Tuesday, November 15, 2011

pathology results!

Late yesterday afternoon I received a call from a nurse practitioner from my surgeon's office saying she had good news - my pathology came back and my "invasive cancer had regressed" to the point of a few "in situ cancer cells" with the sentinel node that was removed also having a few cancer cells. She was telling me to be happy about these results but, to be honest, I was having a difficult time understanding because all I kept hearing was "cancer cells." So I cried as soon as I hung up the phone.
Then I called my mom. Then I started googling to figure out how this was good news. Then I realized it would be best to talk to my surgeon about it.
This morning I saw my surgeon for the first time since the surgery and after having him explain the pathology report, asking some questions, reviewing the pathology report for myself and giving it all a little time to sink in, I think I finally understand it and can say - I HAVE GOOD NEWS!
What I failed to comprehend when both the nurse and the surgeon were explaining the report to me was they found cancer cells in the tissue they removed. For some reason I kept hearing that I still have cancer cells, not that the tissue they removed had cancer cells. Now that I am over that mental hurdle, I am feeling much more relieved about the news.

Basically, the tissue they removed from the breast (measuring about 4.4 cm) had no evidence of invasive carcinoma and the margins (the 2mm area around the tumor site) are negative. The lymph node they removed contained 0.1 mm of metastatic deposit which means no more than 200 cells. This means Stage 1 cancer. I started off with invasive carcinoma and positive lymph nodes which resulted in a diagnosis of Stage 2b breast cancer. I am told this is a huge improvement and shows chemo did its job.
My surgeon went on to explain that this is better results than he sees in many patients and there is a possibility that I am cancer free right now (YAY!). He also explained that since I am still so close to the end of chemotherapy that there is a likelihood that the chemo is still fighting whatever cancer cells might be left and had we waited a bit longer to do the surgery, I may have had completely clean results. He explained that in the past when the sentinel node still contained cancer cells they would go back and take out more lymph nodes but there have been significant studies which have shown there is no difference in recurrence between the women who had more lymph nodes removed and those who didn't. So I will go ahead and keep the rest of my lymph nodes.

I meet again with my radiation oncologist tomorrow to start planning the last stage of my treatment - radiation - which will be five days a week for six weeks starting in January when I return from Patagonia. In the mean time, I am starting to take Tamoxifin, the pill I will be taking for the next five years to block the estrogen receptors in my breasts. I also have a PET scan scheduled for December 19th and will have at least one or two more appointments with my radiation oncologist before I leave to get everything primed and ready to go to start radiation as soon as I am back. I feel reassured and comforted that I will be seeing my oncologist every three months and my surgeon every six months. I don't have a stamp of remission to brag about yet but I'm definitely starting to feel like chemo and surgery worked and I'm hoping for similar results with radiation.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

lumpectomy, NYC Marathon cheering and that lingering jerk - chemo

I have a few thoughts bouncing around my head lately that I feel like capturing for myself or possibly for anyone out there facing a lumpectomy. I will also probably ramble into the realm of post-chemo life because I'm in need of some writing therapy on that front. I may even share my thoughts/reaction to the movie 50/50. Yes, I saw it. By myself. And I recommend it.

First, I was skeptical when my surgeon told me the "procedure" would be pretty simple, especially since I knew he would be removing my sentinel node. If you do any amount of googling, you will discover that removing any lymph nodes will almost certainly result in lymphedema - fluid retention and tissue swelling in the arm in which the lymph nodes are removed. According to the fear mongering internet, this can result in a loss of range of motion in the arm and even permanent disfigurement. My surgeon reassured me (a number of times) that he was not concerned as this is now very rare when only the sentinel node is removed and that they monitor it very closely.

