Friday, October 7, 2011

Probably the biggest day of my life...I'm cancer FREE

The last week has been the hardest of my life. This whole cancer thing has had me laughing hysterically at times and so depressed at others. But honestly, I was dealing. I was functioning. I was staying busy and simply waiting. I felt so incredibly confident about making the choice to use Mohs Surgery that I really didn't have any doubt I'd have more cancer or wouldn't have success. I was just anxious.

And then last Thursday, things changed. I was on the phone with a friend, touching my scar ( as I seem to do a thousand times a day). And then I stopped. I froze actually. I stopped talking. What was that? What did I just feel? My fingers ran over the area again and again, each time finding it again. A bump. A lump? No, cant be. Just scar tissue weirdness. I felt again. No, not scar tissue- not even on the scar. A bump. My friend knew something had changed and asked me what was wrong. I said it. I found something. I'm scared. What do I do? I started sweating. My mind racing. My heart pumping. I got off the phone and ran to the mirror. It was there. I could see it. I could feel it. I could almost move it around under the skin. I called Brian freaking out. He told me to calm down. Told me I could call my doctor now or wait til he got home and evaluate. Everything would be OK.

I waited and when Brian got home and felt it he agreed it was something. Not my insane imagination and it was something that was not there before. We decided to give it the weekend. To see if it changed or went away. To give it some time.

In the meantime, I began to lose it. I had been asked to have faith. To trust. To stay calm. To listen to my body. And while I can put on a good show, the reality was that everything had changed. Everything. Knowing I had some cancer in my chest and was only 7 days away from having it removed was one thing. Having a lump, near the site of origin was completely another. A lump, under the skin.

I tried to trust. Tried to believe things would be OK but I became irritable, reserved. Didn't want to share. Didn't want to be open. Pretended things were good and I was excited by the upcoming surgery but really the anxiety I began to feel became consuming. Every thought I had was a "what if" every time my hand went to my chest, it found the lump, not the scar. I was scared. I was emotional. I decided to only tell my parents, brother and sister-in-law, and the BFs. I didn't blog about it. I didn't tell my local close friends. i didn't tell my pastor. And that was a big deal. There was so much uncertainty. IN me. About it. I became quiet...well, lets be honest, quieter. And as each day passed and the surgery grew closer, the anxiety became more. Couldn't even connect with Bri or the kids. Just couldn't. Began nesting and cleaning and at 12:20 Friday morning, I woke Brian up vaccuuming and realized I had to stop. It was time. Time to lay my head down and be still. And I did. For a few hours until the alarm went off at 4AM yesterday morning.

I knew things would be OK when Brian came out wearing this shirt...

Even after you look closely, I still love it!

Now, what was I going to wear. What does one wear to a surgery to remove cancer from your chest. Hmmmm....something to show off the boobs some, right? Atleast the chest. Something comfy. I worried. I wondered. I even stressed about which of the 75 plain v-neck tshirts I should wear with my yoga pants. Went with grey. I wear mostly black and grey so this was fitting. Now onto the undies....remember you are always supposed to wear clean undies in case you get into a car accident- you don't want to embarrass yourself or your mom. If this had only been a surgery on my chest, undies wouldn't have mattered however I knew Dr. Youse would also be removing a mole on my hip ( or side ass, as I call it) that he was concerned about for melanoma so undies were important. Brian laughed at me as I told him these were my thoughts at 6Am. I went with stripes. Grey, black, and pink. They were me. they were comfy. They were clean and didn't have holes. I was set!!!

We had been prepping the kids all week for this day. Who would be taking and picking them up from school, what was going on. What mommy would be like after surgery, etc. And if you have ever had a 3 or 5 year old, we also had to have conversations about no whining, no fussing, no asking for things, no selfishness, say thankyou to those helping today. Brian gathered both kids right before their ride came to pick them up. They stood like soliders as he went through the routine.

