Emotional Impact

Hurdle #3: Getting Through the First Days at Home

Laura Zigman Health Guide December 28, 2007
  •  Coming home from the hospital is a trip. And not just because it is, literally, a trip -- surviving the car ride (it's hard taking curves when you're ab-less), getting out of the car, getting up the stairs, getting into bed. It's a trip because as impossibly difficult as things s...

24 Comments
  • PJ Hamel
    Health Guide
    Dec. 28, 2007

    So, did they give you one of those harness affairs, or did you just wing it with the oversized safety pins? It felt weird and kind of medieval (blood-letting?) to go around with those floppy, udder-like bags and the snaking tubes. Fun staying clean without being able to shower, too, eh?

    Love the part about pretending to feel just fine in front of your son....

    RHMLucky777

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    So, did they give you one of those harness affairs, or did you just wing it with the oversized safety pins? It felt weird and kind of medieval (blood-letting?) to go around with those floppy, udder-like bags and the snaking tubes. Fun staying clean without being able to shower, too, eh?

    Love the part about pretending to feel just fine in front of your son. So true. "Cancer? Ah, it's nothing. It doesn't hurt, and I'll be better soon, don't worry..."

    Laura, I can't wait till the end of this story so I can hear how your (lack of) abs are now, a year later. MUCH better, I hope. A little better? - PJH

    • sanditee
      Dec. 28, 2011

      ah yes, I had 3 on both sides and was certain to be stopped as a shop lifter evey every time I went out.  My surgeon is agressive, I did not get mine out for 5 or 6 weeks,, but am in the final stretch and still can't quite believe it.  Depression is so prominate with this disease.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Dec. 28, 2011

      Hang in there - gradually, you'll feel better, both emotionally and physically. Time DOES heal - but you can't rush the process, impatient though you feel. If you're feeling seriously unhappy, PLEASE talk to your oncologist about some mood-adjusting drugs; now is not the time for a stiff upper lip! Take care, and be well - PJH

       

    • sanditee
      Dec. 29, 2011

      thank you for the reply, sometimes I feel so alone.  I know I am not the only person ever to go through this.  My surgery for impants is Jan 6.  I will let you know how it goes.  I just wish I could be happy, I am for others but am so sad inside,

    • Laura Zigman
      Health Guide
      Dec. 29, 2011

      Sorry to hear you're so sad -- but it's totally understandable after such major surgery and before the implants. You also have to take into account that you're exhausted, uncomfortable, understandably depressed about the surgery you've had, and that some of the painkillers can make these feelings even more pronounced. Anyone who's gone through what you've gone...

      RHMLucky777

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      Sorry to hear you're so sad -- but it's totally understandable after such major surgery and before the implants. You also have to take into account that you're exhausted, uncomfortable, understandably depressed about the surgery you've had, and that some of the painkillers can make these feelings even more pronounced. Anyone who's gone through what you've gone through -- almost all of us on the site -- knows exactly how you feel because we've felt exactly the same way. It's normal and it will pass, but I agree with PJ -- please ask your doctor for anti-depressants if you feel like your sadness is lingering too long. I've taken them for over a decade and they've made all the difference. Please stay in touch and know we're all here to help you through this difficult time.

       

    • sanditee
      Jan. 04, 2012

      thank you so much, I will talk to the Dr.  Seeing a therapist tomorrow (Others requested i do so)  Surgery the 6th,.  Not feeling great about that..  But am keeping a positive attitude.  Thank you all for the replies.  It's nice to know there are people out there.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Jan. 04, 2012

      I'm glad you're seeing someone for your depression; it's nothing to be frightened of, or ashamed of. It's often a chemical imbalance causing these feelings; so why not try to fix the imbalance? Best of luck to you with both your next appointment, and your surgery... and remember: we're here for you. PJH

    • sanditee
      Jan. 05, 2012

      thanks again.  Your words mean a lot to me.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Jan. 05, 2012

      Hold onto the peace you feel from visiting here. Cancer is a rock in the path - step over it; the path will still be there. And there are SO many hands reaching out to help you take those steps... Take care- PJH

    • sanditee
      Jan. 10, 2012

      Had implants put in on the 6th.  Not nearly as bad as the bi-lateral.  Thank goodness.  i think as my body is becoming whole again my spirits are lifted a little more.  What I see now is hope and good things to come.  So just one more surgery,  *sigh*   My goodness who knew I would ever take this journey.  I am trying...

      RHMLucky777

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      Had implants put in on the 6th.  Not nearly as bad as the bi-lateral.  Thank goodness.  i think as my body is becoming whole again my spirits are lifted a little more.  What I see now is hope and good things to come.  So just one more surgery,  *sigh*   My goodness who knew I would ever take this journey.  I am trying to stay positive.  Again thank you for your kindness.

