I had my mastectomy on January 30, 1999. I remember the date because the Pope, who was John Paul II at the time, had been in St Louis on Jan 27 and we had gone to see him. So the date was etched in my mind. Of course it would have been anyway. Before the surgery, I saw my mother-in-law and her sister Jackie who had come from Bowling Green, about 75 miles away to be with Chris, my husband. I found out much later, months later that the surgeon had come to him after the surgery to tell him, it didn’t look good. Apparently, I had a 2 and 1/2 centimeter tumor that was attached to my chest wall. What had originally looked like 2 small tumors, were in fact, one large tumor. About 4 inches, I believe.
So, another 2 week wait to get the results back from the mastectomy. The surgeon had also removed 11 lymph nodes. We were waiting to see if there was any metastasis to the lymph system.
I was in the hospital for about 3 days. I remember sleeping a lot, one moment when I felt despair and the damn drains. What a pain in the ass they are. They insert them into the area of the stitches to catch the remaining blood as it drains from the wound. I was able to go home with the drains. Not that I wanted to. I don’t remember the exact day I started chemotherapy but nothing I can write can really do justice to the experience. It is horrifying. Everyone is so nice and sincere but you sit there stunned that you are there in the first place and then, that there is this poison being pumped into you that is supposed to save you. My lymph nodes had all come back clean. The cancer had not spread. The surgeons had got all of the tumor and my chest looked like a caved in hollow, so concave that I looked very misshapen. It was hard to look at. Still is.
Chemotherapy. I had 5 treatments and told the doctor I’m done. He said it was ok. He said that since the cancer had not spread, he felt alright with this decision. It really didn’t matter at that point. I was done with chemo. I would do radiation though. Chemo is a nightmare. I know some handle it better than others, but I had every side effect that came along with it. I was sick for the 7 months it took to have the 5 treatments. I was nauseated, I threw up all the time, I was tired, I slept a lot, I lost all my hair, everywhere.
Radiation, thankfully was not as bad for me. I had no burns or side effects. It was a pain going every day for 6 weeks but that was the treatment.
I never did celebrate the end of treatment. It never occurred to me. I had cried at my first chemotherapy treatment, as I was leaving. I had this delayed reaction. It finally set in that I had cancer.