Brian: "Who's day is this?"

Kids: "Mommy's!"

Brian: "No what?"

Kids: "No fussing, no whining!"

Brian: "Who loves you?"

Kids: "YOU DO!!!!"

The kids left and Bri and I walked out with them to get in the car. I was crying before my feet left the porch. Deep breaths. Prayers. I was so happy. So excited. SO nervous. My heart was beating out of my chest. My neighbor and dear friend, Staci came over to hug me. I cried. We shared "I love yous" and I got in the car.

We arrived around 8:15 and were in the procedure room by 8:25. There was room in the procedure room for Brian if I wanted him with me. Hell yes I did! If I had gone the plastic surgery route, it would have been at Carle's surgi center. This was no Surgi Center. This was a suped up doctor's office- with sterlized stuff at one end and a table and big lights and chairs at the other. Weird at first but warm. comforting. First our nurse, Hope came in. Cute. Nice. Then Dr. Youse. I told you before I liked him. And he's cute and that helps. Seeing him in his surgery outfit freaked me out a little but he immediately extended an hand to Bri and me and smiled. Learn more about him here and here. I like to think I'm a pretty serious person but really, I'm pretty silly and clumsy and talk too much and swear WAY too much and put me in an uncomfortable situation, especially with my husband and partner in crime, I'm either gonna be inappropriate and piss someone off, or amazing! Today everything was amazing. It brought back tons of memories from when Alaric was born.

He was almost 7 weeks premature. My water broke when visiting Chicago. We were at Northwestern. We had just found out we were not leaving and having this baby. Everyone else was panicky. I was at peace. And because of that, Brian and I decided to make every connection we could with the people around us. Even with all the uncertainty of how our baby would be, we wanted to enjoy. To make memories. TO take 1000s of pictures ( and we did). We wanted school stats on every doc and nurse and janitor. We wanted to know how they felt about the Illini ( they were in the tourney that day), we wanted to make people smile and bring some light-heartedness to this situation so it wasn't so serious and alittle more bearable. And we did. And it was fun. And even though Alaric was in the NICU for 26 days with lots of issues and lots of crazy moments, some of our favorites were of that first day and the amount of laughing and loving we did and how many friends and contacts we made.

With a deep breath I showed Dr. Youse my lump. I took his hand and put it on my chest. He felt, he wrinkled his nose. I started shaking and tears welled in my eyes. Then he told me I was probably touching it too much and caused a calcification. He laughed. Brian laughed. I hit him in the arm.Then I showed him my ass...let the fun begin!

So the actual removal was super fast and super easy. The 5 syringes of pain meds being administered was hard and my hands shook and I cried some but after that, I was numb. Lots of pressure. I felt like he or Hope were sitting on my chest and one or both of them always seemed to have the butt of their hands pushing down on my chest. Odd sounds. But I couldnt see anything and neither could Bri. He chose to stay over on the chair side and not watch. We all talked the whole time. Talked about our kids and what our spouses did. Where we lived. Where we grew up. Bri lightened the mood by telling them about my incredible milk production when I was nursing Alaric. He told them he used to say he could enter me in the County Fair. we all laughed. Speaking of boobs and nursing, Dr. Youse tells us that his wife also was a milk production machine and when her first freezer became so full of frozen milk and she didn't know what to do with it, she wanted to help others and found there was an orphanage in Africa that needed breast milk to give to orphans with HIV. She donated and decided to start her own organization. In 2006, she founded TheInternationalBreastMilkProject WOW!!!! All I did was buy another freezer. We talked lots and laughed more. He thought he got it all. Now on to the lump. He cut out the top of the lump to do a biopsy. There was lots of blood. Its a wierd thing to have two people loiking over you and to see gauze and gloves bloody as they work and you and you can't feel a thing. The doc needed to cauterize the area to stop the bleeding. He leaded over me and told me it was going to smell like smoke. And Brian said from his chair, "Honey, thats what they did to my balls!" I started lauging hysterically. I was moving so much I thought I was going to screw up the doctor. Hope was belly laughing too. Once I calmed down, I realized the doctor's hand was shaking too. Looked up at him and saw smile lines behind his mask. He was laughing too. He said, "that was awesome". Then they packed my wound, bandaged me, and sent me to the waiting room for over an hour.

