Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What It Was Like to Have a Double Mastectomy [Part 1]

I never wrote about my mastectomy surgery and recovery. Probably because I wanted to put it behind me as quickly as possible instead of explaining how difficult and terrifying it was to approach it. Funny enough, it was my reluctance to sit and face the change that made it all the more frustrating. When I couldn't do certain things on my own, I wanted to kick things or break down and cry. I hated everything about this.

In the week leading up the surgery, I was an emotional mess. I'd hide and cry on the bathroom floor, heaving because I was scared and I didn't want to go through with it. Deep down I knew it was the right choice, but that didn't offer much comfort—this was all a gamble in the hopes that the cancer wouldn't come back a third time, possibly, maybe, in the future, fingers crossed. It's not like I'd know then and there that it worked, and before all that I'd have to go through the pain of recovery and learning to accept my body's changes from here on out. I was scared of looking mangled and ugly, as superficial as it was. Everyone would remind me that my health and being alive was more important. Some people get to have that without giving anything up though. Why did I have to?

The night before the surgery, my sister asked me over to her place and when I got there, her and her boyfriend presented me with the most heartfelt gift I have ever received: a compilation of video messages from friends and family near and far. Each time a new face would pop up on the TV screen my eyes would well up all over again, completely floored and amazed that these people would take time out to wish me good luck and tell me they loved me. That was seven months ago and I haven't been able to look at it since because I know that big lump in my throat will come right back. Just thinking about it is enough to stir up the feels.

On surgery day, December 2, 2016, I woke up, climbed into the shower, took one last look at my breasts, and just lost it. Alex came and gently pulled me out, helped me get dressed and we headed down to the hospital.

My family was already there in the waiting room. When I'd gone in for my last lumpectomy, I'd had time to sit with them and settle in for a few moments. This time, I was taken in immediately. I changed into my gown, brushed my teeth as required before surgery to minimize risk for infections, and tried to pee into a cup. I was way too nervous to do so, way too nervous to have drank any water and after all that crying, I was way too dry. Vitals were taken, forms were signed and more tears were shed. I kept waiting and asking for my family to be let into this area because I couldn't handle being alone. My parents came in first, they kissed me and reassured me that everything would turn out fine. Then my sister and Alex came to spend those last few moments with me.

Except I couldn't pee. And they couldn't operate on me until they knew for sure that I wasn't pregnant. (I wasn't pregnant.) So they had to rush blood samples to a lab and wait 20 minutes for the results to come back. I don't know if it was better or worse to have that extra waiting time. On hand, I calmed down a bit as my sister and boyfriend joked around, but I also wanted to get it over with; if they'd told me to go home, I might have never returned. Luckily for them, the test came back negative and it was time for the show to go on.

I kissed them both goodbye and when I started panicking, Alex held my face in his hands so that I could really look at him as he told me that I would be alright. A mixture of no's and mhhmm's was all I could muster between shaking my head and wanting to be brave. I was pleading at him with all my silent might to please take me away. I didn't want to walk down that hallway a third time, I didn't want to lie down on that scary table as the surgeons swarmed around me, I didn't want them to console me or dab at my temples as the tears dripped into my ears, I didn't want them to cut into me. In my past surgeries I might have stifled the sobs so as to not embarrass myself in front of these doctors, but this time I didn't care—I didn't want to hold back how scared I was.

But five minutes later, I couldn't care about anything anymore. It happened and I was asleep.

Image: pixabay.com


  1. I can imagine how tough that must have been for you. I mean, I haven't had to go through what you have, but I've had plenty of hospital trips where surgery was required, including surgery to remove my eyes, so I have some understanding of how difficult it must have been for you.

    I'm glad your loved ones were there for you.

  2. I am so very glad I finally forced myself to log in and start reading your blog again. I've separated myself from so much I forget how good it is for one's sole to stop worrying about oneself. Thinking about you instead is better for the world, my world.

    I know all of this took place so many months ago but I imagine for you, reliving it occurs more often than not. I hope your days are good, your nights are better, and your joy is through the roof.


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