This is a letter my mommy darling wrote, and she asked me to post it on my blog. If anyone knows someone who has battled cancer or been through something similar, please ask them to contact me so I can send their details on to my aunt. She really would like to talk to other people!
Just a small caution in case anyone is squeamish, there is a photograph of my aunt’s scar further down the page. It was taken and has been posted with her full permission.
I spent Christmas 2007 with my oldest sister and my mother this year. Just the three of us. My sweet husband stayed at home to give us girls the space and time together. It was a very precious time indeed.
My sister had a left mastectomy the 14th December 2007. She did not have reconstructive surgery, she did not want it. As she says, her boobs are small enough not to be too unbalanced. In retrospect, we have both gathered that no matter the size of the boobs you are unbalanced in appearance after a mastectomy, single or double, in any case. Especially in certain blouses… not that it is a problem as there are so many options to getting the balanced look! As you may imagine, all of this has been trying but she sends thanks to everyone for prayers and care. Her recovery has been good but she is still tired and uncomfortable at times.
Following is a reflection of feelings and emotions during this time with my sister. Please feel free to contact her if you have anything to share about mastectomies, the surgery, the underwear prosthesis’ and breast cancer. You can do so through Angel by sending your emails to Angel’s gmail link (in the sidebar) and they will be forwarded to me. My sister really needs to hear from others who have been through the same thing.
Those words… CANCER and MASTECTOMY. How to deal with this as a family and how does my dear sister deal with it… after a series of mammograms, biopsies and returned results showing the lump as a benign cyst, after we all rejoiced with such relief and gratitude –
THE LUMP IS BACK, oh God please no!
In November, my sister had a breast biopsy done under anaesthetic. Another dreaded waiting period for the results and the outcome was a bit of a shock. 2 weeks after the first anaesthetic she had another for a left mastectomy due to a milk duct cancer.
Imagine how she felt?
Before you can get your mind around the words MALIGNANT and CANCER you are told you have to have a single MASTECTOMY and quickly too. Your poor body is still bruised and sore from the previous biopsies. Your mind is shattered by the words MALIGNANT, MASTECTOMY and CANCER… these words are spoken to YOU about YOUR health, YOUR life, YOUR breast, YOUR body. They ask you if you want reconstructive surgery – how can you think about that now? Do you even want this mastectomy? Did you ask to have cancer? Why reconstruct something that is causing such anguish? So many decisions… So much fear… Suddenly.
No radium or chemo to follow just radical surgery to get rid of the cancer completely. Right, so let’s get this over and done with. The good news is that it was caught early and at this stage requires no chemotherapy. Just five years of hormone suppressant treatment under an oncologist to keep an eye on things.
The operation is over. The pain is not as bad as you expected! They did not have to remove any lymph nodes. The physical pain & discomfort that is there takes all your mental and emotional strength and you focus on the here and now. Getting strong again. There is relief that the cancer has been removed (along with your left boob but that you will deal with later… maybe it was a small boob but it was yours!)
Ah! At home at last. There is nothing like home and your own bed for recuperating from the mutilation of a mastectomy. Everyone is so kind and so concerned. Family and friends come to stay with you to care for you. You have to wash their sheets and towels when they leave. You have to worry about stocking the cupboards and having enough loo paper for the next visitors. But make no mistake, their love is so much appreciated and their concern warms your heart. It has taken this operation to realise how very dearly you truly are loved and respected. It simply does your soul good.
Christmas is looming ahead and you carry on as normally as you can without the full use of your left arm. Mom and I arrive on the twenty second of December and the three of us have a lovely time, sharing memories and laughs. We laugh a whole lot in fact. On Christmas Eve we order Chinese take-outs and it is truly yummy – a first for Mom and you!
We have an absolutely fabulous Christmas day, just the three of us. We are astounded at just how lovely Christmas day really is with beautiful carols from your CD collection playing all day. We have a bottle of champagne with a delicious meal (all bought at the local SPAR shop). I opened a bottle of champagne for the first time in my life; meaning I literally popped the cork myself, well, between the three of us we did. So proud of ourselves we were too!!
I see you coping quietly with discomfort. I am amazed at how mobile your left arm already is. You are practical and strong. It pains where you never thought there could be muscles or nerves. When you cross your legs while sitting, your chest hurts inside. You can feel your missing left nipple tingle. I help you shave your left arm pit because it is much deeper since the operation – what a laugh we had about that one! You still need to hold her arm up against a wall – you cannot raise it so high on your own.
You show me your scar. I am at a loss for words. I still am…
You show us readily because you want us to be aware, especially those who have and are going through the same thing. Not to council anyone. But to share.
I hurt for you. I cry for you when I am alone. I hope you cry and mourn… I know you are planning to see a psychologist later on.
I hurt for our Mom – she is so sad for her child. I cry for our Mom. A mother’s pain is so unbearably deep.
I admire you, my precious sister so much. I massage your shoulders and left arm which is tensing up from holding it away from your body.
I hear your soul hurting when you get quiet or go to lie on your bed.
We giggle when a blouse makes you look ‘unbalanced’. It seems bizarre to write about giggling near the picture of your mutilated body.
We search your cupboard for shirts with no seams as even the skin with no scars hurts. Never mind the pain against the scar, which is ultra tender still. Soft, loose cotton hurts the scar.
My dear sis – how I admire your courage. You have been realistic and practical. You have been brave and outwardly strong. I pray each day brings a new healing in your heart, in your soul and your body. What a fine example you are to us all! I love you precious sis – I think of you each and every day and I thank God for giving me a sister like you.
Thank you for sharing your pain and feelings with us all. May this be of help and use to many.
Thank you for a truly wonderful Christmas – I will reflect on it forever!