At any rate, tomorrow will mark one week post-lumpectomy and other than some tenderness at the point of the incisions, I feel pretty much recovered from surgery. I have two incisions between 2-3 inches in length. This may not seem like a large incision for those of you with more ample breasts but for me, the incision on my breast covers the whole left side and the one closer to my underarm (for the removal of the lymph node) covers most of that space as well and is conveniently located in precisely the location where all bras end. Meaning, whether I wear a regular bra (just managed to do this successfully for the first time today) or a sports bra, the seam rubs right at the incision point. Not exactly comfortable. But not terribly painful at this point, just irritating. Also, the rubbing resulted in the steri-strip on that incision falling off much earlier than my other steri-strip which is still firmly in place. After consulting my post-op instructions which indicated I should wait for them to fall off or let the surgeon remove them, I peeled the last remnant of it off this morning to get my first real glimpse at my scar.

It isn't pretty. But it isn't hideous either, despite the fact that I have been referring to my breast as "franken-boob." The worst of the bruising has changed from the blue-black-purple phase to a yellow-violet phase.

Oddly enough, for the first time in my life, wearing a bra has been more comfortable than not wearing a bra. Yes, even with the rubbing issue. I had read this pre-surgery and purchased a zip-front sports bra since I wasn't sure how easy it would be to maneuver my way in and out of a sports bra. This was my best pre-surgery planning. I wore that bra day and night for the first three days straight. When I took it off for the first time Saturday night to shower for the first time, I couldn't believe how heavy my breast felt when set free. It pulled a bit on the stitches and was just plain uncomfortable.

I realize this is all very scattered but I'm just going to let this spill out as it comes to me and mention here that pain wise, I only really had pain the day of surgery. I took a Tylenol 3 shortly after getting home, mostly because I didn't want to get to the point of pain and then took one more before bed - again to stay ahead of the pain and to help me get some sleep. Saturday I may have taken one or two extra strength Tylenols and possibly one on Sunday but after that I haven't had any pain to complain about.

I stayed home all day Saturday but got really bored and restless and when my mom and sister returned from shopping (which I encouraged them to do, they didn't abandon me), I was irritable and picked a fight with my sister for no reason other than frustration. Frustration that I am not myself and incapable of being myself. Then I blamed her for not cutting me some slack and having patience with my terrible moods. Not my best moment.

Sunday all was better and we watched the New York Marathon for a bit of cheer and inspiration. We cheered the elite men and women and the wheel chairs run along Central Park South for their last mile. It was amazing. We took a short break to have brunch with my mom (who, incidentally, ordered the best pancakes I have ever eaten!) and then returned to Central Park South to cheer on the masses who were now constantly running by. I didn't know how long I could last and whenever we were near any kind of tight crowd I got a bit anxious, just afraid someone was going to knock into me. My sister stayed on my left to protect me and we found a good spot where no one jostled us. Just as I was getting tired from yelling at strangers, I saw someone I knew run by! He was one of three people I knew running and I didn't expect to see anyone since I hadn't made any plan. I yelled his name and he glanced over his shoulder as I clapped the big balloon clapper things (no idea what they are called) at him. This made me want to stay longer in the hopes of seeing his sister, a friend I was hoping to see. Unfortunately, my stamina didn't last that long. My sister encouraged me to head home before I went past my tolerance level.

As a result of Sunday's exertion, I spent most of Monday sleeping. My mom and sister ventured out to Ellis Island and shortly after they left I was struck with that weird eye-closing headache that forced me back to bed. I didn't get up until 2 pm.

Chemo and surgery may be behind me but real recovery from chemo is still ongoing. I get worn out after about 40-50% effort of what might be deemed my "normal" and I need about 9 hours of sleep a night to even have the energy for that 40-50%, but this is slowly improving. Tuesday was the last day my mom and sister were here and the weather was unbelievable - around 70 degrees in November! We went out to do some shopping and walking and cookie purchasing and luckily for me the first store we went to conveniently sold bras because my decision to wear a normal, underwire bra was a bad one. The bra dug in all the wrong places and didn't compress the way I had become accustomed to. So I bought two more sports bras that turned out to be super comfortable. Today I went into the office and couldn't bear the idea of wearing a sports bra to work so I dug out the one bra I own that doesn't have under wire and managed to tolerate it for the 5 hours or so I was out.