Time went fast. Bri and I talked and laughed. We both made lots of phone calls and sent texts. And before ya know it, we were being called back to the room. THEY GOT IT ALL!!!! No need to go back for more tissue. And the lump was just a benign cyst! Biopsy results said no cancer! THANK GOD ! I sighed. Tears welled again. Deep breath. Now just time to remove my mole from my side ass and stitch me up.

Hope needed to take an after picture. So, she removed the packing. And got her camera. bri knew that if someone else was taking pics, he needed to all ( he's trained so well). He asked if he could peek.

"Sure thing" she said.

"Woaw!" Brian said. thats really big. I needed to see. Hope got me the mirror.

HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really said that. This is what I saw....

It was much rounder than I thought. Not necessarily bigger but I wasn't expecting it to be so open. When he drew on me with a sharpie this morning it was a slit, not a circle. So to see this was a surprise. I looked deep into it. Wondered what the hell all that shit was. Looked at Hope and asked what the heart like thing was in the middle that looked like it should be beating was. She said it was just tissue. I thought that seemed crazy. I said it looked like it had its own personality in there. She joked I should name it. And I responded,

"HOPE" "I'm naming my lump and my oozing wound HOPE!"

She laughed it was the first time anyone named a wound after her.

Doc numbed my side ass and then put a napkin like thing with a hole in it over my chest and most of my face and put tools on my chest to pull my all back together. It took way longer than I thought. We talked and laughed more. About his dirty, hippie brother in law that lived in the hills of NC. I told Doc that Bri was a dirty hippy in the hills of NC once. He looked over at Bri with surprise. Sure enough, Asheville was where Doc's brother lived. We talked about hippie life and a simpler life. We talked about the names of our kids and why we named them what we did. I liked this guy. Wanted to meet his awesome, milk-producing wife. Wanted to say hi to his kids who were the same age as ours. Wanted to hug Hope as she talked about her family and her two kids. Talked about Mayo and Minnesota and where he went to school and the weather. It was great.

Then he moved to my ass. He was pinching the fat to try and get his first cut as he told us he was a Cards fan. BOOOOOO!!!! Then i told him it was gonna be a big game Friday.

"Huge" he said, with my ass in his hands.

"The game, not your ass" he said. We all laughed. I pretended to kick him.

He said it was so nice to be able to say the things he was thinking to a patient. I said it probably didn't happen very often. He responded,

"Never. Its never happened."

That made me smile. Here he was making my day. Taking away my cancer and making me feel normal again and here we all were laughing and having a good day together.

While I was still being stitched up (3 on my hip and around 20 in my chest) I asked if we could talk about my acne. Told him I was out of my meds and never wanted to see my PA at Carle ever again. Asked if he would see me for my regular acne needs too, not just my cancer. Of course.

The medicine was wearing off and I was shaking all over. Couldn't stop. Felt like after I did after my babies. Tears in my eyes. Happy.

He told me Hope would be giving me all my instructions( not doc stuff) but as I slowly sat up and tried to see if I felt normal again, I had dozens of questions. And he answered everyone. Should have been nurse stuff but he took care of it. Normal stuff...take it easy. rest. No exercise. Huh? What? What about running? can I run?

"NO", he said.

"SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I said back. "I have a 5K next Saturday. I've already paid $50"

"Dont want to jiggle the stitches or move them. Take it easy. See how the week progresses. No training. Have common sense. if you feel ok, do it. If not- don't push yourself"

I am good at directions. I take them well. I listen. Mostly though when its things I already planned on doing. You know how controlling I am. I had to take this whole week off running because I rolled my ankle. Another week off sounds like torture. I can almost feel the fat depositing on my huge ass. But I'm cancer free. I'm so happy I can't stop smiling. I feel lighter. I feel content.

