Monday, July 31, 2017

Now That They Are Gone

I admit. I was a bit apprehensive Monday morning as we sat in the pre-op area of Sibley Hospital. With my IV in, numerous consent forms signed, redundant questions like "what's your full name and birth date" repeated and answered, we waited to meet the anesthetist, and my surgeons. Liz held my hand and rubbed my head as the tears came. It was clear I was sick. Very sick. And I needed a team of professional medical folk to make me better. My biggest unknown was whether there was residue cancer still in my breast and that - god forbid - it had spread to my lymph nodes.

To locate the lymph node that would tell the surgeon important information, she needed to located the "sentinel node" that first node in the series of nodes throughout the body and see if it contained cancer cells. A large man named Carl entered my pre-op area with what looked like a tiny metal tool box. Inside that tiny box was some sort of nuclear medicine that my surgeon - under Carl's watchful eye- would inject into my left nipple and then continuous massage throughout my breast while holding me down from running out of the room. Not pleasant.

 My surgeon would then locate my sentinel node via a Geiger counter - ???? during surgery. Remove it and then have it biopsied while I was on the operating table. If the node was positive, the surgeon would continue to remove nodes until she was certain she removed all with cancerous cells. Apparently as a backup to the nuclear thing I will also injected with blue dye during surgery. I peed blue for 24 hours.

 My surgery was scheduled for 4 1/2 hours and I was out in 2. Luckily I do not have any complications with  anesthesia and within 30 minutes or so I was reunited with Liz and wheeled up to my room. I was up roaming the ward within a few hours and I spent a night in the hospital - BTW, Sibley has great Mac n cheese and carrot cake. After quick consultations with both surgeons early the next day, I was released and went home.  I'm always so thankful for the nursing staff. I was well looked after and well taken care of.

Liz has been a trooper with keeping up with yet a new list of meds ( I'm on a steady diet of valium and Cipro) and emptying my drains every eight hours. I got my first look at my new chest and while I did shed a few tears, I knew it meant for me I was on my road to healing - and it would be ok. It will be a big relief to us both to have the drains pulled as early as Tuesday of this week.

This coming week brings a slew of followup appointments with my plastic surgeon to see how I'm healing and hopefully have the drains removed, with my cancer surgeon to discuss what she found, with my radiologist to see if I need further treatment, and with my oncologist to help us interpret all of it.

I very much want to say that I'm a cancer survivor. That I'm ready to move onward with my life. To honor those who battled this disease  before me. To be there for those who will battle it after me. To do what I can to play a part it finding a cure. Fuck Cancer.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Herding Cats - WWKD

My need for bras  - FOREVER - ends in 6 days. A week from today, July 24th - I am scheduled to have a double mastectomy. For those not familiar with that medical term, it means I have will have BOTH boobs removed.

As you will kindly recall, cancer was discovered in one of them (left one to be exact) earlier this year and I'm not interested in the stress, worry or general hassle of ensuring it doesn't comeback in the right one. So she's leaving too.  That's not to say, my cancer won't return in another part of my body. In fact, there's a fairly good chance it will show up elsewhere should it return, but having both breasts removed is the best personal decision I can make to keep the cancer at bay for as long as I can.

In any case, they are both coming off in a week.
I - like most women -  have a drawer full of bras: everyday ones, sports ones, pink ones, poka dotted ones, blue ones, white ones, black ones. Strangely sad, I won't need ANY of them come next week. So as I wear them this week, I'm saying my good byes.  I've worn a bra since the age of 10 or 11. For 40 plus years. And for 40 plus years I've searched for the "perfect" bra - never found it. The good news I can stop searching, I guess.

The process to remove my boobs takes a medical village of sorts. I currently have four physicians involved. Each one has a specific role. One to cut them off and to cut out any remaining cancer, one to make the scars as minimal as possible, one to figure out next steps in the fight against cancer, and one to look after my general health and well-being. Each one prescribing meds, giving me instructions, poking and testing and giving their blessing I'm ready.  Unfortunately they don't always talk to each other and so I've spent a good deal of time this past week or so (and stress) sharing with one what I've been told by another to make sure everyone is on the same page.  If I've learned anything thru this I've learned to be a pain in the ass until I get the information I need and the answers I seek. I can't tell you how many times I've said to I don't remember how many different people these past few weeks that my worse nightmare is going to get my boobs (and my cancer) cut out only to discover I needed a test, should have gotten an ok from someone and didn't. No one and nothing is preventing me from having this surgery Monday. And if I have to herd them cats to ensure it happens then so be it.

BTW - My hair is returning. And as I predicted it is grey.
Yet I continue to lose my eye brows and eye lashes. Weird.

Walking to the dentist today, I was confronted by a nice young person raising awareness for Amnesty International. If you've ever come across these folks they stand on the sidewalk, or come to your door, seeking your attention and interest for usually a good cause. In any event, I didn't have time to stop and chat and as I walked by very politely declining his request to chat, he asked if I was interested in saving lives. That got me. Yea, I'm interested. I'm interested in saving my own life right now. Priorities dude. 

The reality of this is hitting hard. I have cancer. In a week, I won't have any breasts. Like Forever. This shit is life changing. 

I am faced with heading into this next stage of my fight without the strongest, most generous, most courageous woman I've ever known. She lost her seven-year battle with breast cancer this month. Every Thursday before my chemo, she would rise above her own pain, her own fear and she would cheer me on. She constantly told me she was proud of me. During our last visit as she struggled to keep food down, she looked me in the eye and told me how proud she was of me. She was my hero, my Wonder Woman, my coach through the hardest fight of my life, a role model of bravery and perseverance. WWKD.?...she'd fight like hell to live. Ride on, my friend.

Please continue to root for me.