Just One Pill

It’s been a while since I’ve written.  I think about it, but just don’t do it.  I still have an open wound, but I’m healing.  I had home health care nurses visiting every other day to tend to my wound, and then my husband took over.  The nursing folks decided I should pack the wound with calcium alginate, which comes in squares similar to a 4×4 gauze and looks/feels somewhat like gauze.  It is working, very slowly, but I am finally healing.  I’ve returned to work.  And, I’ve developed adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder, a fancy term for “frozen shoulder”.  The range of motion issues with my right shoulder began shortly after my incision first opened up, which was right before Thanksgiving.  Because of the pain from the surgeries and healing complications, I was rotating my shoulder forward and holding my arm in front of my chest — partially to protect myself but also to guard my chest and to keep from extending my arm too far and tearing the incision open any more than it was already.  Now I can’t move my arm higher than shoulder height and can only extend it outwards about 4 inches.  It hurts like a bitch and has caused even more restrictions in my activities.  I can’t even reach high enough to wash my hair.  So, every morning, I rise at 4:30 a.m. so my husband can help me shower and then do my wound care.  Again, I am grateful to have him and feel lucky to have such a wonderful caretaker.  But I am so tired of getting up at 4:30 a.m., I am tired of not being able to do things for myself.  I am just tired.  All I want to do is sleep.  It takes all I have to make it through the work day and come home with a smile and energy to interact with my kids and husband when all I want to do is go straight to bed.  The pain in my shoulder wakes me up every 3-4 hours.

I was starting to get depressed and was even considering anti-depressants.  I mentioned it to my oncologist and he said that some anti-depressants can affect the metabolism of the Tamoxifen so I needed to make sure that whoever prescribes them is aware of that.  At  a subsequent primary care appointment (for the shoulder), I received referrals for x-ray, MRI, physical therapy, orthopedic surgeon, and mental health.  I’ve moved out of the depression funk a bit, so anti-depressants are off the table now.  It was really a last resort, a hope that a pill could fix everything but I really didn’t like the idea of taking them.  I don’t begrudge anyone for taking them – I think they serve a really good purpose and can save lives.  I was on Zoloft for years to help deal with anxiety and depression, but I realized that, for me it was situational and my inability to deal was just that: poor coping skills.  The Zoloft just masked the symptoms and kept me from having to deal with my issues and move through them; rather, I just moved around them.  I stopped taking it about 3 years ago.  Getting off of it was a NIGHTMARE and I remember saying that I would never take anti-depressants again due to that.  Still, I was thinking maybe right now would be a good time to consider doing it short-term, to help me through this rough patch, but then I did some research on the drug my oncologist recommended (Effexor) and read that it is the worst one to go off of.  I’m done considering anti-depressants, for now anyway.

I also saw my OB (annual checkup) recently and she recommended I find a breast cancer support group.    I don’t think I’m brave enough to walk into a room full of strangers and talk about this, but maybe it could be helpful.  I may look into it.

I can’t help but wish there were a pill to fix everything, a pill that would have no ramifications, no side effects, just one swallow and everything would be better…man, that would be epic.

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Boobage

“Mommy, when are you gonna get your boobies back?”  My 6-year old has asked me this question several times this year.  In January I told her that my boobies were sick and had to be removed and a few months later I would get new ones.  In June, following 6 weeks of radiation,  I had the tissue expanders put in. That surgery was really rough, leaving me nearly immobile – unable to raise myself to get out of bed – and it hurt to laugh, cough, or even talk. For days I conversed in whispers. And I still didn’t have anything resembling real boobies, certainly not my old boobies. When I went for my next (what I thought would be my last) surgery to replace the tissue expanders with silicone implants (which I thought would be permanent), she asked if I would be whispering again after surgery.

Recently she has had a renewed interest in my health. On Tuesday of this week she asked me when I’m getting my boobies back. I really thought that by now she understood that my real boobies are gone and what I have now is it. Little did I know, just a couple hours after she asked that I would find out I had to have them – or at least one – removed.  I asked her which boobies she was talking about and she said my old ones. I explained that they were gone, they had been sick and the doctor had to take them out. “Where did they go?”  Well, I’ve only ever pictured them dissected, sitting on a metal tray, part of them having been sent to the pathology lab, the rest to be sent off with all the biohazardous waste of the day. Perhaps they were incinerated. I really don’t know, so that’s what I told her. That and the fact that they are gone for good.

This morning, one year and one day after I had my MRI – one year and one day after I first considered the harsh reality that something might actually be wrong -I am preparing to have my “new” boobies removed.  Essentially, I’m having another mastectomy. Twice in one year. I must again decide whether to remove one or both, except this time I know there’s a strong possibility that I may never have a successful reconstruction.  It’s a lot to digest and it is just as devastating as it was on that fateful day when the surgeon announced that I had multifocal invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast and mastectomy was my only treatment option.  I was just getting used to this fake boobage, scars and all, and now I’ll be losing it.  And I have 3 days to decide if I will be lopsided, with the intention of going through all this reconstruction business again, knowing it may fail again, or just say fuck it and be done with needing breasts to define my femininity.  I’m strongly leaning toward the latter…I feel like this has happened to make me face my body issues and figure out who I am and what defines me besides how I look. This is a really shitty way to go about any kind of self-discovery.