"Got it, doc!" He asked me to see him in two weeks to check the chest. Then appointments every 3 months for a year to check my skin, feel for lumps. Perfect.

Hope told me no showering for 3-7 days. Baths for body, sink for hair. Lots of rest. No lifting for a few weeks. Keep the stitches tight.

I hugged Hope as we left. I loved meeting her. She made me feel safe, she told me to breath, she touched me while he cut.

Brian grabbed my hand as we walked out. Both of us smiling. I'm CANCER FREE!!!!!


We headed to CHili's for had been 3 hours at Christie. I needed a drink! Margarita!!! It was time to celebrate. Dessert too! Yum!

Came home to my warm, comfy bed Bri had turned down for me. Fell asleep deeply after a few texts from friends.

Woke up to #1 gift. From 9 of my friends! The beer bong I've been wanting!!! Read about my dream of owning one here. God my friends know how to make me happy!

All at once, the silence and calm was over. My parents and the kids came home. My neighbor and her daughter brought soup. My brother and two kids arrived for a few hours. My neighbor, June, brought dinner and stayed for a may have only been 4PM but it was time to celebrate! And I needed a beer!

Kids ran around and adults tried to talk as my kids tried to snuggle and have me hold them...not easy when I can't pick them up and they cant nuzzle into my chest like they usually do. I watched Bri put together my beer bong as the kids wondered what it was.

TA DA!!!!!!!! I called our neighbor D over to help christen in in the front yard ( do you think Dr. Youse would approve of beer bongs as part of the post-surgery recovery?) but as we were bringing it outside, our new neighbors who just moved in were out, along with their family. We decided it wasn't the right time to introduce ourself or have to explain how our neighborhood really is. SO, we set up chairs in the carport for my parents, brought my baby nephew out in his highchair, and got started!

We only had 4 people for the first time. It was so great!

it dripped some. D and Bri got to work fixing it while I sent a text message to my BFs telling them what I was doing.

Not 5 minutes later, Lisa came over after dropping off her son at soccer to get in on it.

it was kinda surreal...hovering with some of my favorite people deep in the carport while my parents watched and we had lookouts so the new neighbors wouldn't see. My chest ached because I just had surgery. My smile couldn't be bigger. I was so happy! We ate our yummy meal and went to Jack and Junes for another drink with the neighbors. Things felt normal. The numbness was gone, my chest was aching. But I was happier than I had been in months.

Today's pain is much worse. Bad even. Almost every movement causes my chest to move and then shooting pain. I realized,sadly last night that if I don't wear a bra, my boobs pull down on my chest skin and cause intense pain. So-a bra it is! Damn!

I need to rest. I'm tired again. Napping is in order. I need to lay down and take the pressure off my chest. But my great desire to blog fills me. This blog has been my therapy during the past 56 days and it will continue to be. Its been my lifeline to you all and my way of documenting this amazing journey. I had a chocolate/caramel brownie for breakfast while I wrote. I felt my bandage. I worked through the pain. I thought of each of you and how you played a part in this story. I will remember it all. How I grew. How I changed. How I learned to deal. Who was there for me. Who wasn't. Who came into my life. Who never left my side. Who cared for me and who held me. Who I trusted. Who I confided in. Who I laughed with. Who I cried with. Who I became along the way.

With the ups and downs along the way, Iwill forget nothing. This is me. I'm Katie Bechtel Fulton and I'm Cancer Free!

1 comment:

Jill said...

I knew from previous experience that is was going to be painful but wasn't about to tell you that and it is all worth it cuz. You are cancer free Hooray!!!! When are you coming to St. Matts we miss you Love, Jill