Saturday, March 26, 2011

Great week

What a great week this has been. Not only did my boob man remove my drain on Monday, which meant that I got to take my very first post-surgery shower on Wednesday morning, but on Friday I even had my stitches out. I am healing nicely! Better yet, on Thursday I went to the butcher for my post-surgery appointment with him and received a copy of the final pathology report. I am very happy to report that there was no evidence of malignancy evident in e removed tissue. Yay!!!

Thus the only real complications so far came in the form of terribly itchy little bumps that appeared first on my left foob, near the burn mark from an electrocautery knife that miraculously appeared after the surgery, then around the former drain site, and finally around the actual scar. The boob man's PA initially thought it was a fungal infection brought on by bacitracin, but I noticed that those bumps appeared a while after they would put one of those fancy new non-stick gauze pads on me with this new, clear tape. So now it looks as though I am allergic titular newfangled pad things. Go figure, yet another allergy. Moisturizer, e occasional application of a topical antihistamine, and careful avoidance of the possible sources of this allergy have much improved the situation from angry red to flesh color.

Another little issue arose around the center of my nipple (sorry if this is TMI, just skip the rest of this paragraph...) which apparently isn't getting enough blood. So it has necrotized/scabbed over, and apparently will fall off. While this has me feeling slightly alarmed, I have been able to control my anxiety until I see the final result. Overall, though, I am happy with the relative symmetry and general appearance of my boob man's handiwork. As of right now, my right foob still looks like it has approximately 100 ml more volume than my left one, but the surgeon assures me that this is due to residual swelling that ought to subside soon.

Today is the first day that I have been off my hard-won prescription painkillers. Yippee! Only over the counter stuff is needed at this point. It's nice not to be 'doped up' any more... I never could understand the supposed thrill of those pills. I never did like them, except for the fact that they take away the pain. If it weren't for that, I wouldn't even consider taking them. So why are those docs so worried I might actually get addicted to those pills? It's not like I ever showed any signs of addiction during my seven previous surgeries.

Well, anyway. I am very happy to report that this time around, recovery is much easier for me than it was the first time. this has been a great week for me as I have healed an regained quite a bit of strength, range of motion, and stamina. I have been out with my mom several times, met some work obligations, and spent some quality time with my mom. What a great week... Hope yours was equally good!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The luxury of recovering at home

Oh, what a joy and a luxury it is to be recovering at home! I am so glad to have escaped the noise and bustle of the hospital to recover in the comfort of my own home, under the tender, loving care of my mom and with the doggie curled up by my side.

I have been healing nicely, with my pain pretty well controlled by medication most of e time. While the pain meds work, I feel pretty swell, actually. When it's about an hour until I get to take the next pain pill, though, I sometimes wish the wait weren't quite that long. Without pain medication I would be quite uncomfortable. So it's a good thing to have those little magic pills that make the pain vanish.

Tis time around, the incisions seem to be much smaller than I expected them to be. They are healing nicely, although the presence of a surgical drain is always a bit uncomfortable. But it's tolerable. This morning the drain got clogged, though, and wouldn't reinflate after I stripped it. An hour's worth of milking and stripping later, the drain finally opened up again, and the serum color actually started changing from angry red to soothing pale straw. Sorry if this is TMI, but this color change is a good sign. Just in case you wanted to know...

So I am feeling pretty good overall. My mom, the dog, and I went for a nice stroll along the beach promenade today. It was the first warm and sunny day and I enjoyed the warm breeze off the sea and the smell of the briny deep. I even had the energy to stop by the grocery store afterwards. That's not too shabby for being only three days post-surgery!

The things that bother me the most at this point include the drain discomfort, tenderness at the site where the IV was, tenderness where some careless surgeon burned me with an electrocautery knife (two spots, one on my left foob and one on my left shoulder -- I'd really like to know how that happened...), and painkiller-related digestive discomfort. All in all these are relatively minor issues, though. I really cannot complain too much.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I'm baaaack!

Back home that is, ladies and gentlemen. As I had hoped, by Tuesday night the hospital was ready to send me home. Yes, apparently that is what too many wisecracks can do for a gal.

Until this morning I had issues with nausea, but a timely dose of Zofran helped me get over that and I managed to keep down my morning oatmeal. From that moment on, I improved rapidly as my pump was once again primed and my body could take nourishment.

Later in the day they took me off the Dilaudin pump, and also the saline since I could keep down liquids. Thus freed from my tethers I grabbed DH and together we enjoyed seven rounds of strolling around the entire general surgery station while making sure that as many nurses as possible observed my energy and feistiness. I spent the afternoon sitting with my mom, chatting and crocheting while waiting for the nurse to get the doctors to actually, physically sign off on thhe discharge they had promised me earlier in the morning (with the caveat, of course, that I had to be able to keep food down first...). By 6:30 the deed was finally done. I had done my teachback of emptying and "stripping" the surgical drain, reviewed my medication reconciliation sheet with the nurse, and received a parting gift of a pneumonia vaccine for good measure.