I went to the oncologist yesterday and expressed all my frustrations with the lingering side effects and the after effects of chemo. My number one complaint? Why had I suddenly gained ten pounds since my last chemo? I am now back up to the heaviest weight I have ever been and the only time I was here was back in May when I was giving myself hormone injections for my egg retrieval. She pointed out the obvious - I was eating about 2/3 my normal amount of food and now I am back to eating my normal (and sometime more than normal) portions but not exercising the way I used to so my metabolism was thrown off. Plus - wacky hormones. Not to mention all those ridiculous chemicals that were pumped into me for months. The hardest part is everyone has it in their head that chemo patients lose dangerous, scary amounts of weight. But that isn't the case for everyone. Chemo is such a roller coaster and everyone's body reacts so differently that weight gain is actually a very common side effect. I was actually happy that I was more or less maintaining my weight throughout. There was a point in August when I was still adjusting to Taxotere and the thrush that came with it when I got down to my thinnest point and worried that two more rounds of chemo would leave me thinner than I wanted. But for some reason, I gained weight with the next two rounds and finished on October 5th at about my "normal" weight, meaning the weight when I want to lose 10-15 pounds.

One of the uglier, unmentionable chemo side effects I experienced was extreme constipation. I think I went about a week at one point without a bowel movement. Painful, yes. And bloating, gas, abdominal pain and diarrhea usually followed. Those last two rounds of chemo these side effects hit harder than early on and I think that is why, even without eating much, my weight came back up a little. But honestly, I feel like the massive bloating and these extra ten pounds are like a giant, last "F*#@ You!" from chemo. A parting gift of sorts. Combined with the very emotional un-tethering from the routine and schedule of chemo treatment, bad days, good days, rinse and repeat, I've been struggling more in the last few weeks than I ever have. I'm not finished yet. I still have cancer. No one is telling me I'm in remission yet. I still have radiation treatment ahead of me. I am still bald. I am still losing my eyelashes and eyebrows. I am still tired all of the damn time. I am still not well enough to go back to work. I am more alone than I have been since this all started and now I feel fat.

Cancer is finally crashing in on me, around me, through me. I am realizing there is no going back to "normal." That life I had back in April is over, it is forever behind me. Yes, there will be a new sense of normal once this is over but my innocence is gone. I never seriously considered cancer even a remote possibility for me. Not now, in my 30s while I am single. Before I even had a chance to "settle down."

A couple of weeks ago as surgery loomed just ahead of me and I struggled to find pants that fit, I snagged one of my odd fingernails on a drawer. I have been keeping my nails really short as the top layer of several of them have been pulling away from the nail bed and they all have several white rings and ridges on them. In the last month or so of chemo my nails started getting really sensitive and I worried about losing them. One pulled off several weeks ago but it was relatively painless. But this one I caught on a drawer was bleeding and hurt. A lot. I was trying to get out the door during a freak October snow storm to make a bus to visit friends upstate. But everything was conspiring against me and I ended up missing my bus by 3 minutes.

I nearly collapsed in tears at the Port Authority. I couldn't face trying to get another cab in that terrible weather so I went across the street to the movie theater and bought a ticket to see 50/50. I knew I was already an emotional wreck and I wanted to wallow in it. You may question this decision but honestly, I have only allowed myself a few brief glimpses of these feelings and I just needed to dig around in them for a bit in a dark movie theater.

The movie was perfect for me at that moment. I cried, yes. But mostly in a good, cathartic way. I also laughed. And tried not to nitpick details I felt were unrealistic. It was my first glimpse at a cancer experience I could actually relate to. I've read books. I've read blogs. I've read articles. I've watched movies. I've even spoken with a few people. Nothing rang true for me. The feelings people expressed at diagnosis did not resonate with me. Various people's experiences with chemo either left me feeling like a giant baby for not pulling it together and trying harder or made me feel guilty for slipping through the whole process relatively easily.

