Friday I had a fun filled day starting with NO COFFEE. Oh, and a lot of poking and prodding and a little surgery. Less than a month after getting my breast cancer diagnosis I had a 1.3 cm lump (about the size of the tip of my index finger) removed from my left breast. I really appreciate all of my extremely supportive friends who have been helping me stay upbeat and positive throughout this whole process! Just a bit of daily radiation starting in a month or so and then this pesky cancer thing is all gone!
I was on vacation all of last week so having to get up for the alarm on Friday was a bit rough. But not having any coffee was the hardest part. Nothing to eat or drink after midnight – just like a Gremlin.
Sean and Rich dropped me off at St. Luke’s for a morning of appointments – I didn’t see the point in anyone hanging around when they couldn’t go in with me anywhere so I requested that no one show up before the surgery itself.
I went through admitting and they took me through the back corridors to the breast cancer center. There I waited well past my scheduled appointment time because the patient ahead of me was running late. Eventually they got me into the ultrasound waiting room where Bri, the same tech who did the ultrasound for my biopsy, was waiting. She gave me a hospital gown to change into but let me keep my yoga pants on for the morning’s appointments. She found the tumor and the metal clip they had inserted during the biopsy with the ultrasound and a new radiologist came in – she just moved to Boise from Seattle. Bri told her how I had watched the needle go in for the biopsy and watched every step of the biopsy needle sucking out the tissue. The radiologist used the ultrasound images to mark the desired spot (see the big black area in the images) then she inserted a thin wire down to where the clip is – this shows the surgeon where to cut.
They showed me on the ultrasound image how the wire was different “colors” every centimeter to help the surgeon judge the size and get all of the tumor. Each surgeon apparently has a favorite out of the hundreds of types of possible wires and this is the type that my surgeon Dr. Szentes prefers. The nurse measured twice to verify that the wire was sticking out by 14 cm, another double check that they had the wire inserted correctly in the right place. They coiled the end of the wire up and taped it down with gauze.
Next I went across the hall and had a couple of mammograms taken to verify that the wire was indeed in the right place. They handed me a copy of the films, told me I wouldn’t remember the next time they took mammograms right after the surgery, and sent me back to the ultrasound room. There they cleaned me up, put on more secure wrappings over the wire, and sent me to the next appointment.
Finding the sentinel nodes with nuclear medicine was the next step which took about an hour. I wrote about that in Nuclear Blue. Because they had scheduled two hours just in case I needed it and it took less than an hour at this point I was almost back on schedule –maybe 15-20 minutes late.
They sent me over to pre-op to wait. On the way to my bed the nurse grabbed me a warm blanket from the heater (130 degrees) and had me cover up as soon as I changed into the surgical gown. A few minutes later she replaced it with another, freshly warmed blanket.
At this point they said I could have visitors. Linda came in first. Then Krista came in and stayed while they had me sign consent forms and the surgeon put his initials on my breast to make sure he cut into the correct one. I asked him if he could take any gory pictures for my blog and he agreed to get me a copy of the tumor picture. If any of the sentinel nodes were especially odd he would have a pic taken of that as well.
Then they gave me the happy meds. Apparently Carol came in after that but I don’t remember this and have no idea why I stuck my tongue out….
The next thing I remember is the recovery nurse talking to me and Kate standing next to my bed. I immediately asked for coffee. After all, it was getting late in the day and I hadn’t had any yet! I was also hungry and had vanilla pudding (much better than chocolate!) and graham crackers. They also gave me a Vicodin and checked my vital signs. Dr. Szentes came in with a great gift – a very high quality glossy picture of the tumor! Oh, and the news that everything looked fine. They can’t say anything for sure until the final pathology report is back on Tuesday but the preliminary results look great. They got the whole thing with “clear margins” and the lymph nodes appear healthy. Because the lymph nodes (he took 2) looked so normal he didn’t take a picture of them.
It wasn’t very long before they let me get up and get dressed. I felt perfectly fine – not at all dizzy or light headed. But for some reason I couldn’t walk in a straight line. The nurse said that a lack of balance was normal after anesthesia. They wheeled me down to the main entrance and I got into Kate’s car with no problems. We drove through the pharmacy and picked up more Vicodin then headed to Starbucks – the hospital coffee just wasn’t sufficient. I ordered a heavenly pumpkin spice latte and we headed home. I was now walking in a straight line and felt great. Linda brought me soup and Carol, Emily, Kate, Linda, and Lucy stayed to play cards while we ate cheese and crackers.
While everyone left fairly early so I could rest (Sean and Rich stayed overnight in case I needed anything) I couldn’t sleep until after 2a. Emily loaned me a copy of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks so I got a really good start on reading that (I finished it Sunday night) and surfed the inter-webs. Saturday Terry and Linda took me on an excursion to Art in the Park where I bought too many earrings and ate roasted corn on the cob. When I got home it had been 24 hours since surgery so I was able to remove the outer dressing (only steri-strips are left and they stay on for two weeks) and take a shower. I went to bed early Saturday and slept 11 hours! Sunday I took it easy. Kate took me to breakfast and there was a short excursion with Carol involving a wheel barrow…. While I took Vicodin Saturday I was down to Tylenol on Sunday and expect to be pain-killer free Monday.
I figure if my biggest concerns were waiting all day for my first coffee and not being able to take a shower the next morning then things must be going pretty darn good! I look forward to healing up and getting back to a normal life. I am sending out a huge THANK YOU to all of my friends – I really appreciate your support!
Study: Quality of life for breast cancer survivors similar to that of women who never had the disease