Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Surgery Update

March 19th, the day of my lumpectomy.

I was a bundle of nerves before the surgery. All the what ifs and questions running through my head.... What if it is worse than the tests have indicated? What if it is in my lymph nodes? What will I look like afterwards? Will I ever feel normal again? How am I going to wash my hair after surgery? 

We, (my husband, my son and I), arrived at the hospital at 6 a.m. The schedule was - prep upon arrival; Radiology at 7:30 for dye injection and scans; Surgery at 9:30.
So after my vitals were checked the ID bracelet was placed on my right arm and into the beautiful mint green paper attire I went. Next the iv line was started. I have small veins and sometimes it is quite the task getting the iv in, but the nurse was able to get it going with one try. Then we waited... around 7:45 they took me to Radiology. They told my husband and son that they would take me from Radiology to surgery and that the doctor would call the room when the surgery was over and I was in recovery. The injection wasn't too bad. The needle itself is small and the process is quick. They do have to move the needle around to inject the dye where it is needed. This dye helps in locating the sentinel node, (the closest lymph node to the tumor and likely the first node effected) and surrounding nodes. Once that was done, the doctor initialed my shoulder, and the tech moved me to the small table for the scans. They allot 2 hours for this test, everyone's body drains differently. I drained rather quickly and they were able to trace the dye and get the pictures needed for surgery within 45 minutes. Since the operating room wasn't available for another hour or so, the tech initialed my shoulder and I was taken back to my room to wait.
I did have to laugh with my son and husband about the initials on my shoulder, but I suppose it is another way to verify that the dye has been injected before surgery. Around 9:40 I was taken down to surgery. I was placed in the line of patients just outside the operating rooms for what seemed like an eternity. The doctors and anesthesiologist would come by, check charts, start an antibiotic and off they would go into the operating room. I remember it being a constant flow of masked people going by. Many of them asking if I was warm enough, they kept trying to cover me up, I was hot and kept kicking the covers off. There was a tv on the wall in front of me on some news channel but I had a hard time seeing it without my glasses. The next thing I remember was a nurse adding the antibiotic to my iv and a few moments later feeling my iv being moved and the anesthesiologist saying he was putting a little medicine in my iv, my eyes became very heavy I saw a huge dry erase board but couldn't focus on it...The next thing I remember was the sound of the heart monitor and a nurse asking me if I wanted ice chips.

Once in surgery the Dr. injected more dye to trace my lymph nodes. He then removed the sentinel node as well as two other lymph nodes. These were sent to the lab for a freeze test, (preliminary test) which gives them an indication to the need for more nodes for testing. If the lab says more nodes are needed for testing the surgeon will remove more nodes after the lumpectomy is completed.  The surgeon then performed the lumpectomy removing the entire tumor and surrounding tissue, giving me a little lift so as to create as normal as possible look. The lab was satisfied with removing only three nodes, so surgery was complete. 

I was taken back to my room where my husband, my son and now my daughter was waiting. I was given a Coke and a few crackers. They checked my vitals a few more times and made sure I was not feeling nauseous. My iv was removed, at home care instructions were gone over with me and my family, including how my present blue appearance would not last and that I shouldn't be alarmed with the blue pee I will experience for a couple of days, I got dressed and was ready to head home. (I truly had a blue tint to my face and upper body and had blue pee for two days - we are talking tidy bowl blue)   

On March 22, after receiving the complete lab results, he Dr. told me that the margins were clear (which means no other surgery will be needed) and so were my lymph nodes. I see him for a follow up appointment on April 4th and he will then refer me to an oncologists for treatment. 

My son took a leave from work this week and has stayed with me around the clock, taking excellent care of me, waiting on me, making sure I eat, doing laundry, taking care of the dog, taking me to the beauty shop close to my house to get my hair washed, etc.  His significant other has cooked dinner every night and kept the dishes washed up. My daughter has come by after class each day to help out. My neighbor, a retired nurse, has also been a huge help with changing bandages and making sure the incisions are healing properly. My husband has had several Court Hearings and work obligations so having everyone help out has been a Godsend.

