My Breast Cancer Journey Part 14: My Double Mastectomy With Reconstruction Operation at Mayo Clinic Was Awesome!

My Breast Cancer Journey Part 14: My Double Mastectomy With Reconstruction Operation at Mayo Clinic Was Awesome!
Here I am with my husband, baby sister, and parents ready to check in for my surgery at Mayo Clinic's Rochester Methodist Hospital at 5:45am! We wore "superfan" shirts we'd made for our Mayo Clinic doctor team on the day of my operation!

This blog post is the fourteenth in a series about my (and now, my twin sister's) preventative breast cancer screening journey that began when we were 30 years old in July 2019. The first post is about my first mammogram ever; the second post is about my consultation at Mayo Clinic's Breast Clinic; the third post is about my stereotactic core biopsy at Mayo Clinic's Breast Clinic; the fourth post is about my diagnosis with "Stage 0" DCIS breast cancer; the fifth post is about my in-person DCIS diagnosis at Mayo Clinic, beginning thoughts on my surgery timeline, and discovering that my twin sister might have breast cancer, too; the sixth post is about my twin sister's invasive ductal carcinoma clinical stage 2A breast cancer diagnosis; the seventh post is about my breast MRI and two ultrasounds to investigate "suspicious" spots on my right breast and liver; the eighth post is about my second DCIS diagnosis following a week of MRIs, ultrasounds, and biopsies at Mayo Clinic; the ninth post is about preparing for my twin sister's chemotherapy appointments, including details about her egg banking procedure in the city; the tenth post is a summary of my sister's ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and visit to the emergency room; the eleventh post is a summary of my double mastectomy surgery plan scheduled to occur on December 3rd, 2019 at Mayo Clinic's Methodist Campus Hospital in Rochesterthe twelfth post is about my twin sister's first chemotherapy infusion at Mayo Clinic; and the thirteenth post is about foobs, photo shoots and nipple tattoos (my plastic / reconstructive surgery plan). To keep tabs on new posts, sign up for the "A Daily Miracle" email list at this link.

Here we are--four months after my initial breast cancer diagnosis on September 6th and only a few days after my double mastectomy with reconstruction--and I'm cancer free!! My operation went excellently on Tuesday, December 3rd, and I am in shock and awe over how many little miracles have occurred along the way. Here are some highlights from my double mastectomy surgery with direct-to-implant reconstruction at Mayo Clinic's Rochester Methodist Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota!

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In the surgical admissions area with my family, ready to head down to the operating room floor!

First: The operation occurred the day before my 31st birthday and I got sang to by my entire Mayo team! My surgeon knew the operation was taking place the day before my birthday because I told her at our intake appointment in November. I told her she had to sing to me if she was going to operate on me the day before my birthday and she laughed and said she'd figure something out. So, sure enough, on the day of my operation, as she wheeled me on my stretcher into the operating room, the entire operating room staff burst into a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday!" From the anesthesiologists to the nurses to the technicians, they all sang Happy Birthday to me as I got wheeled into position for my double mastectomy with reconstruction. It was amazing. I am fairly certain I started crying.

"See, I also put your photo up on a billboard-sized television over there!" my surgeon said, pointing to a huge monitor with my name, Mayo Clinic ID#, and head shot displayed along with the procedure that was about to happen. Mayo doctors are the best :)

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Off I went to meet with anesthesiology in the pre-op area the day of my operation! Nobody could come with me to that part!

Second: There were hundreds of people praying for my procedure. (Thank you!!!) I felt those prayers as I had so much peace in the surgery prep area and during the night before and morning of the operation. I had 522 text messages to wake up to which my husband stewarded for me, and all of them were from people letting them know how much they loved me and were praying for me. I am so grateful!!!

Speaking of text messages, Mayo Clinic also kept my husband updated with text message updates on my whereabouts in the operating room, recovery, etc. The screenshot below is the message he received letting him know I was going under in the OR, right on time at 7:45am (I was scheduled as the first operation of the day, at 7:45am sharp!). He forwarded this alert to the rest of my family immediately so they all could know what was going on. Apparently when my twin sister received the alert below and the photo above of me walking off to meet with anesthesiology in the pre-op area she started bawling in spite of herself. Then she threw up because she was so nervous for me. I hope that didn't happen to anybody else!!!

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Here's the text message my husband received letting him know I was off to the races in the OR!

