Results are in…

Just a quick update:

The surgeon called today with the results of the pathology report. The cancer was completely removed from my breast, no cancer remaining. Lymph nodes were clear of cancer. Officially no detectable cancer remains. Woo-hoo!

(As a precaution and part of lumpectomy procedure, I’ll still need to complete 6 weeks of radiation to make sure there are no itty bitty particles hiding somewhere in there.)

Surgery recap and the morning after

Surgery day started at 6:30 a.m. My mom and Lauren drove me to the hospital and stayed with me through pre-op stuff.

Around 8, I was wheeled to the Radioactive Room to have nuclear isotopes injected in my breast. These isotopes would lead the surgeon to the main lymph nodes under my arm (the sentinel nodes). If the cancer spread, there would be signs in these nodes.

I was transferred to a narrow table and told to relax. The doctor came in and explained she would inject four needles into my breast, as close to the nipple as possible. I was told it would feel like bee stings. (But BEE STINGS – in my BREAST! Ouch!)

A nurse held my hand as the doctor injected the isotopes. The first two injections were like bee stings. The third, I didn’t even feel. The fourth, though, hurt like hell. The doctor explained that I would have imaging for about the next 40 minutes, and if the isotopes weren’t moving, she’d have to inject me again four times. If THAT didn’t work, there would be a Geiger counter in the operating room that the surgeon would use to identify the sentinel nodes. A Geiger counter?! How radioactive was I going to be?

Imaging wasn’t bad. Thirty minutes for the first images, seven for the second, and four for the third. The isotopes did not move. The doctor came back in for the second set of injections. All four hurt…major pain and not “bee-like” at all. A second set of images were taken, and the isotopes moved to where they needed to be. My underarm was marked where the main nodes were located, and I was sent to the mammography center.

In the mammogram room, I sat in a chair for the imaging. The point was to find the clips from the original biopsy and mark the clips with guide wires for the surgeon. After four attempts – three of which I was standing, the tumor located near the breast wall, and farther back than the other, was found.

“Are you very squeamish?” the doctor asked.

“Um, no, I don’t think so, but no one has ever approached my breast with a nine-inch needle before,” I said.

“Don’t pass out,” she said. Since she’d have to put the wire in with me standing (the only way we could “find” the tumor) passing out was a possibility.

“One, two, three,” the doctor said and passed a needle in my breast. I was prepared for pain, but felt almost nothing. About three inches of the wire was inside, about six inches left outside my body as a guide.

The second tumor was easier to find and mark, although I was worried about the mammogram panels (the part that squeezes you) hitting the first guidewire and pushing it through my breast. When the second needle/guidewire was placed, the nurses put both under a Styrofoam cup and taped the cup to my chest. This was to “protect” the needles from movement before I was taken to surgery.

I had almost two hours before surgery, so I was taken back to my room. B was there, and having him close while I’d be in surgery made me feel better.

Surgery was about four and a half hours. The first thing I was told when I woke up was that the lymph nodes were clear – meaning no signs of cancer! Both the breast surgeon and plastic surgeon said the procedures went great, no surprises. A few hours after surgery, I was discharged and B drove me home.

Today, I’m aware, but not in much pain, on the areas of incision (a small one in the side of my breast – where the surgeon removed the tumors, a larger one under my breast and one around my areola – both part of phase one of reconstruction, and one on my side past my arm – holding a drain for any fluid build up). I’m in a surgical bra for the next seven days, only able to remove it for showering or washing it.

I know the breast is swollen, but from what I can see, I’m quite pleased. The size (compensating for the swelling) and shape are fantastic. It makes the left breast look kind of sad and floppy (reconstruction on that side won’t happen until next spring).

Overall, I slept great last night, and I feel really good today. So good, in fact, that I’m under the very watchful eyes of my mom and kids to make sure I do NOTHING today, even though I feel like I could do stuff. (They’re okay with me typing, but not lifting my computer…) I’m on restrictions for the next four weeks – primarily no lifting more than FIVE pounds, and limiting activities that increase heart rate and blood pressure. Those are going to be hard rules to follow, if I continue feeling this good.

Fingers crossed for a quick and easy recovery.

I’ve been Sharpie’d

Surgery’s tomorrow.

I feel comfortable in my decisions. I fully trust my medical team. B will be there for me tomorrow. I feel pretty good going into the day. I just need to get through the surgery to keep on track with the treatment plan (radiation next, then reconstruction).

Today was filled with doctor appointments and pre-surgery stuff. In between the stuff relating to my surgery, Ethan had a cardiologist appointment in the afternoon. He was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, and he’s monitored every few years to make sure the valve isn’t leaking. Good news: he’s good to go for another two years.

My big appointment today was the “marking” visit with the plastic surgeon. I figured there’d be a couple of lines, like where the incision would be, but…

This was a “no pomp and circumstance” kind of appointment. Just right to the point. Change into a gown. Doc in the room right away carrying a large bin of Sharpies.

He sat on a chair, face level with my breasts and started with a thick black marker making a vertical line directly down the middle of my chest – collarbone to half way to the belly button. Then the underboob, both sides. He lifted my breast, made the line, tracing the natural curve, then dropped the breast. Flop! I’m not as perky as I was 20 years ago, but I’ve never felt so “floppy” in my life.

Next a bullseye sort of pattern on the right side. Four rings from mid-breast to nipple. He drew another vertical line from collarbone to the center of my right breast. And a vertical line from the nipple to the outside of the breast.

The doc then switched Sharpies. He picked up a red one and drew a two-inch line in between the lines making the bullseye. “This is where the surgeon can make her incision,” he said. “There’s plenty of room to work within the length of this line.”

A few more lines completed the design, then he unwrapped a sterile, orange-capped marker. With surgical scissors, he pulled out the felt tip of the marker and used the tip to retrace all the black and red lines. He labeled a few things, then we were off to the photography room again.

Seeing the image of the lines on the computer screen next to the images taken during my last appointment was weird. I hadn’t realized just how many lines he drew, and how some of them were already “running” ink across my skin.

I was ushered back to the exam room, told to change back into my clothes, and waited for the nurse to conduct the patient education session.

We talked drain maintenance, pain meds, bra requirements (24-hours a day for the surgical bra until my follow-up visit) and physical restrictions (lifting nothing over 10 pounds and not engaging in any activity that will raise my blood pressure for a month).

I had two pre-op calls to clarify my medical records and reiterate restrictions before surgery. Now I wait for 6:30 a.m., when I need to be at the hospital. Whew!