Squeezing in a quick post before the norco kicks in to report that everything went as planned, I’m home again, in hella pain, and Mike is the dearest man in the land.
Also, I’m stuffed into compression garments and wraps from sternum to kneecap. Feel like a tied pork loin. Sexy!
Can’t sleep, which for once works in my favor: no liquids allowed after 4 a.m. Until then it’s clear liquids only, including coffee if you take it straight up. Which I do.
Might stay overnight at the hospital. Might not. Slipped a toothbrush and the extra-long iPhone cord given to me by a thoughtful coworker into my tote just in case.
Check in is at 5:45. Need to chug some water. But first, I’m finishing my coffee.
Just because I haven’t posted recently doesn’t mean things haven’t been simmering. Trying to maintain normalcy (exercise, work, dates with husband and friends)—but feeling pretty far from normal, to be honest.
Surgery is scheduled for September 19th. While I do love the thrill of anticipation, am not exactly checking the countdown clock for this one. Breast reconstruction and hysterectomy go together like nuts and gum in my book.
On the one hand, I’m ready to say goodbye to this bulky, pokey, very uncomfortable tissue expander and start on the road to a newish body.
On the other, I’m feeling pretty anxious about having a hysterectomy. Lots of parts up in that there region and the list of “what-ifs” from my gynecological surgeon was long.
Just learned of a side effect of Tamoxifen from the pre-op physician: A reduction in the ability to store iron in the blood. This in turn lowers one’s hemoglobin to suboptimal levels, which increases complications during surgery and often requires a blood transfusion. (And I thought hot flashes, insomnia, hair loss, joint pain, and fatigue were causes for concern.) All of you blood donors out there: thank you, thank you, thank you.
After some initial healing, I’ll be back onboard the PT train. Hoping to continue the rapid progress I’ve made with arm function. Also praying there’s minimal need for pelvic floor physical therapy. Yes, that is a thing (gulp, also for men!) and it can be life-changing but that stuff is no joke.
So, Mike and I have been stocking up on household items, loading the freezer, and going out to dinner before a couple of weeks of forced hibernation.
Went back to work this week. It was…scary and wonderful. Apologies to my kind-hearted colleagues for cringing at every “Welcome back!” hug. Accolades to those who brought in doughnuts, offered to carry my laptop, and understood when I needed to work from home.
Reconstruction surgery has been scheduled for mid September.
With Mike as my witness, the plastic surgeon told me not to lose any weight until then. He wants as much blubber as possible for “fat harvesting” during his rebuilding effort. Pretty sure he’ll have plenty to work with. My early morning exercise routine shall not cease.
Bonus: Hysterectomy will happen during the same surgery! I do love a bargain.
Met yesterday with both my surgical and medical oncologists.
Word from my surgeon: See you in 6 months.
From my medical oncologist: Do no harm.
We finally have the final pathology report and the results of the Oncotype DX test, which examines the genetics of breast cancer tumors and ranks the likelihood of cancer recurrence on a scale of 0 to 100. This governs the recommendation of what type of treatment is needed.
My score came back at 8, which is all kinds of incredible. My form of cancer is not aggressive. No chemotherapy is needed.
To help prevent what appears to be a very slim chance of recurrence, the only form of adjuvant treatment I’ll need is a daily dose of anti-estrogen. For 5 years.
Because my form of cancer is hormone-receptor positive, hormone therapy will limit estrogen’s effects in the body, which will in turn block cancer cells’ ability to hitch a ride with estrogen and spread destruction. Starting on tamoxifen soon.
Where do I see myself in 5 years? This is the only time I’ll even consider answering that vapid interview question: Not taking hormones, thank you.
SO…we’re off the hook in a big way. Mike and I are relieved and filled with gratitude.
But still not off this crazy train: Physical therapy twice a week for the next two months. Expansion sessions at the plastic surgeon’s office once a week. And we need to make a plan for exchange surgery, IUD removal, and possible hysterectomy.
Feeling relieved, anxious, sore, and optimistic over here.
Met this week with the radiation oncology team. After a lengthy examination and detailed breakdown of pros and cons, it’s not recommended that I go through radiation treatment. Given the long-term risks of being zapped repeatedly by X-rays, I’m 100% willing to accept this guidance.
Also started physical therapy. I have a long way to go before my right arm is fully functional, but I’ve been cleared to do any physical activity as long as there’s no pain.
Except for swimming. Still have a gazillion stitches.
Three weeks out from surgery and am still pretty sore and numb and generally uncomfortable.
And I feel pretty vulnerable out in public. Like, more than the usual sense of panic whilst among people. Gentle hugs and big thanks to girlfriends who’ve been getting me out of the house to ease back into circulation.
Am getting used to the complexities of this new body order. Went to the dentist yesterday, just in case there’s chemo. Might need a hysterectomy due the fact that the IUD currently treating uterine complex hyperplasia is a no-no for my type of breast cancer.
Physical therapy, tissue expansion, and radiation oncology consult tomorrow. Treatment plan should be mapped out next week.
We’ve had a rough couple of weeks. I’m uncomfortable and sad and pretty useless around the house. Mike went back to work but still has to do everything. And our beloved Lucy the Nurse Cat died on Saturday.
Aside from taking walks around the neighborhood to see the latest in street art/graffiti, we’ve been trying to lay low. Sorry for hiding, friends, but we just can’t right now. FCK CNCR, indeed.
Some news to report for this week, though. On Monday, we met with my medical oncologist. He was very patient and thorough—and frustrated. Turns out the pathology report isn’t final yet. And more testing is needed. Won’t know if chemo and/or radiation are required for another 2 weeks.
More concrete action happened this morning: After 17 days of pinning it to my waistband, clipping it to a lanyard around my neck in the shower, and stripping it on the daily, my unwelcome sidekick, Drain No. 2 was removed. With Mike as my witness, it was gross but did not hurt.
Today also marked the start of a visually disturbing chapter in breast reconstruction: Expansion. Every few weeks, 50 CCs of saline will be delivered into the tissue expander under my skin via a very large shot. Picture the scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta jabs Uma Thurman with a giant syringe after she ODs. Only we were in a doctor’s office downtown and they used a little magnet gadget to find the opening of the port in the tissue expander. Also, no heroin.
Didn’t hurt at the time. Does now.
Yesterday I had my first post-op check-in with the plastic surgeon. As the last one at the table, he’s in charge of wound care.
Dressings came off. Everything looked as expected except for the hive remnants. The burning, muscle spasms, and numbness I feel in my armpit, arm, back, sternum, and chest are normal. Thankfully, the skin- and nipple-sparing efforts were successful.
One of two surgical drains was yanked out by a well-groomed resident. I reckon there’s a more technical term for the gentle unthreading of a spigot from under one’s skin, but it hurt like hell and make me feel dangerously nauseous. The second one comes out next week. Can’t wait.
Still anxiously waiting for the pathology report.
Not surprising that a grateful heart is good for one’s psyche. Despite reaching peak misery this week, I’m truly thankful for what and whom I have.
Today’s appreciation list:
- Mike for guarding my solitude and for following doctor’s instructions thoroughly, even when it causes me pain.
- My mother for giving Mike a break. And for vacuuming.
- The best hairman in the world for yesterday’s restorative sudsing.
- Generous friends for bringing food, chauffeuring me around, sending flowers* and cards, checking in, sharing useful items I didn’t know I needed, and making CVS runs.
- The Headspace app guy’s posh accent.
- Fresh fruit and Parisian flan for breakfast.
*To whomever forgot to sign the gift card: The white roses are lovely!