Third: My twin sister's trippy, prophetic and accurate dream! My entire family tends to have vivid dreams, and the night before my surgery was no exception! The night before my surgery my twin sister had the following dream about my procedure that she texted out to the family at 4:30am the morning of my surgery:

I had a Dream I was in the operating room while they were getting AJ ready for her surgery and lots of other surgeons kept showing up to observe and so did Mayo medical residents! Some of my Pepperdine Law School classmates from Christian Legal Society were there too and when the plastic surgeon showed up in the OR, AJ got so excited she tried to get up off of the table! Then the anesthesiologist put her to sleep and the surgery was a complete success! They found no invasive cancer and were able to complete the reconstruction! When AJ woke up she was so excited she tried to give her surgeon a hug and ended up ripping open one of her incisions so I think what this means is whoever is with AJ when she wakes up should restrain her because she will be so excited!

Everything about my twin sister's dream came true!! Except her law school classmates weren't actually there (but were there in spirit :)) and I didn't actually rip open my incisions trying to hug my doctors. I was excited when I woke up and got hugs from my surgeon but managed to keep my incisions together which is great!

Fourth: The surgery took 5 hours and went exceptionally well with zero complications! This was amazing!!! They took out all of my breast tissue on both sides, tested it with frozen pathology, and didn't find any invasive cancer which means I shouldn't need chemotherapy or immunotherapy of any kind. My pathology report said that the only cancer they found was DCIS on both sides of my chest, with healthy margins and no need to remove any lymph nodes, so no surprises! Praise the Lord!!!

Here I am, pictured below, the day of my operation, recovering well! I had an appetite, no nausea (!) thanks to a "skull patch" and anti-nausea meds they administered through my IV during the operation, and next to no pain thanks to medications my nurse team kept up throughout the day. I also was surrounded by flowers and happy birthday balloons from family and friends which was amazing.

I love the flowers I got from friends and family in Arizona, Colorado, Chicago, and Minnesota!!! :)

I love the flowers I got from friends and family in Arizona, Colorado, Chicago, and Minnesota!!! :)

Fifth: Jesus was on the wall of my recovery room waiting for me! The illustration of Jesus was the same one that my grandparents had in their house growing up. Apparently, that was one of the first things I noticed when I arrived in my hospital room after the operation. I said: "Look! It's Jesus!" Then a nurse laughed and said, "He's in all of our rooms!" My husband, a pastor, noted the theological accuracy of that nurse's comment. Haha!

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Look! It's Jesus!!!!!

One of my doctors sent me "Happy Birthday" and "congratulations on a successful surgery" flowers!!!

One of my doctors sent me "Happy Birthday" and "congratulations on a successful surgery" flowers!!!

Sixth: “When life gives you breast cancer, join up with Team Mayo Clinic: Rochester, MN!” I made “superfan” tshirts for our breast cancer doctor team at Mayo Clinic that had this slogan on it. I made them for our whole family and our doctor team and had the whole family wear them as I headed into my surgery on Tuesday, December 3rd!! We also packed shirts for our doctors in gift bags and brought them along to the hospital. Our doctors loved them when they opened them and one of my doctors even sent me "Happy Birthday" and "congratulations on a successful surgery!" flowers pictured above!

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I walked around the hospital floor once the day of my surgery to get my blood flowing!!

Seventh: I was up walking around the same day as my surgery. I made it to the bathroom and back and down the hallway and back several times which was a huge victory! I was pretty dizzy but with the help of the nurse team I made it! I heard walking around was extra helpful to prevent blood clots and I do not want any of those so I was motivated to get up and moving ASAP.

In addition to the miraculous highlights listed above, there were several details about the day of my surgery I wanted to write about here for anyone going into a double mastectomy operation at any point in their lifetime!

All ready for my pre-operative sentinel node injection!

All ready for my pre-operative sentinel node injection!

Pre-surgery preparation: sentinel node injection

The day before my actual procedure, I had to go in to get a "sentinel node injection." That means I had to get fluid injected in both sides of my chest to make sure at the time of operation that they could inject me with a radioactive tracer that would show whether or not any of my breast tissue or lymph nodes would "light up" to show cancer had spread to lymph nodes that would need to be removed. I knew it would be painful because who likes to be injected with anything in their chest? But I had no idea it meant I would need four injections right around my nipples on both sides of my chest.

OH. MY. WORD!!!

"So what side of the chest are we looking at today?" my doctor asked when she came in to my room.

