From my husband’s point of view … (and mine too!)

Me in intensive care - v attractive!

Me in intensive care post surgery  – v attractive!

I read another woman’s blog the other day who had the same surgery as me, and she asked her husband how he felt about her surgery, a few months down the track. So,  sixteen weeks on, and mainly for others who are contemplating the same path, I thought I would put a few questions to my husband too, to give his viewpoint on these past few months:

  • What was your thought when your wife first talked to you about a preventative double mastectomy?

I wasn’t troubled by it, but my initial instinct was maybe it’s not necessary because you may actually not get cancer. But once I understood better the odds and that, as Sarah said, someone’s “waving a red flag” (with the breast cancer markers appearing), it made sense not to take the risk and wait for cancer to arrive.

  • What were your fears?

None for me. I always knew Sarah knew what she was doing. The main fear I had was on the day of surgery and worrying a lot if she herself was fearful. She may have been, but from the outside she was calm and very well prepared. But I did want her to wake up and know that the surgery was a success. In my heart, I always thought it would go well.

  • What was the worst part of the actual surgery?

The first few days for Sarah after she woke up i.e. how well or unwell would she be.

  • What was the worst part about recovery?

How Sarah would come to terms within herself about the operation and what had just happened to her and of course, how well she would recover in terms of wound healing.

  • What was the best part about recovery?

How, to me, it seemed to go like clockwork in terms of timing and physical healing i.e. almost exactly as the surgeon advised.

  • What do you think about her scars?

They do not trouble me in any way at all i.e. to look at or touch. I know they will fade in time, but for me, whether there are scars or not is almost the lowest cause for concern for me out of all things.

  • What has the past few months taught you?

That it’s possible to get through anything. For most of this year pre-op, there was underlying anxiety as the time to the surgery ticked down. But, like all things, mountains are climbed and challenges met and now here we are nearly 4 months past and all is on track. Sarah prepared as well as she or anyone could in facing the challenge – and face it she did with calmness, courage and a positive attitude.

  • What would you say to other men with wives /partners facing the same surgery?

That it’s OK. That it is a big thing to confront, but it will come and then pass and mental and physical scars will heal and life can then be better. Help your wife. Be with her. Do all that you can do. But, still be yourself too.

  • Anything else?

That as Sarah faced this challenge successfully, she will be better prepared should any other challenges come her way in future years as she has faced and overcome one of the biggest decisions anyone could make. I love her and am very, very proud of her.

Yeah! And hooray for my husband for standing by me and helping me throughout this ordeal. I think he might actually have been more worried than he is letting on! It is a really challenging thing for partners to go through too. The other thing I would recommend to couples going through this process, is to go to all of the doctors’ appointments together. It helped me to have a second pair of ears to listen to all of the medical detail, and it also meant I didn’t have to repeat it all to him afterwards. Also, I think it made it less confronting for him, because he knew what to expect, and could ask any questions he might have had himself. And, he could drive me to and from each appointment – physically, I needed him to do that. I would just go home and flake out on the bed  to sleep for a few hours after every one of them. I think my brain just went into overload and disbelief that I was going to have to do this dreadful thing!

And, for the women facing this same decision, here’s my response to the same questions:

  • What was your thought when you first contemplated a preventative double mastectomy?

Mainly I was in disbelief. Rationally, I had already made the decision a decade before that if I was told I was an 85%+ risk for breast cancer, I would remove my breasts. I’d never want to go through all of the treatments my sister Martha did, or let my children and husband see me suffer through them all. But mainly I kept thinking, “You’re kidding me – this just can’t be true! Surely there is another option!”

  • What were your fears?

I was afraid of the pain, and not getting enough pain relief when I needed it in hospital. (This proved to be well founded, as the pain relief delivery in hospital was too slow a few times and it was AGONY! Note to other patients – ask them to deliver the pain relief to you on a regular schedule. Don’t do what they recommend in hospital, which is to wait till you feel the pain start and then ask for relief. That can take too long – bring on the drugs, soon and often!) My biggest fear by far was that they would find invasive cancer and that I would have to have further treatment. I was terrified of that! I am SO grateful that no further cancer cells were found. Thank you God!

  • What was the worst part of the actual surgery?

The pain. On the night following surgery one of the nurses accidently knocked my stomach scar and the pain was so bad that my whole body shook like a leaf for a good few minutes in shock and agony. Most of the time the pain was under control, but when pain relief was delayed, or there were knocks, the pain really was off the charts. It was momentary, but it was hell! For the most part, I can’t really remember much at all about the whole ten days in hospital. I think your brain protects you from the worst of it, and you can’t remember the trauma.

  • What was the worst part about recovery?

The tiredness, and how long it took to get back to feeling like myself. I think the turning point was at around six to eight weeks post surgery, when slowly I could wind back the pain relief, and start going for a walk in the mornings again. Six to eight weeks is a LONG time to be feeling poorly! Discovering I had lost a nipple – that was no fun . And I’m really not fond of the ongoing total numbness in my breasts and stomach either. Saying prayers there’s significant improvement in the months ahead there.

  • What was the best part about recovery?

That the worst was over! Every day on from the surgery things got a little bit better, and they still do now. I thought that after 3 months it would all be complete but really it just goes from full time to part time recovery. There’s still a way to go. James, my surgeon was wonderful – so gentle, supportive and kind. As were the community nurses from North Sydney council. A little bit of kind reassurance goes a long way with me! Having the meals cooked at home was fantastic as well, for all of us. The brief sojourn to Palm Beach was great too – lovely to have a break from home, if only for a few days – thank you Trent!

