My dreams tangle with my sheets, I awake breathless, sweat pooling on my forehead, running down my cheeks. I've been tossing and turning restlessly all night, fighting an unknown demon.
My skin prickles and tingles like its being pricked with thousands of needles all over. I'm burning up, feverish- but the heat generates internally. In minutes, it dissipates and I shiver when the air conditioning kicks in. My nights are long and restless.
Friday morning Rick and I arrive at the Plastic Surgeon's office to see Dr. Pamela Antoniuk. We are surprised by the posh waiting room that feels more like a swanky hotel lobby than a clinic setting. We are quickly ushered back to a spacious room all decorated in dark woods, metals and warm colors. Its Vegas-y chic. The drab and worn patient gown shatters the illusion of glamour and then I am ushered to the leather "dentist" chair.
Dr. Anoniuk has laryngitis, and a husky, but soft voice comes out when she speaks. She received her training on the East coast, New Jersey, and still retains a little bit of an accent. She examines my wound, moving my skin one way then the next. Next she pokes it, then swabs it, to make sure it doesn't contain any bacteria. She thinks it looks like healthy tissue and that is is clean. She then cauterizes it for what seems like a long time. A deep throb begins to fill my chest. The smell of silver nitrate permeates the air.
She re-dresses the wound and sits me up. She would recommend removing the entire incision and wound- cutting it all out, and then stretching skin up from my stomach. She feels I have more than ample skin in the abdominal area and that she could layer the stitches - attaching them deep inside. I would have to have drains put in again, and be in the hospital for a few days.
When she's says I'll hardly feel a thing- it feels like code for "expect some discomfort."
I mention Dr. Bouton's concerns.
She says with all due respect to Dr. B, that her extensive training taught her procedures that go beyond what a general surgeon can do. She was trained with special techniques to go outside of the area of the chest to create the effect we desire.
She is calm, confident and unphased by looking at my wound. But, she says, should the procedure not work, she would then suggest the flap surgery, moving muscle and tissue from my back to create a flap of skin- a much more lengthy surgery with a longer recovery time and more risk for complications.
She'll wait for the results of the swab sample to come back and then be in contact with Dr. Bouton and Dr. Panwalkar. The three of them will discuss what the best course might be.
But the bigger question still remains. Even with a new wound that is stitched differently, will my body be able to heal the wound and have it remain closed? What happens when I have to go back to chemo? What if cancer comes back in my chest wall and I need radiation?
I sleep restlessly, like I am running uphill as fast as I can, chasing and chasing, but waking to find that thing I am chasing, slips through my hands time and time again.
Monday, July 9th, I will have sedation and an MRI. Its time to see if the targeted radiosurgery to my head took. Did the tumor shrink? Is my brain still clean? Am I okay? I see Dr. Foster on the 11th.
The financial department calls me on Friday. I have 27,000 pending insurance... so far 6,000 of it will not be covered. What do we intend to do about the 6,000... so far... and the rest that may or may not be covered?
We're clinging to what might just be enough to take our long awaited vacation.
We're clinging to dreams of salt-laced sea water, sugar sand beaches, sea food, memory making.
We're clinging to threads of mercy- tethered to strands of faith with a smattering of hope looped in for good measure.