"Both!" I said.

"Right!" she said. "That was a trick question. Good job! You passed! Now, I'm going to be injecting you four times on each side," she said.

"Four times??" I asked.

"Yes. We need to do that to make sure the tracer gets everywhere it needs to go during the operation," she explained.

But of course. I thought to myself. Oh well! I won't have feeling in my chest ever again so here goes nothing!

The procedure only took 12 minutes and in the time that passed we were able to discuss the 31 years my doctor had served at Mayo, her two children who both live in Rochester, my twin sister who also has breast cancer, my baby sister, my mom who went through breast cancer at age 40, and my forthcoming surgery.

At the end of it, I felt like a bee had stung me eight times in two very sensitive areas. Oh well! It was for a good cause and would all be over in less than 24 hours! Haha!

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After the sentinel node injection I wanted to eat Chick-fil-A. So we did, thanks to a gift card from a good friend! :) I could eat up until 8 hours before my hospital "report time," so I knew I'd have dinner later, too. We tried to eat dinner at Forager Brewery because we wanted my husband (Chris Steinke) to play an open mic they had there but by the time we walked in at 8:30pm they were booked solid until 10:15pm and we knew I had to report at the hospital at 5:45am and should be sleeping by then so we had dinner at another restaurant in Rochester called Five West where they had a Santa sleigh outside! I had steak, potatoes, and asparagus and creme brulee.

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My mom, baby sister and me in the Santa Sleigh at Five West the night before my surgery!

I literally ate until I had to be done eating at 9:45pm, 8 hours before my report time! It was an awesome "last supper." After dinner my mom, dad, baby sister, husband and myself went to bed at a Rochester hotel (Home2 Suites -- highly recommended :)) and my twin sister and her husband stayed home in the city. Back at the hotel I took a shower with the antibiotic soap they provided me with. It smelled terrible but did its job!

Overnight, I woke up every hour and chugged a bottle of water each time because I knew I wouldn't be able to drink anything 2 hours before my report time (3:45am) and I did not want to go into this thing dehydrated! That was an excellent choice. I was very hydrated for my operation and recovery :)

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5:30am is the first time that anyone can check in for surgery at Mayo Clinic! I was in the 5:45am line.

Checking in for the operation

I got up at 4:30am and took a shower with antibiotic soap one more time then went with the family to check in for surgery. 5:30am is the first checkin time there is at Mayo, and I was in the 5:45am line. There were 5 people in front of me and 10 behind me! It was a hoppin' place.

The checkin woman loved our matching tshirts! She asked if I had a living directive. I didn't but let her know my husband would be the one making any decisions about preserving my life. He said "She lives!" would be his response to any inquiries that came to him from the OR.

Pre-operative protocol

I walked upstairs with my parents, baby sister, and husband to check in on the second floor for my surgery at 6am. I handed the nurse checkin desk the wristband they'd printed me and they asked if I'd showered with the antibiotic soap. "Twice!" I said. "Last night and this morning!"

The nurse smiled. "Did you hear that!" she yelled around the admit station. "She used the soap last night AND this morning!"

"I try to be an ideal patient!" I said.

"You are!" she said.

I walked to the surgery prep room with my husband, parents, and baby sister, and they let me know that only one person could stay with me until my admittance protocol was complete. Then they'd go get the rest of my family to hang out with me until I had to head down to the pre-operative area to meet with my anesthesiologists. My parents and baby sister left for the waiting room then my husband stayed with me and helped me put my surgical gown on (pictured below).

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My husband helped me get my surgical gown on! It was super high tech and had an area where I could plug in a heating and cooling apparatus.

A nurse came in and asked me a bunch of questions about my medical history, my previous surgeries (an inguinal hernia repair in 2003 and a pilonidal cyst excision in 2006), the procedure I was having that day, and did a couple of strength tests and eye checks and tested my heart and breathing. She asked all about my mom and my sisters, and applied a large sticker to my lower back to prevent bed sores.

Then she explained the timeline of everything: I was expected to go down to meet with anesthesiology and get an IV started at 7:15am, then would head to the OR around 8am. The OR was reserved for 5 hours, which means my procedure would likely be shorter than that. My husband would receive text message updates along the way, but they let him know they'd been experiencing some glitches with their texting system so it may be a bit spotty! But that he could expect a call from my double mastectomy surgeon as soon as her part of the operation was complete and she'd handed things off to my plastic surgeon.

