Lumpectomy

My bad…I just realized this post was still a draft and never went live. Whoops! Insert this around January 24, mmmkay? Thanks!

Howdy! Everything went great yesterday, but it was a long day and I was pretty loopy last night.

Here’s the rundown:

Arrived at hospital around 9:00am. Let’s face it, it was downtown at the tail end of rush hour, I wasn’t getting there at 9:00 on the dot. I had to hit snooze for the appropriate amount of time, shower, pick up my prescriptions…you know the drill.

After admitting, I went to the waiting room and went to my pre-op room pretty quickly. