Today was my last mental health clinical rotation and I made it through! When I realized I would be having a clinical shift 5 days after surgery, I was pretty worried about it. But, with the help of my classmates and husband, I made it through! Adam drove me to clinicals this morning and a classmate drove me home. My classmates kept offering to help me with things today, but I actually felt pretty good during my shift. Now that I’m home, my body is exhausted so I’m going to rest – but I’m so happy to be officially done with all my schoolwork for this quarter. Now I can just focus on my upcoming mastectomy and prepare for recovery. Here’s a pic of my clinical group from today getting creative with our photography.
Nursing school is amazing because it means I get to become an RN at the end, which is my passion in life. It is also awesome because I get to learn all about health and be super informed to educate myself and my patients. It has been empowering understanding the pathophysiology behind my gene, which really is what prompted me to see a breast specialist last year.
The bad thing about being in nursing school during this process is that sometimes I get wayyyy too much information. Like during a lecture about pain management when they use a mastectomy as an example of an extremely painful surgery. But, for every scary bit of information I learn in school, I learn about 100 useful ones, which is very empowering. Even if it is a bit frightening, knowledge is power!
Through one of my online BRCA communities, I got in touch with a woman who was about to have a prophylactic mastectomy with my surgeon. I reached out to her to hear about how the nipple delay procedure went. The nipple delay is a procedure (with a really weird name) that my breast surgeon does, and I am pretty sure she is one of the few surgeons in the country who does it. The nipple delay is a surgery performed 1 week before the mastectomy, where my surgeon makes the same incision she will make during the mastectomy, separates the skin from the tissue, changes the blood supply, and gets a nipple biopsy for pathology.
There are two main reasons for this. 1- This way we know before the mastectomy that the nipple (fingers crossed) has no pre-cancerous cells, so I can keep my nipples. 2 – The mastectomy changes the blood supply to the nipple from the pec muscle to the sternum, so doing the delay starts this process a week earlier, making the mastectomy a little less traumatic on the body than it already is.
So… back to earlier this week… I had brunch with my new friend who had the nipple delay about a week ago. I am SO happy I met with her. She is awesome and was super encouraging about my decision and we had a lot in common (in addition to our funky genes). She also let me know more details about the delay, I thought it was a small procedure, but she said it took 2.5 hours. She also made me even more confident in my surgeon when she showed me her incisions, which were barely visible. She was also not very bruised. It also made me realize how lucky I am to live in LA. She flew in to go to my surgeon, has to stay at a hotel for weeks, and then fly back here every week for follow-ups and tissue expansions. It was also lucky we met because now I can come help her with her recovery and drainage tubes, which gross a lot of people out, but not me. 🙂
My new friend had her mastectomy today, so please send good thoughts her way.
I had a nice week off school and I start up again this week. I thought I would have a nice, relaxing break but ended up running errands and taking care of a lot of logistics during the break (womp womp). I start two 12 hour shifts in a row this summer, which I’m a little bit nervous about. I am happy about it too because I think it will make time go by quickly. The closer it gets to my surgery, the more I just want it to be in the rear view window. It is nerve-racking knowing the surgery is a little over 2 months away, but I am ready for it. I’m going to be getting the recovery supplies I need, eating cleaner, working out more, and practicing mindfulness over the next few months. I’m also going to organize my recovery – having friends and family help out with various things. So, let’s get going!!
Today, I’m officially halfway done with nursing school! I just finished up my first year and I couldn’t be more exhausted happier. In all seriousness, nursing was truly a calling for me and was so different than my previous career in journalism. Now, after year one, I can safely say nursing is most definitely what I was put on this earth for. I love working with patients! Recently, I had clinical rotations in a unit with a lot of oncology patients and absolutely loved it. It’s amazing to me how someone can be going through so much difficulty and still have a super positive attitude. It’s awesome to be writing this blog, be able to educate people about cancer prevention, and hopefully one day be the HBIC of HBOC (Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer). So, here are the top 6 things I’ve learned so far in nursing school.
1. Have a sense of humor – whether you are a patient, family member, or health care provider – humor is the key to getting through everything.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff – the difference between an A and an A- in a class is not worth getting freaked out about. There are much more important things in life and working with patients puts this in perspective.
3. Enjoy the outdoors – spending 12 hour shifts in a hospital and 11 hour class days in a basement classroom makes you really appreciate sunlight and fresh air (especially in beautiful Southern California).
4. Go with the flow… unless something doesn’t sit well with you – yes, flexibility is important – but don’t forget to advocate for yourself and for others.
5. Self-care is key – make sure to take care of yourself. Treat yourself to a massage once in a while, take naps if you are sleepy, drink lots of water, and balance work and play.
6. Have a good support network – I couldn’t have made it through this first year of school without them. Thanks to all my family and friends for helping me succeed without going (totally) crazy.