My nurse asked if I had any questions and I didn't so she went and got the rest of my family and let the team know I was ready for pre-op. My family came in to hang out with me and my baby sister prayed for all of us. It was an amazing prayer full of gratitude for our doctors, surgeons, and for Jesus going before us into the procedure and for healing me. She also prayed they wouldn't find any invasive cancer! We took a selfie and then I went to the bathroom and went on my way with my nurse escort. She asked if I was okay to walk or if I wanted a ride in a wheelchair. I wanted to walk because I knew I wouldn't be walking very much the rest of the week. My husband was in charge of all of my belongings including my wedding ring. I hugged everyone and walked down the hall!

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Off I went to meet with anesthesiology in the pre-op area the day of my operation! Nobody could come with me to that part!

Getting set in pre-op 

I arrived at my pre-op bay at 7am where I sat on a bed and the nurse plugged my 3M robe into a heating and cooling system that I could customize at will. I could make my robe as heated or as cool as I wanted to. That was crazy! The anesthesiology team came in to talk to me about the procedure we were having that morning, and asked if I had any allergies to medicine, or if I'd had anesthesia before. I said I hadn't had any problems with anesthesia in the past but that my mom had some nausea following her double mastectomy in 2000 and I was a bit worried about that.

"That's no problem," my anesthesiologist said. "I'm going to order up a skull patch for you to go along with the IV meds that we'll administer to you during the procedure. Also, we'll wait to get the IV started until we talk with your surgical team to see if they have a preference of what side or arm they'd like it to go into."

Then they left.

Meeting with my surgeons

There was a knock at my pre-op bay door at 7:15am and it was my surgeon! I didn't know I'd get to see her before the procedure! Just like my sister's dream, I almost jumped out of my bed to go say hello! But she came to me and gave me a big hug.

"I'm not always able to pop in and say hello to my patients before their operations but I had to make time to come see you! How are we doing this morning?" she asked.

"I'm doing well!" I said.

"Nervous?" she asked.

"Excited!" I said.

"Excited! Well, that's a new one," she said.

"Well, all things considered, this is just what I have to do," I said.

She smiled and nodded.

"How is your twin sister? I heard about her OHSS," my surgeon said.

It was so sweet of her to bring it up and remember!

"She's doing well now! She just finished her second round of chemo last week. She has four left and is looking forward to having surgery with you in a few months!" I said.

"That's great," my surgeon said. "So I wanted to run through your operation protocol because it's a bit unique. We are going to do a bilateral mastectomy, and are you sure you don't want to keep the nipples?"

"Yes! Bye nipples!" I said.

"Good," she said. "So we'll do a skin-sparing bilateral mastectomy, lose the nipples. We're also going to do some frozen pathology on the axillary nodes to see if there is invasive cancer. If anything lights up blue I'll remove it."

"That sounds great," I said. "Thank you!"

"I am going to write my initials on you now to show that we've agreed we're doing a bilateral mastectomy," she said. She drew her initials on both sides of my chest. "I'm going to go check in with the rest of the team and I'll be back. I slated you as the first operation of the day so we're going to get going right at 7:45am!"

Meeting with my plastic surgeon

As soon as my double mastectomy surgeon left, one of my anesthesiologists came in to start an IV. He started trying to get it on my right hand but tried three times and my veins weren't cooperating so he tried to put it in my right forearm. That didn't work either. So he went to the left side elbow and it worked like a charm! As he was working on the IV my plastic surgeon came to the door.

"Hello!!" I said.

"Hello," she said. "How are you doing today?"

"I'm good!" I said.

"Good!" she said. "So you're not keeping the nipples? That makes my job easier! It will make the incisions a bit larger--about 3 to 4 inches each."

"That's fine!" I said.

As soon as the anesthesiologist finished setting up my IV, my plastic surgeon drew a series of lines in Sharpie from my sternum across my chest. Then my double mastectomy surgeon came back in.

"Let me see what you've drawn," she said to my plastic surgeon. She took a look. "Well, there's hardly anything there!"

"What else do you need?" my plastic surgeon asked. "I trust you with the incisions!"

"In that case, let's get out of here! I'm pushing you into the OR myself," my surgeon said. "They don't always let me drive these things but we're going. We have to get you in there by 7:45am!"

"You're getting a regal escort today!" my plastic surgeon said.

"I sure am!," I said. I was beaming all the way to the OR.