But mostly, I have found myself secretly resenting people with a built-in support network. Sure, it has to be hard to continue to take care of kids while also taking caring of oneself but I can't help but think those people also have a purpose, someone to get well for. I am not complaining about all of the people who have been there for me but ultimately, as a single person with no one person to rely on, it is hard not to have a little resentment towards those who can turn over some of their care to someone else. I have been unbelievably blessed by people in my life willing to step up and help me. But I have had to organize all of it. And I've had to learn to rely on people who are not in my close circle which ultimately takes more effort on my part. There are very few people throughout this process with whom I can absolutely let down my guard and let in. I constantly feel the need to reassure everyone around me that I'm doing great and improving and getting better. To the point that I realize many of those people who only see me periodically through my treatments believe I've just sailed through it all and pretty much all better now. Especially since I don't have that gaunt "cancer" look they expect. Maybe if they saw me in the morning when my face is extra puffy, before I put makeup on for color and fake eyelashes to look like a person, they would realize it still sucks. It isn't over just because you can't see it.

A couple of scenes in the movie truly resonated with me. In one, the guy is sitting on the couch exhausted and his phone rings. The caller ID shows it is his mom and he doesn't pick up. The look of fatigue on his face is one I related to so well. She calls his cell and he picks up. It is hard, as an adult, to once again be reliant on ones parents. It is also difficult to place this kind of burden on anyone, especially my parents. Especially my mom. In another scene, the guy loses it and just gets angry and yells at his friend.


There is more I wanted to share about the movie but, at this point, my mind is turning to mush and I'm having a hard time forming complete thoughts. So, in an effort to get myself back into writing, I'm going to go ahead and publish this without attempting to fix the rambling, stream of consciousness mess of it all.

I'm tempted to give some reassurance here at the end that all is well and I'm just great and all of that. But that isn't entirely true. Yes, last night I went for a run and felt so much better to get out of my apartment and out of my head. And then this morning I worked out with my trainer and told her I was ready to lose the weight and be strong again. And I felt better. But that doesn't mean the darkness and loneliness don't creep in at night when I'm alone trying to pass the time until my next doctor's appointment or social outing. The hardest part about realizing you may be struggling with depression is doing something about it. When I feel terrible I have no energy to research options and when I feel good I don't feel I need to worry about it. This, right now, is the worst part of cancer.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

surgery


My last chemotherapy treatment was four and a half weeks ago and while my body has been slowly recovering little bits at a time, I am nowhere close to feeling recovered. Which means now the real mental test has started. Of course I had some concerns heading into surgery but I coped with that the same way I have coped with all of this, by researching lumpectomies - the procedure and recovery. On the surface I had convinced myself the surgery was no big deal - just like my surgeon told me. But early this week, as my surgery date grew closer, I stopped sleeping. It started to occur to me that maybe it isn't the actual surgery I was anxious about, it was what the surgeon might discover once he opened me up. I've also started realizing that recovery from months of chemotherapy takes longer than four weeks. Much longer. I don't have a lot of significant side effects but there are a number of lingering oddities, more specifically, and most frustrating, is the fatigue. A word I don't think I ever actually understood until now. Fatigue is not a synonym of tired. My fatigue is teamed up with gravity to just pull me into the earth with dragging feeling that can lead to dizziness and almost total shut down if I overexert myself. I can rest up enough to get out of the house and the energy of being around friends or co-workers will boost me up for a while but when the crash comes I have to retreat to my bed. A half a day at the office wears me out more than working a week of late nights and back to back all nighters. I want so much to bounce back and get past the fatigue but it does not work that way. I guess when the three phases of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation were outlined for me I just assumed the four weeks I was allotted between my last chemo treatment and surgery for "recovery" meant RECOVERY! When in fact, it was just enough recovery to give me the strength for surgery, that is not the same as my 100% normal self. To be honest, I'm probably operating at about 50% of normal. I can give a big push for certain events but I have no stamina and when I crash - I crash pretty hard. I still need to work on patience with myself. I tell you all of this to give some background on my mental state leading up to surgery and also to give you a preview of my recovery which I think will be more chemo recovery than surgery recovery.

