Chaffins hope, faith and fear column: Long journey continues in quest to figure out who I am
It’s been two years and almost 10 months since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
At times, it seems like only yesterday that I went through a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. At other times, it seems like forever.
I wrote in my series of “Hope, Faith and Fear: A Reporter’s Journey through Cancer” columns that I wasn’t sure how the experience would change me. And I often gazed at my eyes in the mirror to see if I could get a glimpse of the person I was becoming.
I’m still trying to figure that out. I realized near the end of a six-week Bible study that I still don’t know myself and have spent the last two weeks trying to figure out what I like, what I love and what I feel passionate about.
My Sunday school teacher and another member of our small group, both of them dear friends, have joined me on this quest. We’ve called each other several times with revelations of what we’ve discovered about ourselves.
And to quote my Sunday school teacher, “It’s all good.”
Just in case you’re interested, I love books, feathers, rocks, trees, squash casserole, the color green and promoting going green. If it wasn’t for my books getting wet and needing an oven for the squash casserole, I could live outside.
But back to an update on my battle with breast cancer, which my co-worker and friend, Shavonne Potts, insisted I write for her Pink Ribbon Diaries.
After delaying breast reconstructive surgery far longer than I had planned, I decided on tissue expanders with implants over a TRAM (transverse rectus abdominus myocutaneous) flap, during which muscle, tissue and skin are taken from the abdomen to create breast mounds.
Latissimus dorsi flaps, during which muscle, tissue and skin from the lower back is used to reconstruct breasts, was not an option. I already had one latissimus dorsi flap to replace tissue removed from the upper left quadrant of my back during surgery for a fibrosarcoma in 1990.
Though I had met with a plastic surgeon in Winston-Salem during my chemotherapy, I heard so many wonderful things about Dr. Samuel Roy of Piedmont Plastic and Oral Surgery from the Living in Pink Breast Cancer Support Group that I decided to schedule a consultation with him.
I liked Dr. Roy immediately and appreciated his candor. Still, I learned during my battle with breast cancer never to make a major decision without praying about it first.
When Dr. Roy appeared in one of my dreams beside of another man who looked a bit like him ó his neurosurgeon brother, I presumed ó I decided that was a sign. I ask for and receive much divine guidance in my dreams and have learned to listen to it over the years.
Before my July 31 surgery, Dr. Roy warned me that it would be quite painful and that I could be in the hospital for up to four days. “He doesn’t know how tough I am,” I thought to myself.
I awakened the evening of my surgery with a full understanding of how tough I am not.
The tissue expanders to stretch the skin and tissue where my breasts used to be were placed beneath my chest muscles, and the pain was excruciating.
Needless to say, I can’t remember very much about my stay at Rowan Regional Medical Center other than the kindness of Dr. Roy, the nurses and hospital staff; the family and friends who came to visit me; and my drug-induced hallucinations and dreams.
After about two weeks, I went for my first injections of saline into the tissue expanders. Almost every week since then, I’ve gone back for more.
You might have seen me pulling out of Dr. Roy’s office on Jake Alexander Boulevard patting my growing chest mounds.
Though they’re a little too high to look natural (my right chest area looks like a softball hit it and got stuck), Dr. Roy says that will change when he puts the implants in during the follow-up surgery, which will hopefully be done on an outpatient basis.
I’ve grown quite fond of Dr. Roy and his staff ó Angela, Christy, Kim and Krystal ó and have noticed that I’m beginning to heal from the emotional aftermath of breast cancer and chemotherapy.
Little by little, I’m feeling transformation taking place in me, whoever I am.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.