My surgeons pushed me down the hall to OR 60. As soon as the door to the OR opened for me to get pushed through, the doctors and nurses and technicians inside burst into a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday." I laughed. Then I cried. I was terrified but this made things much better.

"I promised you Happy Birthday so here we are!" my surgeon said. "See, I also put your photo up on a billboard-sized television over there!," as she pointed to a huge monitor with my name, Mayo Clinic ID#, and head shot displayed along with the procedure that was about to happen. This was amazing.

Going to sleep

I got transferred to the operating table as some of the doctors and technicians around me started introducing themselves. The anesthesiologists were talking about doses and someone took my glasses away. I couldn't see anything anymore but they said I could have my glasses back when it was all over. My legs and torso got strapped down to the operating table so I wouldn't fall off. I started shivering.

"Are you cold?" one of the nurses asked.

"I'm going to get her some warm blankets!" someone said.

One of the nurses started rubbing my arm. The warm blankets arrived. The anesthesiologist put a mask over my mouth.

"Start taking some deep breaths," he said. "We're getting some of the gases going. We're going to take good care of you! It'll be like no time has passed when you wake up."

I started relaxing. I wondered if they'd have me count down from 10.

"You'll start getting a bit drowsy and the voices you're hearing will start to be a bit distorted," the anesthesiologist said.

Sure enough, the voices around me started distorting. Then I was out!

Waking up in recovery

The next thing I knew I woke up in the recovery room where I was staring at what I think was a wall. I didn't have my glasses on so I wasn't 100% sure what anything was but I heard voices around me saying things like "They drained X milliliters of fluid already, can you believe it?" and "She did great!" I thought I saw a doctor at a computer to my right. I coughed and noticed my lungs had some phlegm in them and my throat was sore and my mouth was dry. Then I saw my anesthesiologist's face pop up right next to me on the left.

"We're all done now," he said. "You did great! Good luck with everything!"

"Thank you!!" I said.

I asked the doctor figure to my right if it was normal to have congestion in my lungs and for my throat to be sore after an operation.

"It sure is!" she said.

"I guess that makes sense given they had a tube down my throat blowing gas into my lungs for five hours," I said.

"Exactly!" the doctor figure said.

I was pretty tired and groggy, but a few moments later a few nurses came and told me they were there to take me to my hospital room.

My husband came to see me in the hospital room after my operation!

My husband came to see me in the hospital room after my operation!

Moving to my hospital room

"Hi! We're here to take you up to your hospital room," a nurse to my left said. She was the same one that had walked me to the pre-op bay before my operation!

"Hello again!!" I said. "You took my downstairs earlier so it only makes sense you'd take me upstairs now!"

"Exactly!" she laughed.

They wheeled me into an elevator and up a couple of floors. The floor where they typically put double mastectomy patients was full so I got to be on the GI floor. We got to my hospital room which was amazingly spacious and had a photo of Jesus on the wall.

"Do you think you can stand up and move to the bed?" a nurse asked.

I wasn't sure that was possible. "I don't think I can stand up!" I said.

"Let's hook up the sling!" one of the nurses said.

So they put me in a sling.

"Get ready!" one of them said.

"This is fun!!" I said.

"We'll be sure to spin you for a couple of loops before we land you in the bed for that extra adrenaline rush, okay?" one of the nurses said.

"Awesome!" I said.

"One, two, three!" they counted down. Then I felt myself raise up out of the bed in a sling and get moved over to the hospital room bed.

"All set!" another nurse said.

I was so tired. I dozed off. And woke up what seemed like 3o seconds later to a nurse changing my socks.

"Abide, what does that mean?" she asked, as she looked at the tattoo I have inked on my right foot.

"It's from my favorite Bible verse, John 15!" I said. I am always excited to share about my foot tattoo!

"I'm not so good with my Bible, can you tell me what John 15 says?" she asked.

"Sure!" I said. (I at one time had the entire chapter memorized as part of Solid Rock Club when I worked as a camp counselor at HoneyRock in Northern Wisconsin. I only have a few verses memorized now and I was pretty groggy but I did my best to recite what I remembered!) "It's a verse where Jesus is talking which is fitting because he's in a picture on the wall over there!"

My nurse laughed.

"So the verse basically says, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in me and you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing."

"Aw, thanks!" the nurse said.

I fell asleep again. When I woke up the next time a nurse said "Look who I found!" It was my husband walking in!!

"Hi!!" I said.