My mom and sister arrived on Wednesday night and Thursday I felt like we had to fill the day with fun things because I was afraid of being wiped out even more for the rest of their stay (which is kind of the purpose of their stay to begin with!). We managed the important things - we went to a bakery on the Upper West Side with the greatest cookies ever (Levain Bakery if you are interested), went to the hospital for my isotope injection, did a little shopping, picked up some soup for dinner and I was beyond worn out. No stamina. No endurance.

The isotope injection was mostly uneventful. My surgeon had explained I would need to report to the Nuclear Medicine department of the hospital to get this injection of isotopes so he could locate the sentinel lymph node for removal. What I should have realized, or perhaps I should have asked, is where they would be giving me this injection . . . since the purpose was to follow the path the cancer would take out of the breast I suppose it is implied that the isotopes would be injected into the breast. I just wasn't focused on this part. And as it turned out it was kind of awkward and a little painful. At this point I really don't have any shyness about all the doctors and nurses who need to poke, prod and inspect my breast but this particular doctor happened to be the voice doppelganger of a male friend of mine. They don't necessarily look alike but lying on an MRI table with my arms over my head and the doctor standing behind me, I wasn't looking at him as he talked me through each step he was taking and I giggled and felt a little mortified inside my head (and no, I am not saying who this male friend is). The injection hurt since it was directly into my breast but it wasn't just the needle that hurt - the isotopes stung as they were slowly plunged through the needle. But I've been through worse and it was over quickly so I can’t complain. I had to wait thirty minutes for it all to seep in or whatever and then they did a brief scan to make sure it was working. This particular MRI-like machine had a plate that lowered over my chest and head and as it got closer and closer to my nose I kept picturing that trash compactor scene in Star Wars and worried that the technician would accidentally lower it too far and squish my face. Happily she performed her job well and stopped it a few millimeters from my nose. 

I was scheduled to report for surgery at 7:45 am so Thursday night I took an ambien at 10 pm to get plenty of sleep and not have my nerves take over. But I underestimated my nerves and despite the sleeping pill, I did not sleep at all. And I don't mean I would sleep for a bit and wake up, I mean I never fell asleep. Actually, I did finally fall asleep – sometime between 530 and 6 am when I had to get up at 7, so I probably slept just over an hour. It was terrible. And it also meant I felt rotten walking out the door for surgery. When I don't get enough sleep my eyes get especially sensitive and do this weird thing where I cannot keep them open and I get these waves of pain trying to force all light out like I’m on the verge of a migraine but I don’t actually get the headache. I don’t know how to explain it but it is really awful. And without eyelashes my eyes tear a lot more than usual so I was a mess, dabbing a tissue at my eyes and trying to keep them open.

The surgery did not take place at the hospital, but across the street in the same building as my surgeon's office and the radiology clinic. On Thursday, as we sat in the Nuclear Medicine waiting area I created a bit of an expectation with my mom and sister when I told them how beautiful and comfortable my surgeon’s office is – not like the sterility of the hospital. They never got to see the surgeon’s waiting area. Instead, at 7:45 am we reported to the 4th floor Ambulatory Surgery office as instructed. When I opened the door I thought I must be in the wrong room. Or building. Or perhaps I had unwittingly walked into the movie Joe Versus the Volcano somehow – the scene at the beginning where Tom Hanks sits in that terrible little office with the flickering lamp. Instead of a hospital, we appeared to have walked into the waiting room of an auto repair shop. The woman at the metal desk to my right was immediately abrasive and before I had a chance to tell her why I was there or even figure out for myself why I was there she asked if we were all together and as we nodded she informed me “you only get one person.” I was already a wreck physically and emotionally from not sleeping and was not prepared for this level of surliness. I was also unprepared to send either of them home after they flew across the country to be with me for the purpose of waiting there with me and for me.

