Part 1. Surgery

**** please note I did write this in two segments

I should disclaimer that mid way through writing this, I may fall asleep or may be in too much pain and have to stop. I am currently laying on the couch in the basement of my best friends Rachel’s house, while I listen to laughter and conversation  upstairs. My mom, dad, Rachel, her husband and friend from college Erin Zimmerman are making salsa and margaritas (tacos too) with my new VitaMix upstairs.

Listening to the sound above me, gives me both of joy and sadness. I wish I too could be partaking in tequila and contributing to dinner preparation but alas I am confined to the couch and my numbing medication.  The VitaMix was an early birthday gift for me from my parents. I decided to eat vegan throughout my healing process. A mostly plant based diet has proven to aid in the recovery process for cancer patients. By avoiding the additives and hormones in dairy/ meat which are considered inflammatory foods and ingesting more alkaline rich ingredients, I am hoping the sooner I bounce back.

So while they are enjoying Jose Cuervo upstairs and preparing dinner, I am going to attempt to recap my last twenty four hours in the hospital, including my surgery:

Wednesday morning, November 5,  I woke up early to drink my last few cups of coffee (was told no more liquid after 9:30 am), I read sweet notes from dear friends and my devotional while laying in my bed. I started reading the countless messages from all of you and cried happy tears. I desperately pleaded for peace and joy for the day, to not be afraid but rather walk in confidence for what was about to take place.

Around 8:30 am I picked up my dad at my parents hotel, so we could take one last long walk at my favorite place, Washington Park. We walked for an hour, (2.8 mile loop) talked and spent time together. I was so grateful for this walk and the crisp fall air, as the sun waking up the day.

Following our walk I went home to get ready.  My last shower was one I will never forget. With blue marker circling both breasts and marking where the incisions would be, I just stared in the mirror. One last time looking this way…. I thought to myself. I showered and tears streamed. Leaning against the shower wall, I thought….. this is it. The last time with this chest. I gently dried off and got dressed. I packed up my final things, put on comfortable clothes (although it didn’t matter since they were going to put me in scrubs anyway). No makeup, no lotions, no deodorant…. no nothing. Meagan Day came by to help load all of our things to deliver them to my friends Rachel’s house where I will be doing recovery for a few weeks, which was such a blessing to not have to transport it ourselves.

My dad drove to the hospital and while driving we continued to read out loud so many of your messages of encouragement. We were so grateful for the outpour. Upon arriving we learned that I was a half hour late (communication mix up by the hospital). So after checking in, receiving my wristband and all, I proceeded to the Radiology imaging department first. This allowed them to identify the lymph nodes they would take during surgery. They injected dye into my left breast where I then massaged the dye into my lymph nodes. The radiologist took a bunch of pictures under a giant machine thingy and then I was all finished up. (Lionel Richie was on Pandora station, which was nice background music).

Once I completed this step I was then admitted for surgery. Upon leaving my parents I tried not to look back at them. I didn’t want them to see me cry. So I simply kept my head down said I will see you in a bit. I could tell they were having a difficult time and I was afraid if they saw me cry it would make matters worse. The nurse was very nice and asked me how I was. As routine (protocol) she asked what surgery they were performing. She then asked if this was a proactive mastectomy procedure and I said no that I was diagnosed breast cancer. She paused for a few moments and said “Wow you’re so young.” I said “Yes mam I am”.  She explained that she had a daughter close to my age and she said “goodness your poor parents and I started to cry, I said I know….. it’s terrible”.

She left me alone in my room so I could change into my gown (it is hard to tie that thing without flashing the world), panty hose sort of things (to prevent blood clots) and socks. The entire time I was in the surgery preparatory room I silently prayed. Prayed for peace. It seems every time I am in a room alone my emotions creep up and all I want to do is crawl in a ball tightly and cry. I knew I was seconds from a breakdown. It is not that I did not want to cry (maybe a bit of pride)  but that I really wanted to be confident in the whole process. I wanted God’s peace and his joy to be the story not my fear. So I strived to continue trusting I made the right choice, the choice for healing and that no matter what he was there in the midst of it all.

My IV was inserted quickly after and my parents got to come back. As this point I was in surgery ready mode. Blue hat and all. I called my sister and she wished me luck. I began to cry and said I would talk to her soon. I tried not look at my mom and dad afraid my tears would start flowing. There was no turning back at this point. My breast surgeon came in to ask how I was doing and said we would go back, in about twenty minutes.

Time seemed to fly by…..While in pre-op they began pumping me with medication for nausea and pain. The last drug they gave me caused a temporary form of amnesia. The anaesthesiologist advised that I would be functioning, talking normally etc. but I would not remember anything. And that is exactly what happened. They wheeled me out of my room, tears down my cheeks as I said goodbye to my mom and dad. The last thing I remember is being rolled in to the emergency room……. This was at 1:30 pm.

I woke up around 6:00 pm and found myself in post-opp. I barely remember this room except for asking the ever so important question, “Were my lymph nodes clear?” and the nurse responded “Yes”. Still in a daze and my eyes closed I could feel as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and tears found their way to the corners of my eyes. Tears of relief, of joy and of immense gratitude.

Quickly after, my Mom and Dad came back, followed by Samantha (my cousins wife) and Meagan Day. I have never been so relieved to be finished and to squeeze their hands. The power of human touch is a beautiful thing. Seeing and holding their hands never felt better.

For now I am going to take a break from writing. I must get some sleep again. I am struggling to get comfortable and it is 3:30 am Denver time. However I am happy to hear both of my parents sleeping in other rooms.

I will consider this post, Chapter 1 of Surgery. More details, more thoughts and more emotions surrounding the day to follow. I should note that the preliminary pathology reports that my lymph nodes are clear. I will know officially in 10-15 days.

Warmest Kristina

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