It takes two to tango

Monday morning I was up first on the list for my follow up surgery. This was my 11th surgery in just over two years.

As I had a really busy weekend prior to going to hospital, I made sure I devoted my Sunday evening to rest and practice some meditation before I fell asleep.

This time I had a few things done. My left expander was replaced with a permanent prosthesis and my right implant was changed from one prosthesis to a different one with slightly higher projection. I also had scar revision where my IV Port was – this thing has been such a pain to heal and has been cut several times to try make it neater. I also had scar revision on the right hand side of my back where I was having infection and healing issues due to my allergic reaction to the sutures used in my reconstruction surgery (Jan 2012). Lastly, I had a small piece of skin removed under my left armpit which was just to neaten up part of my first mastectomy scar. My surgeon has done an unbelievable job. Even though he keeps telling me we are still taking little steps at a time and not to get too excited yet, I have definitely noticed a big difference from this surgery already.

upon awakening from anaesthetic
upon awakening from anaesthetic
Front view
Front view

 

Left Breast - originally where the tumor was. Crazy to think this was once so flat you could see my ribcage!
Left Breast and drain tube – originally where the tumor was in 2010. Crazy to think this was once so flat you could see my ribcage!

 

Left breast and drain bottle
Left breast and drain bottle

The preparation for surgery was a breeze this time. As Adam drove me into the patient parking area I was thinking ‘Ahh here we go again’… I didn’t feel worried or nervous, I think my emotions were leaning more towards being frustrated that I was going to have another big set back after a wonderful five months of recovery from my last operation. But then I overruled that feeling with being excited because this is the last big one. I am now soooo close to the end of the tunnel. That light is beaming towards me!

I had a very pleasant experience in hospital this time round. All of the nurses were absolutely wonderful. So attentive and really helpful. Even when it was time to have one of my drains removed (my WORST nightmare every time), I was so calm and felt no pain. The tube literally slid out and almost tickled! When the nurse came to inform me she was going to remove the right drain I chanted in my head ‘I am strong, I am pain free’. It totally worked.

So I was sent home Tuesday morning with my left drain still attached. Its always a bit weird being at home with a bottle and tube attached to me, yet so important for all the extra bodily liquids continue to be removed after surgery to prevent infection. I have been using one of my ‘hippie sack’ bags (I usually use this when shopping at the markets!) over my left arm and shoulder to carry my drain around. Today I took it out of the bag whilst on the couch and almost forgot it when I walked off.. Thanks to Adam for yelling out ‘RACH! Your drain!’ That would of been a disaster and yes very painful.

My hippie sack to carry my drain around

My nurse advised me not to shower until my second drain is removed. Because it won’t be taken out until Thursday, I asked Adam to help me with a sponge bath and of course he wanted to help! We decided to fill the bath literally to only cover my legs and very gently use a flannel and my favourite organic coconut soap. So refreshing! Afterwards I got Adam to record how much liquid the drain collected over the last 24 hours. This is something the nurses do in long stays at hospital so the surgeon can gauge how much longer they need to keep the drains in.

Adam recording my drain fluid
Adam recording my drain fluid

My naturopath has put me on a post surgery plan and I definitely feel my body repairing like crazy. For what I have just been through – aside from fluid retention I feel pretty amazing. Today I woke up and only took two Panadol tablets because my drain hole was sore. I have had nothing since. I feel so thankful because I really despise prescription medication. I must also thank myself for preparing my body with all of my healthy, nutrient filled foods and my positive attitude. Without these, I would not be shining as bright as I am right now.

My darling Brooklyn has been so protective as always. She has been watching over me like a hawk. Everywhere I lay to rest, she is always there to guard me 🙂 I am so blessed to have a great loving little family!

My guardian angel
My guardian angel
Snuggles
Snuggles – yes she actually joined me on my pillow and placed her paw on my left shoulder!
It takes two to tango

A must-read story

In October last year, I was contacted through my blog by a man named Cameron from the United States of America.

He really connected with my writing and asked if he could share his story about how his wife dealt with an extremely rare and deadly cancer called Mesothelioma, a cancer that a person has a life expectancy of about 3-12 months, but after intense treatment and recovery she is still here 6 ½ years later.

I think this is a wonderful contribution to my blog as it is an example of showing living with cancer from the caregivers side. Something I touch on a lot with Adam, my family and how hard it is being the supporter.

If there is anyone out there reading my blog, feel free to email me at rachel_cribbon@hotmail.com if you would like your story posted 🙂 Thank you so much Cameron and I am sending you and your family lots of happy, warm vibes.

Fighting Cancer and Being a Caregiver

Three months after our daughter was born, my wife Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma. The joy and happiness we’d been experiencing since Lily’s birth was ripped from our lives at that moment. As my wife cried, I wondered how we would get through this. I was so emotional, and I knew when the doctor started talking about medical decisions that’d we would be making a lot of very important decisions in the near future.

I knew that I had to be strong for my wife and daughter, but I couldn’t. I was so angry that I was reduced to yelling profanity as a way of communicating with others. It took me a while, but I was finally able to get myself together enough to be the rock that Heather needed me to be. It wasn’t easy with a to-do list a mile long. Aside from work, I had Heather and Lily and our pets to take care of, I had travel arrangements to make, a house to take care of, medical decisions to consider, and plenty more. I learned very quickly that the only way to get through this list was to prioritize everything on it. I also learned that I had to accept help from others when it was offered.

We were so lucky to have so many people in our lives who were willing to help us through this time, Heather’s parents included. While Heather was in surgery in Boston, her parents kept our daughter at their home in South Dakota. Immediately following her surgery, Heather flew to South Dakota to be with Lily and her parents to recover, and prepare for her next phase of mesothelioma treatment. I knew that I could not work and take care of Heather at the same time, which is why we had to make this difficult decision. I don’t regret the two months we spent apart, even though it was terribly hard to be away from my family. We were just lucky that we were in a position to even make this difficult decision.

One Friday after work, I drove the 11 hours to South Dakota to see Heather and Lily. There was a snowstorm happening when I left. I slept in the car and hoped that the roads would be clear when I woke up. I spent Saturday and a few hours on Sunday morning with my family before I had to get back into my car and drive home to go back to work on Monday morning. It wasn’t easy being away from my family, and that was probably the most difficult time for me, but it was necessary.
It’s been six years, and Heather is healthy. We look back on this time in our lives with the thought that we were very lucky. What I learned was that we were lucky to have so much help, and that I was smart to accept the help that was offered to us. Without the help offered by others, I’m not sure how I would have made it through this difficult time in our lives. I hope that this can help someone else who is suffering through cancer.

A must-read story