The room was uncomfortably small with the utilitarian desk filling the space to my right and six chairs with stained cushions in a small u-shape crowding the rest of the room to my left. There was barely room for the three of us to stand at the desk but I wasn’t sending either my mom or my sister home. I think I asked where they were supposed to go and she begrudgingly allowed them to both stay since there were three empty seats. Actually, there were two open seats and one seat piled with someone’s stuff. My mom and I sat in the two open seats and a man with long red hair that appeared to have been permed slowly moved the piles and piles of stuff he had out of the chair next to him. I just wanted to close my eyes and fall asleep. Or better yet, I wanted to skip ahead to the part where the anesthesiologist knocked me out. Instead the surly woman at the desk kept making me get up and down to hand over my credit card or sign something or just to annoy me. The room was uncomfortably quiet with the other two women waiting sitting in what felt like a shamed silence. At one point one of them answered her phone and the other tried to shush her up (I think they were afraid of being ejected by the woman behind the desk).

A very nice nurse rescued me from the tiny room to ask me a few more admission questions and she told me I could just keep my eyes closed. She then had me go in another awkwardly small room with a few lockers and two doors and told me to change only from the waist up. This puzzled me as I was wearing jeans and I couldn’t imagine I would be keeping them on for the surgery. She explained I would be taking the elevator so I would change out of the rest of my clothes later. The lack of sleep made me very foggy and I wasn’t clear on the fact that I would be returning to this same little room and I kept thinking I would be leaving my jeans and shoes in some other locker on another floor and apparently I muttered something about this to my sister at some point causing yet more confusion.

Once in my two hospital gowns – one with the opening to the back and the other worn over it like a robe with the opening to the front – I was introduced to an orderly who got me a warm blanket and draped it over my shoulders and together we walked back through the strange miniature waiting room and collected my mom and sister and took the elevator upstairs to the radiology clinic where I had that first mammogram that changed my life. A technician named Anna, introduced herself and took me into a room while my mom and sister waited in the very normal waiting. Once in the room I realized I was getting another mammogram. In all my research and questions this part was never disclosed. Or maybe I glossed over it or assumed when it said “mammogram or ultrasound” I was getting an ultrasound, but that was probably just wishful thinking. This was the worst part of the whole surgery.

Back when I had my biopsy in April, they inserted a tiny little “clip” into the tumor to aid in monitoring the tumor or in finding the location of it should it disappear. Anna explained the whole process and I think I almost passed out. She moved the mammogram machine this way and that and then had me sit in a chair (because I was clearly not capable of standing on my own) and she manipulated my breast into the machine and flattened it out. I then had to sit there, with it squished, waiting for the doctor to get the image in another room!! I was told not to move. I just squeezed my eyes shut and wished it all away. But this was just the beginning. Once the radiologist joined us in the small room (where I was still not moving or really breathing with my breast squeezed in the vise) he gave me a shot to numb my breast locally, then, once the area was mostly numb (more waiting with the squished boob), he injected a thick needle into my breast. With the needle still poking into me, they squeezed everything even more and took another picture and told me to hold still. I could glance down and see this needle sticking out of my breast and suddenly I was no longer tired and my eyes were not feeling so awful and I had this vision of them squeezing that machine too far and causing the needle to pop out and fly across the room. More fidgeting with the machine and the radiologist adjusted the needle once or twice to get it lined up with the clip and then he somehow used the needle that was already there to insert a long metal wire which was significantly thicker than the fishing line I was envisioning but smaller than the cable wire I initially thought of when my surgeon first explained the process. I thought I was done but the machine was once again moved around and converted and I was shifted into another possession for a couple more pictures to make sure everything was in the right spot – meaning a few more vice grip looks and then the wire was wound up a few times and taped into place with gauze and I was sent back to the waiting room.

