When I found out that I needed to have a cyst removed from my right breast, I had an idea. Since I still have yet to finish my breast reconstruction, I wondered if I could get some or all of the next reconstructive surgery completed at the same time. One operation was better than two, right?
Despite my breast intentions, my doctor informed me that it wouldn’t be realistic to add any reconstruction onto the procedure. She offered to construct nipples for me, but said that we’d have to remove and redo them when I go for reconstruction. In addition, the best quality nipples involve a skin graft. My doctor didn’t think that I could start teaching six days after surgery, if we added nipples into the mix.
I was disappointed for a minute, but then realized that my doctor knows best. I wanted to feel as good as I could for the start of the semester. I couldn’t avoid another surgery after this one since there was more reconstruction to complete. And, if I just got the mass removed, my incision would be small and only on one side. (That was especially important since I wasn’t sure how well Roya would respond to me not being able to lift her for two weeks.) I decided to just focus on the procedure on the books for January 6th.
On the day of the surgery, I functioned like a well-oiled machine. This wasn’t my first time at the rodeo, after all. I drove myself to the hospital. I answered the nurses and doctors’ questions like I was in the speed round of a game show. I only shed a few tears and cursed twice when the three best people in the ER couldn’t find a good vein to start my IV. I kept reminding myself that this would be over soon.
When I saw my surgeon before the procedure, I asked her, “So, everyone thinks this is benign, but we’re just doing this to be cautious, given my history, right?” My doctor nodded. Then, I commented, “This is our 7th surgery together. I remember several times after you’d remove a mass, you would see me in recovery and say how confident you felt that everything was benign…that we’re just waiting for confirmation from pathology. That’s what I want to hear so I can exhale!” She agreed that’s what she wanted, too.
Ninety minutes later, I woke up in recovery. I felt sore, but not that bad. Shortly thereafter, my breast surgeon came to see me.
“Surgery went well. We should have results on Friday,” she said without much expression on her face.
“That’s not what I wanted to hear,” I replied.
“I’m not sure,” the doctor admitted. “I think it’s benign…I think it’s scar tissue…But, it was hard so I don’t know.”
We talked for a few more minutes before she went on to her next surgery. And, that’s when I finally cried…hard. I thought about Roya. I thought about my job. I thought about the fact that I didn’t want to be “It” again. I knew I would find the strength to go through treatment again, if I had to, but I didn’t want to be facing this possibility.
I allowed myself a few minutes to feel what I was experiencing, and then I dried my tears. I thought of those whose struggles were far greater than mine for some perspective. My mass was small, and as of now, its pathology was unknown. I didn’t have the time or the energy to spend the next three days sobbing. (It helped that the night before surgery I got assigned a new class to teach. I had six days to develop a syllabus from scratch.)
Two days later on Thursday, I was on the phone with the cable company, when my call waiting flashed. Surprisingly, it was my breast surgeon. I hung up on the cable company’s representative (sorry!) and took the call.
“It’s benign!” my surgeon exclaimed, as I started to cry happy tears. I could exhale. Cancer didn’t win this round.
So, what’s next? I’m doing a little more each week, and I should be fully recouped by early February. I’ll see my breast surgeon in six months for a follow up, and my reconstructive surgeon sometime in the next year or two for surgery. And, I continue to send thoughts and prayers to the many loved ones who are dealing with this insidious disease.
For those who sent me well wishes and prayers, thank you. xoxo