Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Surgery #7 done!!!

Yesterday, I went into the ambulatory surgery center for TNBC-related surgery #7. Wow, considering that before last March I had never had surgery under general anesthesia, I sure have come a long way in the past year with a total of seven such surgeries... I must admit I'm growing a bit weary of all that cutting-type stuff, though. Perhaps I don't want to be quite as much on the "cutting edge" in the future...

In any case, my surgery yesterday was scheduled for noon. But then of course, surgeries later in the day almost always start a bit later than planned since previous surgeries run longer -- and yesterday's surgery was no exception. The delay wasn't that long, but still, it made it that much harder for the anesthesiologist to find a usable vein in my right hand since I'm so dehydrated and hungry after having been more than thirteen hours NPO, that my tiny veins hide even more than usual. So the anesthesiologist decided to use a "volunteer" vein on the underside of my wrist with "just a little bee sting" of lidocaine to numb that sensitive area. I protested, telling her that last time someone did that I ended up with paralysis and all kinds of issues for weeks. But she didn't listen. Boy did that "little bee sting" hurt badly -- and when she had the IV in, it kept burning like crazy. I knew right away something was wrong. But they had just pushed my "milk of amnesia" to put me out, so I didn't find out what (if anything) they did about it. 

When I came to in the post anesthesia-recovery unit, not only was I in pain, but nauseous to boot. So the nurse gave me some IV zofran, which burned like crazy. When I complained, she checked my line, and sure enough, my wrist was ballooning up as though I had an egg growing under my skin. Yikes, something had shifted and rather than go into my blood stream as they should, the meds were ending up in my soft tissues. Not good. The nurse had to call the anesthesiologist back out to check that IV line, and she decided to pull it. Ah, what a relief!

Some pain meds and quite a bit of waiting later, they moved me into a chair and called in DH to keep me company. The surgery had taken two hours, and I spent another two hours waking up before DH was allowed to see me, and then almost another two hours after that before I felt strong enough to go home. This was certainly one of the more nauseous recoveries from surgery that I have had... But I guess all those previous six surgeries and that little bit of poison to which I was treated last summer did leave their mark...

In any case, I'm glad this (hopefully) last reconstruction surgery is over. At this point, the nausea is much better, and the pain is reasonably well controlled with vicodin. On Friday, I go see my boob man to have the stitches removed. Until then, unfortunately, only sponge baths for me... I'm looking forward to that first post-surgery shower -- always do! Sorry if this is TMI...

Oh, I almost forgot: The funny thing was that while I was drifting in and out of sleep in the post-anesthesia recovery unit, all of sudden I saw my other surgeon, the butcher, walking around. He saw me, beamed at me, and said a quick hi. Oddly, once while I was recovering in that very same bay after having the surgery with him where he placed my chemo port, I happened to see my boob man walk by. When he saw me then and said hi, he examined my tissue expander and said it wasn't expanding right -- but not to worry he would replace it on Friday (it was a Tuesday then). Thus I was glad that my quick conversation with the butcher did not result in further surgery this week!

So surgery #7 is over, and all I need to do now is recover. I hope the last reconstructive touches came out nicely, so I can heal, move on, and have a reasonably realistic reconstruction of my old self. Let the healing begin!

Friday, March 12, 2010

One year later -- NED!

Yesterday I passed the one year mark of my cancer diagnosis -- and I am happy to say that I am NED. I'm doing well, feeling well, gradually growing my hair back, and trying to live as normal a life as possible. 

Last week I actually needed my first haircut in over eight months. Mind you, the last "haircut" before that involved DH, and various scissors and razors and was really more of a shave than anything... So my hair is growing very slowly (it first began showing up again last September, even as I was finishing up my chemo), but surely. It even came back pretty much the same as before, just a good bit grayer.

On March 29 I hope to complete my cancer-necessitated reconstruction with my hopefully last cancer-related surgery. My boob man will lift my right boob to make it match my left foob better, and he will also use the excess skin he will remove from my right boob during the lift in order to create a nipple-areola complex for my reconstructed foob. I love it when I can get a twofer from a single surgery! Actually, I'm getting another touch-up while I'm under, as I have a little depression or divot above my foob, where the butcher had removed breast tissue above up high on the chest, above where my implant now is. So he created an unsightly depression, which my boob man will fix with a "fat graft." So hopefully, after this last surgery, I will have a reasonably realistic and symmetric reconstruction -- and be done with surgeries for the foreseeable future!

I am most grateful, though, that I have made it through the first year since diagnosis without any evidence of residual or recurrent disease. For TNBC, this first year has one of the highest rates of distant recurrence (i.e., metastasis) of all kinds of breast cancer -- and it is associated with lower survival rates than other breast cancers (see this article for details). So making it to the one year mark with NED is a good start. Now all I've got to do is stay healthy, continue to exercise, avoid beef and other red meats, and try to eat a low fat diet. All of those should further help keep the beast at bay. 

But for the time being, I'm just happy to be alive and healthy!

P.S.: Since my last entry has apparently attracted some perverts who have used my cancer blog to post obscene comments in Japanese and Chinese, I have decided to enable comment moderation. I just don't want to give those people the opportunity to advertise their unsavory thoughts/sites on my blog. So it might now take a bit for legitimate comments to show up on the website, as I will review them first before posting -- please bear with me.