Hello Blogosphere! I’m back! Thanks to Paul for posting on my behalf during surgery. He did a great job, didn’t he? Before I really get into this post I want to send a huge thank you to our WordPress family. The night we got home, they filled our fridge from Whole Foods and then they ordered us dinner for the next three nights. I’ve never seen so much food in my life. It was wonderful to have so many healthy, clean foods to choose from during those first, crucial days home. Thank you Automattic!
So much to report, I have no idea where to start. Let me back up to the morning of surgery. As scared as I was for surgery, I could tell my family and Paul were even more scared. We checked into the Surgical Center (I got a private room with an outside patio — sweet!) and things got underway really quickly. Within an hour, all of my doctors stopped in to discuss the surgery with us. We met with the Breast Surgeon, the Plastic Surgeon and. last, but certainly not least, the Anesthesiologist (my new best friend!). The thing is, I had it easiest of all of us. I was going to be put under general. I didn’t have to sit and wait for HOURS wondering how everything was going — nope, I got to sleep through the whole damn thing. I felt really badly for my family and husband. I can’t imagine how sucky those 7 hours were for them.
When I first came to in the recovery room, I immediately asked for Paul. Though I was still groggy, they let him come in because I was the only patient in recovery. Apparently, the first words I mumbled to him were “Am I still pretty?” he heard something else and responded, “Huh? You want pudding?” hahaha. He makes me laugh even when heavily sedated! The second question I asked was whether I got to keep all my lymph nodes. The answer was the best I’d heard in weeks, “Yes”. Whoot whoot!
I’ve gotten a number of questions from my friends about, what, exactly, I had done. So let me try to briefly explain from a layman’s perspective since I’m really not an expert on any of this. I had a bi-lateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. That entails a bit more than the name may lead you to believe. First of all, my tumor was (love being able to say “was” — thank god that thing is out of me for good now!) located in the upper, outer area of my left breast (right underneath my armpit). Just keep that information in the back of your mind for now. So, recall in my last post I mentioned that I had to meet with the Nuclear team the day before my operation so that they could inject a substance into me that would help my surgeon locate my sentinel node? Well, that is the very first part of the surgery. My doctor used a small Geiger counter of sorts to locate the node (which is actually fairly close to where my tumor was located) and then she removed it. That node sample was analyzed immediately (while I was still on the table), if any traces of cancer came back, my doctor would have removed all of my lymph nodes on the left side (which I really, really, really really did not want to have happen). Thankfully, the node dissection came back negative for cancer so I got to keep all of my lymph nodes except foe the sentinel. YAY!
Next, the surgeon went on to remove the tumor. Her goal was to get clear margins (ie. cut the entire thing out and ensure that it hadn’t spread any where else). Since my tumor was so close to the skin — she did end up taking some skin, just to be safe. The tumor was then sent off to the lab for a full pathology analysis. After that, she removed all the breast tissue in the left and the right breast (I’m sure this was also sent to the lab for analysis too).
The type of incision she used is called “skin sparing”. That means they were able to preserve my areolas (I know, TMI — but if you don’t want TMI, then you shouldn’t be reading this blog at all!) which is HUGE. If all goes well and heals properly, my scars will be unnoticeable because they will be underneath the fold of my new bionic boobs AND I won’t have to have areolas tattooed on — because I got to keep my real ones. Yay!!
As for the “immediate reconstruction” part. It’s not like I have my bionic B cups right now. No, no! I have two prosthesis’ in place which my plastic surgeon will slowly fill up with saline over the next few months. We have to do this slowly to allow the muscle and skin to stretch and adapt. I will keep the prosthesis (also known as “spacers”) in until I complete chemo. Once chemo is done, I’ll go back in for another surgery where the plastic surgeon will replace the spacers with my actual implants. The real implants might not go in for another 4-6 months.
So, what that means dear reader is that I am as flat as a little boy at the moment. It’s somewhat shocking to look at since I was a C cup just a few short days ago. But PAMF and Jennifer Glover (my amaze nurse coordinator) did an excellent job mentally preparing me for this. End of day, I am just so happy that they cut that friggin’ tumor out of me. I hated having it inside me. I don’t know about other people who have had breast cancer — but I could feel my tumor every second of every day. It throbbed — literally. So, I’ll take my temporarily flat chested self over gross tumor any day!
The worst part about recovery by far are the Jackson-Pratt drains and grenades. I have two tubes snaking through my chest and coming out either side of me. At the end of the tube is a bulb that collects all the stuff that drains out (we lovingly refer to the bulbs as “grenades” because that’s their shape). We have to “milk” the tubes (this is exactly what it sounds like, you basically pull on the tubing to help any clots etc move along through the tube and fall into the grenade) and empty and measure the drainage a couple of times a day. I can’t have the drains taken out until each one produces less than 30cc’s for two days straight. I am nowhere near that 😦
Fortunately, somebody invented the softie (I mentioned this in an earlier post as well). A softie is a cotton tank top that has a pocket/pouch on the inside where you can store your grenades. This helps avoid any tugging or pulling on the drains. I’ve been living in my softies since I got home!
So far recovery has been pretty good. I am hesitant to say easy — because I have definitely had my moments/breakdowns. Our plan was to stay ahead of the pain the entire time — but we fell behind it two or three times so far — and that was no fun at all. Like I said to Paul, I am not trying to win the award for toughness here. I am a wimp and I want the drugs. So I am still fully medicating every 4 hours. I am not ashamed to admit it. There is no prize for gritting your teeth here! If you are about to undergo this surgery, just take the drugs.
Also not sure about other people’s experiences, but my doctor took my dressings off my chest the morning after surgery. He doesn’t believe in binding the area and keeping it wrapped up tight. So I’m sporting the au natural look (OH! speaking of au natural — let me tell you — my natural stink is disgusting. My armpits are SMELLY!!!!!). I was allowed to shower 48 hours after surgery, but I since I can only raise my arms to shoulder height (or a 90 degree angle) I can’t shave my armpits. I also can’t put deodorant on because that can cause skin infections during the healing process. OY! I feel sad for Paul, he has to sleep next to such a stinkpot! lol
There are a few things I wish I had known prior to the surgery. I am going to list them here for anybody who is about to go on this journey themselves:
1. Abdominal Muscles. Make sure your abs are in good shape. Since you can’t really put pressure on your hands to help prop yourself up or scoot back in bed, you need to rely on your abs to do a lot of the work. Mine are in bad shape and am I ever regretful about that!
2. Pillow Talk. Take a pillow with you to the hospital because you will need it for the ride home. You will want to put it in between your chest and the seatbelt when you go home.
3. Shelving. Move everything you will need to a lower shelf. Personally, I keep all my toiletries (contact lens solution, toothpaste, moisturizer etc) on the top shelf behind our bathroom mirror. You won’t be able to reach that high when you get home — so move all that sort of stuff pre-surgery.
4. Reading. I saved all of my magazines for the past 6 weeks. My plan was to flip them while laid up in bed. That plan back fired royally. I get really dizzy whenever I try to read (which is one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to post anything to this blog). I assume it’s all the drugs and the dizziness will pass — but if you were planning on doings lots of reading, I’d suggest you rent a movie or two instead.
OK, that’s all I can think of at the moment. I’ll post again soon.
Thanks to all for reaching out and supporting us. It means the world to us, and to me especially! xoxo