And now I am happily back home again, where things are comfy and mercifully quiet, and where the dog comes to snuggle up with me. No more blood pressure, temperature and oxygenation level checks every four hours. No more open bedroom doors facing a brightly lit hallway. No more roommates that are taken to the room at midnight. No more last batch of IV antibiotics that clot up the vein. Just good, old-fashioned care and recovery at home.

Thank you again to all of you who have helped carry me not only through my general cancer journey, but specifically this surgery on this big wave of love and support. I couldn't have done as well as I did without you!

I haven't had the time nor energy to answer individual emails in the past few days -- sorry about that. As I am now recovering at home I hope to catch up with that email backlog soon, so please bear with me. I'll be baaack...

Yipee, this may really be the last TNBC-related surgery!

The news is all good. This really may be my eighth, and final final TNBC-related surgery. The nipple-sparing mastectomy part of the surgery went well, as did the immediate reconstruction. So this time around, I woke up with an even chest, not a terribly lopsided one. Hooray!

This time around, I also insisted on better pain control, which I eventually received. On the upside, I have no cramping and very little pain this time around. There is a downside, though, as the better pain meds make me pretty nauseous so that despite a mix of anti-nausea meds, I have not yet been able to keep down any food. I'm waiting for breakfast this morning and hoping that today's attempt at consuming food and actually metabolizing it will be more successful than yesterday's.

Yesterday afternoon I go up already and sat in a chair for a while. Since last night I've been walking to the bathroom (with a nurse present, for safety) when I needed to. I'm progressing well on that front and plan to go cruising the hallways today to become officially ambulatory.

The big goal is to be allowed to go home tonight. Other than my nausea, I am progressing well towards that goal, but unless I manage to keep down food, they will not let me go. So keep your fingers crossed...

Monday, March 14, 2011

DH report,

Both surgeries went fine! First, the oncologist came out after two hours to tell me that his part was finished and that the frozen sections (a rapid, initial test for cancer-like cells) was negative. Two hours later the plastic surgeon emerged to tell me that it appears that the reconstruction was completed today and that we won't need a follow-up surgery. When the patient is feeling up to it, she will add more effusive and enlightening comments.

Mastectomy day is here!

So we got up, I forget exactly when, but the technical term, I'm pretty sure, is "way before the crack of dawn" and drove to the hospital. As I am typing this, I am in the same day admitting waiting area and DH just came in after parking the car. We are all geared up and ready to go.

The last week has been a whirlwind of sorts, as I have been trying to get ready, get some spring cleaning done before I can no longer lift my arms, and tie up loose ends. My mom flew in on Saturday and has helped out tremendously already. But I've been very busy, so I haven't managed to reply to all those loving and supportive messages I have received. So let me say thank you here instead. I really, really appreciate the wonderful support from my awesome family and friends! Thank you SO much. I feel as though I am riding a big old wave of love and comfort into this surgery. This time around, the mastectomy has me nowhere near as nervous as the first time.

So soon it shall be my final goodbye to boob(s) -- and hello to all silicone!

DH will post the first post-surgery update, and I will follow up when I feel good enough. Thanks again for all of your kind and loving support. So here it goes... Peace and out.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

As we thought, pathology was benign

There is good, though expected, news regarding the pathology report from that fibroma I had removed two weeks ago. I received a call from the butcher today, informing me that not only was he able to remove the entire thing, but that it was benign as we thought. So that is good news all around, and certainly important news to receive! Yay, one more strange growth on my body turned out to be benign! It still makes me wonder, though, why my body is apparently so good at growing things that don't belong...

Anyway, next week I will have my various pre-surgical appointments for the prophylactic mastectomy on the 14th, so that will keep me busy. Besides, I have some stuff I want to wrap up before the surgery, as I know that I won't be able to do certain things for a while. Plus, since my mom is flying in next weekend to help take care of me for the first two weeks after surgery (DH will have to work, and work late, too), I have to get the house cleaned and ready for that. Yay for moms that swoop in to help out their kids! It's wonderful to have so much support... Thanks, mom!

So I'm gradually getting ready for the big surgery. I even have a mastectomy buddy this time around, fellow TNBC gal Julie who received her diagnosis just a few weeks ago and is scheduled for a double mastectomy the same day and time as I am (although hers will take place in an entirely different city). The idea is to stay in touch and give each other encouragement and support. Since this is my second mastectomy, I already have some experience with what is likely to happen and hope to be able to share some tips with Julie as we recover. If you feel so inclined, stop by Julie's blog at and drop her some words of encouragement as she proceeds through her TNBC journey.