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WEEK 2: The Valley of Decisions (week of 10.14.2019)
Week 2 Summary
- Continued life as normal as possible. Hosted a Sweet 16 brunch for Eden and friends. Captured the sweetest pictures of Eden's homecoming dance. Simultaneously felt numb and celebratory.
- Consulted with various plastic surgeons and researched reconstruction options.
- Cried several times in the shower, realizing I'm losing part of my body that nourished my children. I'm dreading every second of what's ahead.
OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES
Eden has a knack for bringing logical, practical thinking into the midst of dramatic emotion. She gets that from the Williams gene pool.
We had a sleepover in her room for a few nights. The reality of cancer makes you treasure every second of every day and night. She held my hand in her bed and asked me why I was crying: "Are you scared?" I told her I wasn't afraid of dying; I was crying because I didn't want to lose part of my body. She said, "But you have to, Mama, so we can keep the rest of you." It was the most healing statement and it stopped my tears. I remind myself of that when I need to keep things in perspective.
Justice has always been protective of me - walks me out to my car, runs errands with me after dark, unloads my groceries, carries my bags in from work, takes out the trash, and now - takes primary responsibility for walking Miss Hannah Reece (our 16-week-old puppy) so that I don't over-exert myself or let her pull my arm when she's on her leash. I don't know what I'd do without Justice. He has a very witty sense of humor and a deep, spiritual side.
Both of my kids are my best friends. I don't know what I did to deserve them.
DECISIONS CHART YOUR DESTINY
I've always believed that the reason my mother survived breast cancer in the 1980s is because she made the drastic decision to elect a bilateral mastectomy. I think I always knew, in the back of my mind, that if ever faced with the same news, I'd make the hard choice she did. She didn't do it for herself; she did it for us. I'm not doing this for myself; I'm thinking of Eden and Justice with every decision I make.
Even though my cancer is in one breast, I'm electing a bilateral mastectomy because it offers the best odds. My breasts have served their primary purpose.
Still, I'm only 47. I have the second half of my life to live, and I really want the 2.0 version of my body to look authentic. After doing hours and hours of research, watching vlogs of women who had various types of reconstruction, meeting with plastic surgeons, and having numerous photo shoots of my pre-surgery body (for their records, not mine!), I made my decision.
I don't want implants. I'm considering having DIEP Flap reconstruction. If you like nerdy, medical research, feel free to look it up. They basically take my own abdominal skin, tissue, fat, and blood vessels and transplant them to replace the breast tissue that is removed during the mastectomy.
This micro-vascular surgery will allow me to end up with my own tissue and connected blood vessels and I'll have the greatest chance of sensation, feeling, and warmth like my body now.
Justice asked me - early in my diagnosis - "Will you be able to feel us when we hug you?" I hadn't thought of what that loss of feeling would be like, emotionally. If the surgery doesn't look like it will be a success and if at any point I look like I'm at risk, the surgeons will stop the procedure and I'll wake up with implants.
And let's keep all things in perspective. I just want to wake up from this 6- to 16-hour surgery. Whether it's my own tissue and vessels or implants - my goal is to live. And as a side perk, I get a tummy tuck out of the whole ordeal and that's the least I deserve! :-)
The hardest thing this week was the realization that I am the ultimate soul who gets to make this decision - and every decision - related to my survival and my recovery. My decisions impact my children, and I've only just begun. I still have to research systemic treatment options for after the surgery and the side effects and be prepared to fight the battles of traditional healthcare if I don't have peace about their suggestions.
I will not be shaken.
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