Things will eventually get better in this story line; however, this was not the time. As I said in my last entry…cellulitis of the left breast and admission to the hospital…again…for Intravenous antibiotics. It seemed like the complications just wouldn’t end and this was just one more I would need to deal with. Only, the antibiotics weren’t working. My breast was still red, and now we were talking about removing the tissue expander and giving up on implant reconstruction for that side. I was scared…my husband was livid. Somehow, in making the choice to reconstruct, he felt I had put my life and my ongoing sanity/ability to cope in danger.
I felt that I had taken into account both of our preferences and had met the majority of them…but apparently I was being selfish wanting to reconstruct. I wanted to be as close to “normal” as possible (which is a big laugh I will share with you in a future post) so that our lives could go back to being as “normal” as possible. I felt like I had pretty much lost my husband over the months of treatment, and I wanted him back. I thought having a semblance of breasts would help in that regard, and here I was about to loose one. I made the mistake of bringing it to my husband’s attention and all hell exploded. We got in a screaming match, during which he finally said the one thing that ironically would have allowed me to make the decision not to do reconstruction. He screamed something along the lines of ‘I don’t care if you have breasts, I don’t care if we never have sex again…I just want you alive!’
I am paraphrasing, it has been awhile since my last post, and my mind is not as sharp as it once was, but you get the idea. Here I was, having made up my mind based on a unicorn…a mythical being that was only in my head. And now, I would face more surgery because of it. But then a strange thing happened.
The night before I was to go into surgery, my right breast turned red too. I didn’t have a fever, my white blood cell count was normal, I wasn’t showing any signs of being sick at all. And yet, now both of my breasts looked like they had a severe case of cellulitis…mostly on the bottom halves. I called my plastic surgeon and we both agreed not to do the surgery and to continue oral antibiotics for the weekend. It just wasn’t adding up, and we weren’t willing to give up that easy. Then came the ballsy decision…the plastic surgeon thought I might have red breast syndrome (a reaction to the Alloderm used to hold the bottom half of the tissue expander in place). I read everything I could find, which wasn’t much and thought if it’s like an allergic reaction, maybe an antihistamine or an allergy pill would help make the diagnosis. I stopped the antibiotics and took 2 bendryl and a Claritin-D tab. An hour later, the redness was much improved. I of course, had been snapping and sending pictures of my chest to my plastic surgeon, who agreed we could avoid surgery now. She started me on a steroid pack and kept the benadryl and Claritin-D going for a week…the redness completely cleared up and I kept my tissue expanders in place.
While the whole experience made me appreciate how lucky I had been, the close call brought our marriage to the breaking point where we finally had to talk things out again. We both agreed that “Home” felt like being in isolation; as a matter of fact, it was the only painting I did that my husband identified with. This was an intense period of darkness for both of us, and it was a struggle to find the light again. Friends and family helped draw us out of ourselves, until we could find each other again, even if tentatively at first. It helped me most to know my husband wanted me…whole or in pieces…as long as I was still here. More than even ‘I love you’, I needed to hear that. Now, I just had to find personal acceptance…