      Sandi

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Jan. 10, 2012

      Sandi, thanks for letting us know how the surgery went. Glad it wasn't as bad as you'd feared! Hope the healing goes just as well... PJH

    • Sasa
      Apr. 05, 2012

      I'm having my double mastectomy and reconstruction in 2 weeks.   I'm so scared I can't even think straight.  I think nothing can prepare me for this.  I'm blessed I have a loving husband that has been with me all the way and understand what I'm going through.  I'm still waiting to break down... I haven't mourn or even...

      RHMLucky777

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      I'm having my double mastectomy and reconstruction in 2 weeks.   I'm so scared I can't even think straight.  I think nothing can prepare me for this.  I'm blessed I have a loving husband that has been with me all the way and understand what I'm going through.  I'm still waiting to break down... I haven't mourn or even cry.  When the doctor gave me the big news I didn't cry.  My husband told me it was OK to cry, but I'm still in shock, or maybe denial, who knows....

      I feel lost, with no direction, confused.   Is this normal?

       

      Sasa

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Apr. 05, 2012

      Sasa, there's no "normal" about how anyone reacts to finding out they have cancer. We all face the news in our own way. I didn't cry, either; in fact, I never did. And now I'm 10 years out, looking back on 9 years of treatment; and feeling cancer was one of the really positive things that's happened in my life, as it forced me to recognize and appreciate the...

      RHMLucky777

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      Sasa, there's no "normal" about how anyone reacts to finding out they have cancer. We all face the news in our own way. I didn't cry, either; in fact, I never did. And now I'm 10 years out, looking back on 9 years of treatment; and feeling cancer was one of the really positive things that's happened in my life, as it forced me to recognize and appreciate the real priorities: family, friends, and the goodness and love of so many people everywhere.

       

      Some women have a similar experience; for some, cancer is nothing but negative. You won't know, until you're well into it, which it will be for you. I hope it's the former. But in the meantime, you're scared, and why not? You're facing major surgery, and probably long months of treatment, too. You're entitled to anything you feel; recognize it for what it is (emotion), validate it, and try to let the negatives go, while focusing on the positives.

       

      Our post on fear might help point you in the right direction. Also, know that I had a single mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction, and the experience wasn't bad at all; I could have been back at work within 2 weeks, had I chosen to do so. The pain wasn't severe; just uncomfortable. So contrast that with what Laura relates here, and you see - we all have our own experiences.

       

      Best of luck to you -- let us know how you're doing, OK? And come back often - we're here for you. PJH

  • Carolina
    Jan. 27, 2012

    I thought it was just coming home with a pain pump and going back to the doctor to have the doctor to empty the drain bags or whatever they are.  I knew I would have a hard time getting up from a sitting or laying position because I had my neck fused in 1991, but I didn't know that I would have a hard time going to the bathroom or that I would have to...

    RHMLucky777

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    I thought it was just coming home with a pain pump and going back to the doctor to have the doctor to empty the drain bags or whatever they are.  I knew I would have a hard time getting up from a sitting or laying position because I had my neck fused in 1991, but I didn't know that I would have a hard time going to the bathroom or that I would have to take antibiotics.  Wow!  There is so much I didn't know.  I am having both breasts removed because of cancer.  The doctor told me this would be a journey - now I understand what she was trying to tell me.  I opted not to have immediate reconstruction because I didn't want to get cut in other places; reconstruction will come next.  I am having a very hard time knowing that all I will have is two scars instead of breasts; I don't even want to see the scars.  And then I don't know if I am going to lose it after I wake up knowing my breasts are gone.  I am having panic attacks just thinking about it.   I have given all this to our Lord, though; He is the only one who can help me.

     

    May God bless you.

     

    Again, thank you for being so honest.  The pill taking is going to be something else because I am partially paralyzed from Bells Palsy and my neck fusing and I have such a hard time swallowing pills.

     

     

    • Phyllis Johnson
      Health Guide
      Jan. 27, 2012

      Carolina, keep in mind that there are some variations in how surgeons and hospitals do things, but this gives you some idea about what you might expect.  If there are things you are worried you can't do because of your palsy, be sure to ask the doctor about those ahead of time.  A visiting nurse or a friend may be able to help you.  My father...

      RHMLucky777

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      Carolina, keep in mind that there are some variations in how surgeons and hospitals do things, but this gives you some idea about what you might expect.  If there are things you are worried you can't do because of your palsy, be sure to ask the doctor about those ahead of time.  A visiting nurse or a friend may be able to help you.  My father couldn't swallow pills, but he learned to take them with some applesauce or a banana, so there will probably be a way for you to take medications.  Nurses are usually pretty skillful at helping patients with tricks for coping.

      The whole issue of trading your breasts for scars is indeed horrible.  It bothers some people more than others, but whatever you feel is valid.  You will need to do some mourning your loss.  I remember how I cried and cried the night before my surgery.  I found the surgery wasn't as bad as I expected.  Eventually you will get used to the new you and be able to focus on the fact that the cancer is out of your body so that you can return to health. Let us hear how things go.  We are here if you have other questions.

