Ten months today since my first surgery and yes, I do feel like I am getting better and coming to the end of this chapter. Bring it on! I want to finish being a breast patient and move on to being an artist. I don’t want to be “that poor woman who lost her sisters and her business and her breasts”. I want to be “that successful artist with an amazing global art business, inspired by her beautiful sisters in heaven”. Just putting it out there – that’s my big, hairy, audacious goal!
This week I made the big step of announcing I am going to take a hiatus from YUM Cashmere for a few months. Holly suggested it to me, because, as she said, “Mum, you really haven’t stopped since Martha died. You need a break.” And it’s true. In the months after Martha died, I closed up my fashion boutique business but saved my cashmere label and set it up online. So I’ve kept my business brain occupied with that over the past 2 ½ years. I love my YUM Cashmere and it is doing okay, but I do need a break. Now is a great time for that, since we’ve just finished the Winter season here, so I can take a few months off and just forgo the Spring ranges I had in the pipeline. I am sacrificing the sales from those ranges for my mental health. And in the meantime, I have Narelle to look after our customers and keep sending the parcels out as we sell through our stock. Hooray for her – now I can breathe!
On the surgery front, I had my dressings changed with James this week and I am really happy with how it is all looking (pic attached of me this morning – for fellow breast surgery comparisons!).
I had hoped that the bandages would all come off and that would be the end of it but I was getting a bit ahead of myself. James did remove the bandages. I was so brave and jumped off the table to take a look in the mirror before he put the replacement dressings on. I NEVER looked at my wounds the last time around – just stared at the ceiling and willed it all to be over! I was a bit sad for myself this week seeing all of the bruising and stitches in such sensitive places. Thank God I have numb breasts, with all of the stitches around both nipples! But I can’t feel it for the most part and the best news is that I feel like this second surgery has made my breasts look more like ‘me’. Before I was just so grateful to HAVE replacement breasts, but they always looked like someone else’s bosoms, not mine. Now that James has done his handiwork, especially in neatening up those wide vertical scars under my breasts (which are now just fine lines), I think my breasts are a bit more compact and look so much more like my original versions – yeah! It is nice to feel like I am coming back to myself, in more ways than one. I am so glad I did this surgery. It was worth all the trauma!
During the week I found a “pain management” information sheet from the hospital. In it, it says, Pain is a very individual experience…. There are different factors that may make your pain perception worse, such as:
– Other emotions – sadness, anger, guilt
– Previous pain experiences
So it has dawned on me that no wonder my first surgery experience was so hellish. Not only was it a huge surgery, but it had so much emotion mixed up in it for me. There was the big emotional tie around Martha and her breast cancer experience. As well as my own past surgical experience from when I nearly severed my foot when I was seven. And, of course, Lou had passed away just six weeks before, so I was nearly drowning in the grief surrounding that. My poor Lou-la. No wonder I was just about a basket case, and then having the surgery on top of that. The pain of that first surgery was just off the charts for me, and now I understand a bit more why it was.
Just as an example, after my first surgery, I had blood thinning injections, called Heparin, every day. They were SO painful to me! Like someone was ramming a steel rod into my thigh each time. I dreaded them. So this time when the nurses said I’d be having those same injections again, I braced myself for the big pain wave and ….. nothing! Barely even felt them. Less pain than a mosquito bite! Amazing how the brain works.
I am just so relieved for other women that go through this procedure, because hopefully they won’t have issues like that in the background exacerbating their pain. I kept thinking that I couldn’t believe that all of these other women went through this surgery and seemed to deal with it all with so much more ease, and a quicker recovery than me. No doubt it is a very challenging thing for any woman to go through, but every person’s experience is different. At the same time, it does underline the importance of being calm and relaxed going into surgery. It actually will make the experience a better one if the patient is surrounded by lots of support, loving kindness and a positive mindset. Hence the importance of all of those good wishes – all you need is love!
Moving forward, now that I have cleared some mental space for myself, I am planning to work on a portfolio to submit my art for consideration to manufacturers in the USA of greeting cards, journals, mugs etc. My rational brain is a bit freaked out (“I’ve never done anything to do with art before! I have such little experience, and other artists have loads more experience and degrees in fine art. And, worst of all, WHAT IF I FAIL???!! Especially off the back of closing down pink zebra. I really do not want to be disappointed again….”) So I’m going to be giving myself lots of soothing encouragement that I CAN DO THIS! It might take a long time but persistence is one of my strengths. So I just have to keep the faith and give it my best shot.
That’s where I am at, ten months down the track from the first surgery, and ten days after the second one. I’m still pretty tired but my pain levels are quite low with the pain medication regimen in place. This will continue to reduce over coming weeks (I am just taking Targin at night, and Ibuprofen and Paracetamol during the day now). I have to wear a binder again around my waist and hips (not thrilled about it, but whatever …) for another five weeks, to keep bruising and swelling to a minimum. And the dressings stay on another five weeks too. All in all, I am feeling okay and confident I’m headed in the right direction! Not to say I don’t have my down times – I do. But on the whole, the trend is upwards!
Enjoy your weekends, and thanks for your ongoing support