"Hi!!" he said.

I told him "Jesus is in here, too!!" and told him about the illustration on the wall. Then I fell asleep again.

 

This is a closeup of the illustration of Jesus that was in my hospital room. It was nice to have him closeby!

This is a closeup of the illustration of Jesus that was in my hospital room. It was nice to have him closeby!

"Barista coffee girl"

When I woke up the next time, a nurse asked if I needed anything.

"Actually, I'd love a coffee if you have it," I said.

"Coffee! Yes! We can do that!" my nurse said. "It's Maxwell House. Is that okay?" she asked.

"Yes! I would do any kind of coffee right now, I haven't had any since yesterday and I think I have a withdrawal headache, haha!"

"Sure thing! Black?" she asked.

"Yes please!"

"I'll be right back!" she said.

A few minutes later she poked her head around the curtain to my room and said: "I love delivering coffee to patients because it gives me a chance to do this!"

And she started dancing into the room, chanting: "Barista coffee girl! Barista coffee girl!" She danced over to a table where she set the coffee by my bed with a straw.

I died laughing. So did my husband. She was hilarious.

"Thank you!" I said.

"No problem! Anything else?"

I said I was good. She left and I never saw her again which was sad because she was absolutely one of the major highlights of my first day in the hospital at Mayo. Example #3,956,437 of why Mayo Clinic doctors and nurses are the best.

I slept a lot over the first day I was in the hospital, but woke up to receive flowers from various people and to talk with visitors. The night of my surgery day my plastic surgeon stopped in to say hello and to check on my incisions even though she'd had four total operations that day and it was almost 8pm! She said I looked great! That's when we gave her one of the superfan shirts we'd made. She thought that was cool and said she'd stop by again to see us in the morning.

In my hospital room with flowers, balloons, and visitors!

In my hospital room with flowers, balloons, and visitors!

I took a walk around my hospital room floor and made it to the bathroom by myself the night of my surgery. My husband stayed overnight with me and I had an appetite with no nausea! I ate an entire pot roast and green beans and a smoothie which were delicious. Mayo hospital food is the best! Nurses came around to help with my drains and make sure I was using the bathroom and to check my vitals. I felt great all things considered.

Here I am with my husband, baby sister, and her husband sporting the superfan shirts we made for our Mayo Clinic doctor team!

Here I am with my husband, baby sister, and her husband sporting the superfan shirts we made for our Mayo Clinic doctor team!

Getting discharged from the hospital

The next morning--the morning of my official birthday!--one of the general surgeons who was in my operating room stopped by to say hello at 6:30am and wanted to check on my incisions. He said I looked good and thought I could get discharged today so he said he'd get the paperwork started! My double mastectomy surgeon stopped in a couple of hours later. As my double mastectomy surgeon walked into my hospital room, she played an iPhone video of her two children singing Happy Birthday to me. Her children sang Happy Birthday to my sister, Stephanie, in the video as well. It was epic!!!!!!

When my plastic surgeon walked in a few minutes later, Wonder Woman was on the TV. I'd watched Captain Marvel, now Wonder Woman. My plastic surgeon noticed and said: "You know, I really like this movie!. It’s really corny, but I really like it!” We agreed!! I wanted to tell her that I thought she was cooler than Wonder Woman but chickened out.

She and my general surgeon checked out my incisions and said I looked good. We chatted for a bit and gave my double mastectomy surgeon her superfan tshirt. I asked her if I could do the worm again and she asked if I could actually do the worm in the first place. I showed her a video of me doing it at a dance club last summer and she laughed. She said that she didn't think I should be doing it again tomorrow but maybe in the future. :) She gave me a hug and left and said we'd all look forward to my follow-up appointment next Wednesday and to my twin sister's operation in April 2020. As far as recovery: I'm not allowed to do any "bouncing" activities at all for the foreseeable future. And no exercise that increases my heart rate for a while, either. Sitting still is not my favorite thing to do so this next few weeks is going to be challenging.

Flowers and balloons from some amazing people!

Flowers and balloons from some amazing people!

I had an appetite. I had no nausea. I had a bunch of flowers and balloons. Minor problems were that my throat hurt from the breathing tube and I had a slight cough from the breathing tube. My mouth was super dry from the nausea patch behind my ear, but ice chips and water helped with that. I was super dizzy, probably because I was on heavy pain meds. But I was in good hands!

