Too soon? Gotta keep the laughter folks.
So on Tuesday April 19th at 6am my parents and I held hands and together stepped with our right foot into NYU Hospital (some Jewish superstition I still don’t understand). From there things moved very quickly. Signed my life away on a stack of papers and was soon after escorted into a room the size of a closet. Not a New York sized closet; more like what one would find in a nice suburban home in New Jersey. My vitals were taken and I was asked a million questions. The same million questions I had been asked each time I saw a doctor for the past six weeks. I should have just made a recording and hit play. It would have been much easier. But I get it, the last thing I wanted was for them to miscalculate my anesthesia . For someone who has never had surgery before I just wanted to wake up! We sat in a pre-op area waiting for all my doctors to stop by and discuss how the day was going to proceed. First up was my Breast Surgeon. This women is as brilliant as they come folks and she means business…just the type of women you want strapping on her suit of armor ready to go to battle with the enemy! (Ice monsters, evil gingerbread men and humbugs stood no chance with this lady….Video Game Radio City Christmas Spectacular circa 2013 anyone?) She initialed my chest with a sharpie and off she went (another random tidbit I was unaware of before undergoing surgery). Next up was my Plastic Surgeon. When my doctor walked in at 6am in a designer dress, heels, diamond earrings and a Louis Vuitton purse I knew I made the right decision. This was definitely the woman I wanted performing my reconstruction. From one perfectionist to another I appreciated her meticulous nature. I knew she wouldn’t let me down. A few markings with a sharpie and her signature and off she went. Some more people passed through our waiting area with questions and papers to sign and then it was time. Mom, Dad and I held hands and had one last cry. Well it was a cry that quickly turned into laughter because my father’s cry is more like the wailing of sea creature calling out to its lost child. But it helped to lighten the mood for the moment. Some hugs and kisses and then a nurse escorted me down (what seemed like) endless hallways to the OR. A word about walking into your own surgery. Um yeah. Whoever thought that was a good idea I would like to have a long chat with. This is not ER or Gray’s Anatomy folks. There is no hunky gorgeous guy in scrubs waiting on the other side of the door to take away all your cares and worries and send you into a googly eyed trance. I felt my legs start to buckle as they opened the door. The OR is cold…very cold and very busy. I couldn’t tell who was who as everyone was in scrubs and masks with only eyes visible. My Breast Surgeon grabbed me by the hand and assured me everything was going to be ok. She helped me onto the skinniest table I had ever sat on. Even for a skinny girl I was unsure I would actually stay on the thing. As I laid back a flurry of activity began. Multiple seatbelts were being strapped across my body (oh if it was only a ride at Disney World I was about to go on. Space Mountain would have been an awesome alternative at this point. I remember the IV entering my arm and minutes later I was out.
4ish hours later and it was all over. All my breast tissue on both sides and 2 lymph nodes on my left were history. If felt like I had taken a 5 minute nap but during that time the bus used in the Christmas show ran over my chest. I was bandaged from one side to the other and connected to a bunch of beeping machines. I remember seeing my parents and a bunch of doctors come through soon after I woke up. (I woke up!…insert craziest celebration dance tambourines and all! First success) Remember in my first blog I discussed percentages and my continued ability to defy them. Well here we go again.
So the plan was following my breast surgeons bi lateral mastectomy to have my plastic surgeon perform a direct to implant. Wake up with boobs, take 8 weeks to heal and move on with life. Not quite the outcome. We knew there was a 30% chance that once in surgery my plastic surgeon would have to use what they call tissue expanders, which are basically flat implants that get filled over time and stretch the skin and pec muscle slowly. A Plan B per se (shout out to my Rockette Sisters!) Well folks, plan B it was. I was to dang skinny! So if you ever think there is no downside to being skinny think again. My plastic surgeon, in all her meticulous glory thought aesthetically I would have a better outcome this way. And I trusted her to make the right decision for me. I will skip the next two days in the hospital. They were filled with terrible reactions to anesthesia, lying around doing nothing, running a fever and basically sleeping 22 hours day.
Thursday April 21st I got to go home! (In my mind another celebration dance ensued, maybe this time more African in nature, tribal headpiece and all). Although I was home, I was basically at the mercy of those around me. We opted not to have a home nurse visit daily because good ol’ mom was capable of all that needed to be done. Less than 3 weeks ago I was in dance class, boots strapped on, turning and flying across the floor with all the abandon in the world. Today the only thing I could do on my own was walk and feed myself. A hard pill to swallow (but one of them was valium so a bit of silver lining). There were lots of flowers and gifts waiting for me when I arrived and they all made me smile. I finally could stay awake long enough to sign onto social media and check out my Facebook page.
A word about my Rockette sisters, past and present. To say that I am blessed, that I am lucky, that I am grateful, that I am humbled, are all understatements. These group of women showed me support like I have never experienced in my entire life. There is a mutual understanding amongst this group. No one else will ever understand what we go through season after season. One of our dance captains said it best. “ We do up to 300 kicks per show, 17 shows a week, but the thing that makes it possible is the support you have of the 35 women standing next to you everyday.” I may have felt as I had been standing center stage on the worlds largest indoor theater looking into a sea of 6000 people, but in the wings were a group of women, (all between the heights of 5’6 and 5’10 ½ ) ready with whatever I needed. They are all the sisters I never had.
On a similar note, a thank you to the rest of my Radio City family. Every one from the crew, to security, to operations to PR, to production to athletic training has reached out. This is a company I have called home for 11 years. Not many people can say they have worked for a company that long. I consider these people extended family and they have shown me the most amazing jaw dropping support when I needed it most.
To my friends who have reached out with texts and messages and phone calls…I promise I will get back to you soon. It has been amazing to hear from so many of you. I look forward to catching up and reconnecting with so many of you.
One final thought.
Today is my 35th birthday. If you asked me months ago how I would celebrate this day I would have said with a big party only an “Epstein” knows how to throw.
I won’t be dancing up a storm today or downing glasses of champagne but I will be celebrating. On Monday evening (after sweating it out till 5:45pm) my Breast Surgeon called with my pathology. The cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes. The decision to do the bi lateral mastectomy was the right choice and I am now cancer free. My journey is far from complete but I will be able to avoid chemotherapy. A huge step!
Last night I saw myself in the mirror for the first time without bandages….I stood there and cried. Mourning the loss of the body I once had. But knowing on this day, my 35th birthday I can start to heal. Knowing that the hardest decision of my life was the right one and I will be able to celebrate many many more birthdays in the future.
Thank you to all of you have donated. The response has been amazing. I have updated the donation page making it a little easier so please consider giving if you can.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!