I love you honey, so so much.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Eleven Days And Counting.....

The emotions I am feeling now are very different than they have been in the months leading up to my mastectomy.  Thoughts that haven't come to me until now, that Im really having a tough time sorting through.

This journey actually started when I was fifteen.  I can still picture the doctors office, the room I was in, and the conversation I had with the doc.  She did my physical and then we went through my family history.  Then it came.  She looked in my eyes and said "I can't tell you how important it is to stay diligent with your monthly self exams.  With your family history it is not a mater of IF, but WHEN, and the most important thing will be to catch it early".  That dark gray cloud has loomed over my head for the last nineteen years.  I have been diligent, twice I have had scares.  Its a HORRIBLE feeling.

Like I have said before, I have been very proactive about my breast health because I have always had that doctors voice in the back of my head with how important it was to catch it early.  I not only do my monthly breast exams but I also go into my doc for a clinical breast exam every 6 months.  My breasts are pretty lumpy anyways, and so I have always worried I would miss something, so I go in and let someone do an exam who is trained on what a suspicious lump would feel like.  I think it was about 4 years ago that I started thinking about this surgery.  The biggest reason I wanted to do the surgery is because I don't want to ever get the diagnosis of Cancer.  I don't want my family to have to go through hearing that diagnosis either.  My children were my biggest motivation.  I never want them to have to worry about me.  I don't want them to have to see me go through any sort of treatment.  I want to do anything I can to protect them from that.

I started searching the web for information and anything I could find on the surgery I wanted to have.  It was frustrating because I couldn't find anything except the clinical websites that had all the basic information about the surgery.  More than anything I wanted to find a site that had more of a real life perspective, maybe some personal stories, pictures, etc.  My experience in California was basically a dead end, so I also gave up on the web search.  I started searching again earlier this year when the awesome docs at Madigan Army Hospital opened the doors to having the surgery.  Again, my search on the web kept coming up with the clinical sites and I was getting very discouraged.  I remember taking a moment to say a prayer, asking for some support and guidance in finding the information I so desperately wanted.

Shortly thereafter the answer to my prayer came.  It was like a huge bulletin board with blinking lights, I knew in my heart that God had a hand in finding the site I did.  I have mentioned before that I found a blog written by a young lady named April who was going through the same surgery and reconstruction that I am having.  Her blog was so amazing!  She wrote about EVERYTHING, describing in detail about what she was feeling before and after her surgery, she talked about both the physical and the emotional pain she was feeling, she even posted pictures.  As I read through her blog I felt so incredibly blessed.  It really helped me see what I might go through during this journey.

In the last several months, I have prepared.  I have made arrangements to have my Aunt Carol come and help during the first week.  She will be here to get the kids off to school and meet them as they get home from school.  Then Josh is taking leave the second week.  I am pretty sure that the first couple weeks will be the hardest.  I have been telling everyone that I am taking two weeks to recover.  During those two weeks I have told everyone that I won't be working, not to expect me at any socials, etc.  I have arranged to have meals provided by some of my awesome ladies from the ship, so my family doesn't have to worry about that.  I have started seeing a therapist to help me prepare as much as I can mentally and emotionally, as well as help me after the surgery with whatever comes up emotionally.  So yeah, I have prepared.

I have prepared, as many ways as I could think to prepare.  And now, with twelve days to go before the surgery, I feel like I am falling apart.  Panic attacks are coming on throughout the day with different triggers.  At times I have felt that I was on the verge of a total nervous breakdown.  So many thoughts running through my head right now.  Josh told me tonight to stop thinking about things that I cant change and things that we don't know if they will be an issue or not.  Its just the fear of the unknown.  One of the biggest things I am feeling right now is that when I wake up from the surgery I will be forever changed, I will never be the same.  I am worried that I am going to lose feeling in my breasts and that if I don't have feeling, will I feel like I have two foreign objects on my body?

The other thing I am struggling with is, where do I fit in?  There are lots of different support groups, message boards, websites, etc for Breast Cancer Survivors.  Don't get me wrong, that is AWESOME!  But what about those of us who have prophylactic double mastectomies? I can't find anything.  Its kind of discouraging.  In the past  I have felt so much comfort having the opportunity to talk to people on message boards and in groups to share experiences such as pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, weight loss, etc.  So yeah, I don't know where I fit in, and that is hard.

This was a super long post, so if you have made it through the whole post, THANK!!! :)

God Bless,