Melissa | Cancer Survivor

Melissa Ide Photography

I have been a bit busy lately as I have gone back to working in the school but wanted to get what is hopefully my final cancer battle post up! My plastic surgeon, Dr. Realica, was awesome over the summer and pushed to get me moved quickly through the final steps of tissue expansion. I can’t even explain how different I felt when the final injection of saline was finished, I almost felt like a normal person. To live for almost a year with the tissue expanders in my chest, rubbing against everything and causing discomfort, plus the strange looks when one side was smaller than the other, was it’s very own kind of torture.

I am happy to say that in early August I was finally able to go in and have my reconstruction completed. My wonderful husband accompanied me to Allenmore hospital where I had day surgery to perform the procedure. I was truly terrified of the process, the idea of not waking up from the surgery was foremost on my mind. I battled with myself over this one, I kept thinking how terrible it would be to die from cosmetic surgery after surviving everything else. There was the typical surgery prep that included sterile cleansing cloths, starvation, and dehydration. Of course, following the dehydrating, they attempted to put an IV into the back of my hand. My veins were having nothing to do with it and kept rolling out of the way. The next attempt was made on the inside of my elbow, and again, the veins were not having it. The final attempt was made further over on my elbow. Success! Dr. Realica came in and did all of his pre-surgery marking. He did his best to make me feel at ease, and I was able to relax a bit. I listened to my nurse as he rolled my gurney into the operating room, he was talking about how he had to have AC installed at his house for the cat that he had adopted. I don’t remember much after that, and I’m thinking that was a good thing.

After surgery I remember waking up in the recovery room. This was very different than when I had the double mastectomy. It felt like the surgery was very fast, and in comparison to the previous surgery, it was. The nurses were amazing! They were right there, attending to all of my needs, and apparently I needed to have juice and crackers. How grateful I was to be able to eat without any nausea. The pain was tolerable, I believe that was due to having the majority of the pain during the first surgery. Before I was finished with my snack I was whooshed over to dress in my own clothes, put in a wheelchair, and escorted out of the building. I vaguely remember the drive home but do remember being incredibly hungry and eating as soon as I arrived home.

Recovery was pretty quick. I felt normal within about 2 weeks. The two new incisions had healed up well, the new girls were right where they were supposed to be. After a few weeks of weight restrictions I was able to go back to normal living.

I know each day that I am, and should be, grateful to be alive. This journey is one that people are still not living through. I have good and bad days when I look in a mirror. The scars are numerous but have faded from bright red to white. My body is a different shape, the Tamoxifen pills that I will be taking for five years have definitely changed me. Cancer has changed me… physically of course and mentally. I have days where both my body and my mind feel weaker, I can’t process thoughts the same as I used to. I’m told in time the effects of chemo will wear off, typically after about 2 years or so. I can’t wait for my head to feel a bit more normal. I think I feel more, emotions are raw and I just feel more deeply. I have moments where joy overwhelms me and I find myself in tears.

As we near Thanksgiving I have seen many posts to Facebook and in general about daily gratitude. Each day I contemplate writing something but after all of this there is just so much to be grateful for. I wake up every morning, I breathe, I feel the sun on my face or the rain in my hair. I see my husband, my kids, my family. My heart swells even on my bad days and I am grateful.

I am grateful to be ALIVE!

To my amazing husband, I could not have fought this without you by my side. You held me when I felt like I couldn’t do it, like the battle was just going to be too much. Made homemade chicken soup at 10pm because it was the only thing that sounded good. Listened to my fears as they reared up time and time again. There were so many days that you had to be the strong one because you knew that I needed you to be. I love you to the moon and stars!

My mom, who stood by my side as I was suffering through the aches and pains of the chemo. I saw the anguish on her face one day as she looked at the radiation burns on my chest. Who, during my battle, lost her only other child to a heart attack. She had a horrible year. Mom helped on so many occasions with the kids and making sure they were taken care of as well. I love you!!!! Thank you.

To my kids, oh how I felt like I just couldn’t do enough for you guys. You helped me fight, Tyler you motivated me to make it to football games, to fight the chemo even when it made me feel disgusting. Wanting to see you graduate this year was a huge goal and I was able to do that. Thomas, you stepped up and were amazing. You became even more independent almost over night. Our Sophia, she would put her arms around me and tell me that I was going to be ok. How does a 4 year old know to do that? You guys missed out on a lot because of me and that was hard. I know you sacrificed things and I will always be grateful for that. You guys mean the world to me and I love you all.

And to everyone who has stood by my side, thank you. Every text, phone call, and visit to check in on me was appreciated.

Please don’t be offended by this … #fuckcancer