  • What do you think about your scars?

To be frank, I hate them. They make me feel very sad for myself, having to go through all of this. Especially the stomach scar. It is SO long! (42 cm – I just measured it!) Not that it is different or worse than what I was told about. But once you have the scars, it really is not a pretty sight in the mirror post showering every morning. And seriously, is there anybody who would WANT to have scars like mine, in such sensitive places? It could be worse though, it is all for good reason and yes, I know, I know, I know, they will fade. They have already gone from bright red to purple and now a gentle deep pink. But do I like them?? Not at all! I really don’t like the numbness or how stiff my stomach continues to be either! On the plus side, the breast shape is good and full so huge thanks to my surgeon, James for his handiwork and neat stitching!  I know I will learn to love it all, because it is a part of me now, and if I didn’t have all of this, it is odds on that I would have cancer at some point, and I know what I’d prefer!

  • What has the past few months taught you?

That life’s a bitch and then you die – haha!! Only joking (just a bit!) … It’s taught me that you can endure things you thought you couldn’t. That my tool kit of positive mantras, exersize, meditation, acupuncture, chinese medicine, journaling and creative projects are like wonder drugs – they work! And they will help me get through whatever challenges will be thrown my way in future. And that loving kindness really does help smooth the way. When people are kind, you don’t feel so alone and you feel less sad for yourself. It does make a difference so don’t ever hesitate to reach out to someone going through their challenges. But at the end of the day, only YOU can get through it, so the tool kit is excellent, because you can do all of that yourself, whenever you want, and for the most part, for free! Perfect!

  • What would you say to other women facing the same surgery?

Do your research thoroughly and consider all of your options deeply. Find a really kind plastic surgeon because you will be having lots to do with him/her in those vital post surgery weeks and months. It is ultimately your decision what to do, because only you live with the outcome – the fear, the pain, the scars, the numbness. There is no ‘right’ answer as to which way to proceed. Each woman will feel differently about each of the options, so trust your gut, listen to your own wise self, surround yourself with good positive people and you will make the right call. I am pleased I made the decision I did. I could not have lived with the fear of cancer coming to call, and I would have been way too sad for myself if I had chosen a double mastectomy with no reconstruction. The reconstruction option I chose was the most physically challenging, but at least I look like myself (with clothes on anyway!) and now the threat of breast cancer is gone. HOORAY for that!

  • Anything else?

I am so grateful for the love and support that surrounded me through my surgery and recovery. Whether big or small, practical or heartfelt, every little message and gesture of love and encouragement was so much appreciated. So THANK YOU to each and every one who did any little (or big!) thing for me. Yes, love is all you need! (Well that, and a few truckloads of pain relief too!)

HAPPY! Home from hospital - Sept 7 2013

HAPPY! Home from hospital – Sept 7, 2013

8 responses to “From my husband’s point of view … (and mine too!)

  1. Bec Armstrong (Sarah' s youngest sister)

    Well done to your husband for all his thoughts, and Sarah you are onward and upwards.
    Keep putting up those many Christmas decs – let it all shine bright !
    Love to you both Bec xx

    Like

  2. JLB

    Thanks to Sarah’s husband for his wonderful support of Sarah through thick and thin. I am blessed in my sons-in- law. Your comments are all that I have come to expect from you and an example of why I respect you so much. Good on you, Sarah; these are all excellent, no nonsense, frank guides to girls with breast worries. I do think that his comments explaining how he feels about the whole episode and aftermath align with how I would feel. The main thing from a lover’s viewpoint is that the girl behind the scars or, in some cases, the breast-less body is the same girl whom he has always loved. In short, ladies, i do think that you over-rate your breasts. It’s you we love, not your body parts.

    Like

  3. anna davison

    Big fan of your husband xxxx

    Like

  4. Megan

    Well, I always knew he was a ‘good bloke’! 🙂 I know it has been tough for him too, sp thanks for hanging in there so solidly on those steeper parts of the climb.

    Good to hear your point of view too Sarah, I’m sure it will be helpful for others contemplating similar surgery. I hope all the physical and mental scars will fade in time; I know they will. I’m so sorry you had to go through this horrible experience. What an awful year – will be glad when this annus horribilus is over!

    Looking forward to seeing you in a few days

    much love as always, Megan xxoo

    Like

  5. Paula Bailey

    Good on you both, you are little rippers! See you soon to celebrate xmas. Love Paula. xx

    Like

  6. Thanks to all of you for the kind hearted comments. Yes it has been a challenging year for all of us. Onwards and upwards from here! xo

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    • We are two lucky ladies to have such great supportive husbands!!!! I makes the road a little easier. Hope you are continuing to heal. Oh off the subject I am so Jealous you all get to wear shorts and short sleeves at Christmas time while us in the states are FREEZING 🙂

      Like

      • Hi Kelly – yes well I suppose once it gets to June I get to be jealous of you in the summer as we shiver down here! Hope your healing is going well too. Are you going to post an update on your blog soon? I’m wondering if I’m the only one still feeling very numb, and quite stiff and uncomfortable in the abdomen too! Hope you had a great Christmas and are healing up every day too. It’s a long process! xx

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