Diamond recovery: Monica left the hospital less than 24 hours after the surgery to continue her life

Sunday, October 16, 2011
Monica Edmonds and her family during a benefit softball tournament. (Submitted photo)

Monica Edmonds refuses to allow breast cancer to steal her life. Less than 24 hours after her double mastectomy, she left the St. Louis hospital and went home.

During her Oct. 5 surgery doctors performed a mastectomy, attempting to save as much skin as possible. Later a plastic surgeon placed an expander in her chest at the mastectomy site to expand the skin and make room for implants in the future.

Her husband Ian, their oldest child James and Ian's sister Alicia kept vigil at the hospital.

"It was frustrating doing the waiting game," he said. "Monica is my world, she is my everything, she is the glue that holds us all together. My life has been so much better since she and the kids came into it and I couldn't imagine my life without her."

Monica Edmonds with her youngest daughter, Chloe, 7, at a benefit softball tournament.

Edmonds was diagnosed with aggressive stage-two invasive ductal carcinoma in September.

Once the surgery was completed, Ian and Alicia were told good news. The lymph nodes looked good and the cancer had not affected Monica's skin or muscle.

"Now comes another waiting game," Monica said.

She has an appointment with an oncologist Tuesday when she will find out what type of chemotherapy or other treatment she needs.

Monica said she thought she would not want to see the changes in her body after surgery and she definitely didn't want Ian to see her.

"I remember the first night in the hospital when they removed my bandage, I saw Ian trying to look," she said. "In my mind I was saying 'Don't look, please.'"

He did see them the next morning and reassured Monica that it wasn't that bad. Then she looked.

"The first time I looked, I felt sadness," she said. "It was now a true reality that I have cancer and this is not just a dream."

Ian took two weeks off from his job with the USDA to help her. He takes care of the children and household duties Monica normally does. They sent their 100-pound Great Dane to a kennel because he is too much to handle right now. Family members are taking turns visiting and cooking for them each night.

Members of the team of Monica Edmonds during the softball tournament. (Monica Edmonds ~ Courtesy photos)

"Since my surgery, I have had good and bad days," Monica said. "My chest feels like a Mack truck ran over me. It is not pain like sharp pain, just a constant hurt. It feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest all the time."

Monica had four drains, two on each side that went into her chest wall right where her bra sits. Doctors removed two of the drains at her most recent visit, but they irritate her skin and cause discomfort. She said she is optimistic doctors will remove the last two during her Tuesday visit.

"I did not realize how much you use your chest muscles in day-to-day activities," Monica said. "I actually had trouble dipping ice cream. I have not been able to dress myself or wash my own hair at this point, but it is improving daily."

The children -- James, 16; Mady, 11; and Chloe, 7 -- are coping. Chloe used to clamor up on Monica's lap and had a hard time adjusting, Alicia said. Now Chloe is being careful with the drains, but she cries and tells her mom this is hard on her.

"You are a sick mommy," she says.

Madi Kai lives in Kansas with her mom, who provides her with comfort as she needs it.

When Heather Wooldridge, a family friend, learned of their troubles she and her friends started to help. They created a Facebook page where the community can track Monica's progress; set up a fund at the 1st Community Bank in Bernie to help defray costs; and organized a softball tournament.

Alicia calls Wooldridge a spitfire when it comes to fundraising. She previously helped organize tournaments to benefit Relay For Life and also fundraisers for Becky Dennington, a member of the community that had breast cancer in 2010.

On Oct. 8, the community held a double elimination softball tournament to raise money for the Edmonds. Eight teams competed, paying an entry fee of $120 each. The tournament, games, music and food started at 10 a.m. and continued until 8:30 p.m.

Monica spent most of the day at the tournament. She took a break for an afternoon rest but returned that evening.

"I wanted to go to the tournament to let my friends and family know I appreciated them and all they were doing," Monica said. "I just sat in a chair and cheered the teams on, but I sure paid for it. The next day I was in incredible pain. But at least I was able to say 'thank you' to all our friends and family for their support."

James said he was glad his friends would take the time to come support his mom.

"[You] count on your friends for support," he said. "I have talked to my friends and their moms and it has helped me."

Ian said the tournament recharged him. "It was an awesome feeling to see everyone out there and know they were there to support what you are going through."

Wooldridge estimated they raised a little over $2,500.

"Everyone pulls together," she said of the Bernie community. "That's how the town works. They do what they need to do and everyone comes out to support local benefits."

The day after surgery Monica began hormone treatments in anticipation of the procedure to harvest her eggs before starting chemotherapy. She and Ian had been planning a baby when they found the tumor. They still plan to add a child to their family when Monica is done with her treatments.

"I look forward to ringing the bell at Siteman Cancer Center when my chemo is over and hearing the lobby cheer as I know that I am on my way to recovery," she said.

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