Hello fellow BRCA’nites and Breasties! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on my blog. There’s a lot to catch you all up on, so here we go!
I had my Salpingo bi-lateral oophorectomy in early June and it was not fun. Not that I expected it to be, but being that it was laparoscopic, I was not anticipating the type of recovery that I ended up having. And the image of both my ovaries and Fallopian tubes on a petri dish for dissection, was quite disheartening. Plus, and I have written about this in older posts, my husband & I were not able to conceive a second child prior to surgery. So now it’s official, I will never be able to have another biological child with my own egg, and I am officially in surgically induced menopause. Isn’t BRCA fun ladies?!
The actual procedure did not take long, about an hour to an hour & a half. The main issue with recovery was all the air that was pumped into my abdomen to help guide the surgeon. Those air pockets traveled throughout my body, hiding in discrete areas all the way up to my shoulders. I read that shoulder pain is a common side effect of this recovery, but boy, when they say shoulder pain, they mean unbearable, unmovable, virtually tied to your bed pain from your groin all the way up to your shoulders and upper back. It was excruciating.
My doctor did prescribe Oxycodone for pain management, but I hate that stuff. They gave me two at the hospital and made me feel completely out of it. I decided I did not want to take anymore and stuck with Tylenol and Advil. They were definitely not as effective, but I preferred to absorb the pain vs. take another Oxy.
The first couple of days were really rough. My energy was low and I realized I had to stay relatively immobile in order to avoid triggering air bubble pain. As each day passed, the pain became a bit more tolerable, but it took a good week to feel like myself again.
Luckily my surgeon prescribed hormone patches beforehand, so I had one ready to go after I got home from the hospital. And let me tell you, it was necessary. About an hour or so after surgery, I started having terrible hot flashes. I was so sweaty that the recovery room nurse gave me some cold packs to press on my forehead and neck. Once the hormone patch went on at home, my hot flashes stopped. They work! I realize that not everyone is a candidate for hormone replacement. Since my cancer was triple negative, the hormone patch is safe for me to use, at least for the first four years (according to my Onco). After that, it can become a risk in other ways. So I guess once I’m 44, I will have to stop using them, which is unfortunate.
There are health risks later in life with early induced menopause (onset dementia, osteoporosis, heart disease). Average age of natural menopause is 50/51, so 44 is still quite a bit young. I hope that science moves a bit quicker on this, so there may be other options for me down the road.
The patch itself is pretty inconspicuous. It’s about the size and shape of an egg (the irony is not lost on me here!), and translucent.
I thought it would look more like a nicotine patch, but its translucency is different. I don’t mind it. Each patch stays on for seven days until I switch to a new one and swap sides (so the skin underneath gets a break). On the seventh day, I can tell that it’s getting time for a new one. I start to feel more mopey and sometimes get hot flashes overnight. I will be asking my Dr about this to see if there’s anything else I can do to prevent these side effects.
I really feel for fellow Breasties who have to stay on reproductive suppressants, which basically keep them in medically induced menopause to help prevent cancer if they have/had hormone receptive tumors. It’s not fun to live with these side effects. I remember very well what it was like to experience these during chemo while on Zoladex.
The good news is, I have started to become more involved with a wonderful non-profit called The Breasties. Comprised of young women dealing with breast and reproductive cancers, as well as those with high risk, and caregivers, it has become a source of solace for me, filling a void that I didn’t realize I had until my first Breasties meeting in July. Such brave, powerful, beautiful women, all struggling with similar issues and challenging circumstances, many of whom are still fighting cancer. The Breastie community calls them, thrivers.
With my 40th birthday around the corner (8/29), I have been thinking lately about my 30th birthday. I had this terrible dread in the pit of my stomach, when I turned 30. It was for many reasons. My mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39. I knew I also carried the BRCA1 mutation and decisions had to be made. I wasn’t ready to start trying for children. We didn’t start actively trying until I was 33. I miscarried early on and then it took almost two years to conceive successfully. I wanted to breastfeed and thought I had time to get a prophylactic mastectomy afterwards. Though I felt this type of “loom & doom” hanging over me, that the BRCA clock was ticking. My breast surgeon would ask, when are we doing the mastectomy, and my answer was always, I’m not ready yet. Perhaps I was too scared to just do it. Perhaps I was in a bit of denial. Perhaps I didn’t fully comprehend the severity of BRCA status. But perhaps, I did understand all of these things and made a decision based on what I wanted at the time anyway. Whatever it was, and no matter how difficult these last few years have been with four surgeries, five months of chemo, and surgically induced menopause, I am trying to move into the next decade of my life with a new frame of mind. Perhaps with all the heavy health scares behind me for now, I can possibly do just that! So 40 here we go! Let’s do this!
-‘Til next time my fellow BRCA’nites and Breasties