After a short wait I was handed the films and we waited a bit longer for the orderly to come back and collect us. My mom especially liked this woman not just because her warmth was such a sharp contrast against the receptionist downstairs but because she sincerely told my mom she looked like our sister, not our mother. My mom does look young but doesn’t always believe it when we tell her. We were returned to the original waiting room where all of the seats were now empty but the red-haired guy was still there only now he was standing and talking very animatedly with the receptionist. Now that I could keep my eyes open I looked around the room some more and was even more shocked by how dingy, dark and bizarre it was. There were some Monet prints hung a little too high on a couple of the walls along with signs about patient rights. My surgeon is listed in New York Magazine as one of the top breast surgeons in the city and his office has photos of celebrities, is this where the fabulous people of New York have surgery? It is hard to imagine. Or maybe this is just one of those great equalizers. I just would have thought the great equalizer could have been nicer than the waiting area when one gets an oil change.

The surgery was the most uneventful part of the whole day – probably because I don’t remember most of it. The anesthesiologist explained that she would give me a sedative and that I would probably go to sleep but I wouldn’t necessarily be out completely. I told her I would prefer not to be awake and she said not to worry about it since I wouldn’t feel anything. She was right. After saying goodbye to my mom and sister, I was escorted into the operating room and the surgeon helped me onto the table while what seemed to me a large number of people bustled around the room. They put an oxygen mask on me and I was out. Except I have some strange memories about trying to talk during the surgery so I was clearly not out completely. Who knows what I said but I think I tried to tell them I knew they were cutting me open . . . or I was trying to ask them questions about what they were doing. I don’t know. But I did have a blue drape thing over my face because I remember opening my eyes at one point. Or maybe I didn’t since how could I have been talking with the oxygen thing on my face? At least I didn’t feel anything, I just worry what I may have said with all those drugs in me.

I woke up annoyed by the little oxygen tube in my nose but feeling fine otherwise. By the time I was completely awake my mom and sister were there with me and I was given apple juice and graham crackers and slowly sitting up. We didn’t wait too long before they told me I could change to go home. After I had changed my surgeon came to see me and told me how well the surgery went – no cancer, just normal breast tissue. He removed the tissue around the clip and my sentinel node but none of it appeared to be cancerous. It takes a week or so to get the final, definitive results from pathology but ultimately this is the best news we could get. He also commented that he thinks it will become standard to have chemotherapy before surgery because it is so successful. He also said (and I don’t think I realized this before) that I would have had a mastectomy had I chosen to have surgery instead of chemo back in May. I remembered him telling me surgery would be easier if I did chemo first but I don’t think I ever equated that with having a mastectomy. Ultimately, I’m happy with the result and pleased with the care I received – despite the weird waiting room.

We walked home after the surgery but I should probably clarify that the walk was very short and completely down hill. I live one long avenue block and two short blocks from the hospital and we walked very slowly with my mom holding one arm and my sister holding the other. I was home around noon and spent the rest of the day watching tv, sleeping and being taken care of by my mom and sister who fetched me food, water and timed my 30 minutes of icing altered with 30 minutes of non-icing. I didn’t have much pain as I took a Tylenol 3 and the ice and compression of a sports bra make it feel better as well.

Today I am still tired but I feel like that is just my normal state of being these days. The good news is I did manage to sleep all night last night which was a relief. I have a little bit of soreness today but nothing warranting pain medication since it is relieved by an ice pack. I am looking forward to tomorrow when I can remove the gauze and shower. I’m also one of those people who likes to look at what has been done to me so I am looking forward to removing the gauze to see how big the two incisions are.

I am also looking forward to watching the New York Marathon tomorrow with my sister to cheer on other people overcoming physical obstacles for a little inspiration. I still have a pretty long road ahead of me for physical recovery and I still have the final step of six weeks of radiation to complete so while I’m ready to celebrate having two out of three steps behind me, please be aware I still have a long way to go before I’m back to my self. I have high hopes for myself but I’m also having to remember to temper those expectations a bit with the reality that months of chemotherapy doesn’t disappear in a few weeks. As always, I appreciate everyone’s love and support and will continue to be a bit needy in that area for a few more months before we can definitively say it is behind us.
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