    • Phyllis Johnson
      Health Guide
      Jan. 27, 2012

      Also, keep in mind that Laura's reconstruction surgery is more complicated than a regular mastectomy, so some of the issues will not be as bad.

    • Carolina
      Jan. 29, 2012

      Thank you all so very much for your encouragement.  You have been through the surgery and have made it, so I know I can make it, too.  I have made an appointment with my psychologist before the surgery - in case I need counseling afterwards.  I will let you know how I progress. And yes, I am afraid of the unknown.  One of my sons has...

      RHMLucky777

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      Thank you all so very much for your encouragement.  You have been through the surgery and have made it, so I know I can make it, too.  I have made an appointment with my psychologist before the surgery - in case I need counseling afterwards.  I will let you know how I progress. And yes, I am afraid of the unknown.  One of my sons has been extremely worried about me and when I broke down yesterday he said something that makes a lot of sense.  I may losing my breasts, but look at the alternative - I will be alive!  The next hurdle is to wait for the pathology results of the lymph node they call "the gatekeeper."  Doctor says it has to come out to ensure that the cancer isn't anywhere else.  I have to trust in my Lord, so far the other lymph nodes are OK.

       

      Thank you all and may God bless you!

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Jan. 29, 2012

      God bless you, too, Carolina - sounds like you're doing everything possible to prepare yourself for a good outcome. I hope your sentinel node ("gatekeeper") is cancer-free - PJH

    • Phyllis Johnson
      Health Guide
      Jan. 29, 2012

      Yes, you can make it!  Why don't you make a list of all the resources you have to help you through this:  your faith, your ability to research information you need, your knowledge of how the medical system works acquired from dealing with Bell's Palsy, and your concerned son are a few I know about just from reading these few letters.  Your list...

      RHMLucky777

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      Yes, you can make it!  Why don't you make a list of all the resources you have to help you through this:  your faith, your ability to research information you need, your knowledge of how the medical system works acquired from dealing with Bell's Palsy, and your concerned son are a few I know about just from reading these few letters.  Your list will be even longer.  You can look at your list when you start feeling overwhelmed. 

      I was really surprised that the actual surgery part wasn't as painful as I expected, and I have heard other people say the same.  Each person's experience is different, so it is impossible to predict for you, but whatever happens, you have the resources you need to manage the outcome.

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Jan. 27, 2012

      Carolina, we always fear the unknown - and a bilateral mastectomy is surely new and scary territory. As Phyllis said, Laura had the mastectomy and reconstruction at the same time, which extended her surgery by many hours - and thus its after effects were much more difficult than they would have been had she had the mastectomy without reconstruction. I had reconstruction...

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      Carolina, we always fear the unknown - and a bilateral mastectomy is surely new and scary territory. As Phyllis said, Laura had the mastectomy and reconstruction at the same time, which extended her surgery by many hours - and thus its after effects were much more difficult than they would have been had she had the mastectomy without reconstruction. I had reconstruction the same time as my mastectomy - and, like Phylllis, it wasn't as bad as I thought. I didn't need any pills - antibiotics, or anything else. I was back at work in 3 weeks, and could have gone back in 2 weeks. I needed help the first week bathing and reaching up for things on shelves; but I was surprisingly comfortable. You may have the same xperience - I hope you do! Check out these insider tips about mastectomy, from women who've been there; they may help defuse your fear.

       

      As for your missing breasts - again, you don't know how you'll look, or feel, and so you're frightened. Once it happens - you find yourself accepting it, and moving on. Sounds like you've got some good faith to lean on; hold onto it. Believe that you're going to get through this just fine - because I know you will. P.S. One of my friends had a double mastectomy at age 32, and went on to have two children - and she has Bell's Palsy, too. It's a challenge, but you can do it - and we're here to help, OK? Take care- PJH

  • Sonjawdewhurst
    Oct. 23, 2010

    OH MY GOODNESS!  I had the same surgery one week ago and today as I scan over your post I am amazed at how much you described how I feel!   Thank you for helping me put my feelings in words. I plan to share your post with others so maybe they can see that this is not all my making up!  Thank you!!!!  Sonja from Alabama

    • PJ Hamel
      Health Guide
      Oct. 23, 2010

       

      Sonja, Laura's a great writer (she's a published novelist), and we're so glad she chose to share her experiences here. Thanks for visiting here, and I'm glad we were able to connect with you, and hopefully make your recovery a bit better, at least emotionally. PJH

    • Laura Zigman
      Health Guide
      Oct. 23, 2010

      Thanks, PJ! (and hi!)

    • Laura Zigman
      Health Guide
      Oct. 23, 2010

      SO sorry you had to have the surgery but I'm SO glad my piece validated your feelings. Yes, you're NOT crazy for feeling whatever you're feeling. Keep us posted on how you're doing in the weeks and months to come. It takes time but you WILL get better every day...Laura