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I got visited by a friend I played basketball with in high school!! She works two floors above where I was staying at Mayo Clinic. What are the chances!! :)

I was discharged around 2pm, approximately 24 hours after I'd first arrived in my hospital room after my operation. This was insanely fast! My plastic surgeon said I could shower whenever I wanted because I had waterproof bandages but I wasn't sure how soon that was going to happen because raising my hands above my head was next to impossible! My nurse showed my husband and mom how to strip my drain tubes and clean my drain sites until my follow-up appointment next Wednesday where the drains will hopefully get removed. The nurse said my husband would be a great caregiver. My mom, dad, and baby sister listened to all the discharge instructions as well to help me out as needed.

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The nurses put a "Happy Birthday" sign on my hospital room door for my inpatient stay!!!

mayo-clinic-recoveryRecovery at home

My incisions are gnarly (the surgeons did an amazing job but I still got sliced open all across my chest!) and when I wake up in the mornings especially I feel like I've been mauled by a grizzly bear, but my pain medications are working and I've been spoiled rotten by my husband, parents, sisters, brothers-in-law and aunt who is visiting from St. Louis. My aunt (and godmother!) made me a custom quilt and even made me my favorite birthday cake ever, flourless chocolate cake, to have as soon as I arrived home from the hospital on my birthday. Assuming all goes well at my followup appointment next Wednesday, I'll have my drains removed and continue to recover at home! January 15th is the first day I'm set to return to normal physical activity so stay tuned for that! I would be lying if I said that I wasn't bored already. Sitting still and not moving is the worst thing in the world for me. But I'm learning patience and humility in all of this--not being able to shower on my own or lift my arms is an interesting existence for someone who tries to never stop moving!!

Part of healing has been being spoiled by my aunt and godmother who was visiting us from St. Louis, Missouri, to help me with recovery. She made me a custom quilt--and she even made both of my sisters custom quilts, too! I have used it every day during recovery. :) She is an inspiration!

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My aunt and godmother made me a beautiful custom quilt for my recovery from breast cancer and preparation for Ph.D. prelims!

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My aunt made my sister a custom quilt as well for chemo and recovery from cancer! My sister loves flamingos so here it is!

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My aunt made my baby sister a quilt, too!!! :)

God has answered so many prayers for healing and provision over the past several months and we continue to trust Him with deliverance--especially for my twin sister from her breast cancer with four chemotherapy infusions plus a double mastectomy with reconstruction to go. We're also going through genetic testing to see whether or not we have BRCA1, BRCA2, or a number of other genes to blame for our cancer. And ovarian cancer screening will likely become part of our journey in the next year as well. In any case, God is good and we are grateful for his faithfulness in the midst of the most painful and challenging season of our lives to date!

Enjoying a flourless chocolate cake made with love by my Aunt visiting from St. Louis!!

Enjoying a flourless chocolate cake made with love by my Aunt visiting from St. Louis!!

This blog post is the fourteenth in a series about my (and now, my twin sister's) preventative breast cancer screening journey that began when we were 30 years old in July 2019. The first post is about my first mammogram ever; the second post is about my consultation at Mayo Clinic's Breast Clinic; the third post is about my stereotactic core biopsy at Mayo Clinic's Breast Clinic; the fourth post is about my diagnosis with "Stage 0" DCIS breast cancer; the fifth post is about my in-person DCIS diagnosis at Mayo Clinic, beginning thoughts on my surgery timeline, and discovering that my twin sister might have breast cancer, too; the sixth post is about my twin sister's invasive ductal carcinoma clinical stage 2A breast cancer diagnosis; the seventh post is about my breast MRI and two ultrasounds to investigate "suspicious" spots on my right breast and liver; the eighth post is about my second DCIS diagnosis following a week of MRIs, ultrasounds, and biopsies at Mayo Clinic; the ninth post is about preparing for my twin sister's chemotherapy appointments, including details about her egg banking procedure in the city; the tenth post is a summary of my sister's ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and visit to the emergency room; the eleventh post is a summary of my double mastectomy surgery plan scheduled to occur on December 3rd, 2019 at Mayo Clinic's Methodist Campus Hospital in Rochesterthe twelfth post is about my twin sister's first chemotherapy infusion at Mayo Clinic; and the thirteenth post is about foobs, photo shoots and nipple tattoos (my plastic / reconstructive surgery plan). To keep tabs on new posts, sign up for the "A Daily Miracle" email list at this link.

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