This week, as I have gotten a little stronger and able to care for my self somewhat, my son went back to work. My husband is working from home as much as possible and my neighbor still checks in from time to time. I am still quite sore and unable to raise my left arm very high or use it much, thank goodness I am right handed, but I am doing as well as can be expected. It has not been easy and most of the time I am uncomfortable, but hanging in there both physically and mentally. 

I still have a long road to travel, but am trying to hang on to as much normalcy as I can.    

Sunday, March 17, 2013

An Emotional Rollercoaster

It has been three weeks since my last blog post. Three weeks that have gone by at a snails pace and have been one long emotional roller coaster ride. 

On February 22 I went in for a diagnostic mammogram, a follow up to an earlier screening mammogram. This is not the first time I have had to do this and I thought it was going to be just like the other four times, they take additional views, possibly an ultrasound and tell me it is nothing, we will do a follow up in six months, and make sure it hasn't changed or grown. 

Not this time. This time was different. Everything about it was different. The suspicious spot was on the other side, the left. The lady performing the mammogram stopped talking after taking one view on the left side. She had been quite talkative while doing the right side. She used different paddles on the machine, so that they could target a smaller area, something that had not been done on my previous diagnostic mammograms. When she was finished she asked me to have a seat in the small waiting area outside the mammography room. She said that she was wanted the Technician to look at the pictures to be sure that they were good pictures and that no further views were needed. After a couple of minutes another lady came and asked me to follow her that she was going to do an ultrasound. This in itself was not shocking, as the first time I had to have a diagnostic mammogram an ultrasound was performed. But again, this time was different. Before they had to search and find what was needing to be looked at. This time she went right to the spot, it was clear what she was looking at, (even I could see the difference on the monitor), I asked if it was the dark area that she was looking at, she answered yes but didn't talk to me much and took several measurements. At one point taking a clear plastic strip and measuring on my breast, again something different. She then left to speak with the technician to make sure that was all that was needed. When she returned. I asked if they had found something, she paused and I said, I know you aren't supposed to tell me. She then said yes and proceeded to tell me that the technician was writing the report now and would fax it over to my doctor within the hour, once again something very different. Previously I had been told that the doctor would receive the report in three to five business days.  So this is when the real concern began to set in. As soon as I got in my car I called my doctor's office, I knew that they closed early on Fridays but wasn't sure exactly what time. They were already closed. I spoke with the on- call service and was told that it would be Monday before the doctor would see the report. I thought to myself, this is going to be one long weekend. But, on Saturday morning I called the place where the test was performed and asked if I could pick up a copy of the report. Within thirty minutes I had the report in my hand... BIRADS score of 5... 95% chance of malignancy. Surgical consultation and biopsy recommended. I was numb....

I spent the weekend researching everything about breast cancer. The tests, the surgeries, the treatments, the statistics, I read it all. I also did a lot of crying.

Monday morning I called my doctors office. They hadn't even pulled the report off of the computer yet. The nurse read the report and said that she would call surgeons to see who could get me in the quickest for a biopsy. 

March 1, the following Friday I met with the surgeon. He specializes in breast surgery and came highly recommended by one of my friends. He looked at the pictures and the report from the mammogram and the ultrasound, examined me and then performed his own mammogram. His ultrasound machine was able to show different views and clearer pictures. He told me that he was quite concerned with the tests and that a biopsy was needed.

March 4, the following Monday I went back to his office for a Vacuum Assisted Core Biopsy. 
The procedure itself wasn't bad. A bit uncomfortable at times and unpleasant hearing the clicks and sounds of the equipment as well as watching the samples being passed over me and placed in the jar.  I was told to come back on Thursday for results. But on Wednesday morning I got a call from the surgeons office asking me to come in. They had received the results. It was confirmed... Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Oddly I didn't even cry. I think I was prepared for the diagnosis, I had gotten my crying out of my system and accepted that this was the hand I had been dealt. I was able to talk with the doctor about my options. 

This coming Tuesday, March 19th I will have a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy. This will be followed by radiation and possibly chemotherapy. 

If you are reading this and you are a person whom prays, I ask that you please say a prayer for me.  I truly believe that prayer does make a difference and that with the support of my family and friends I can get through this.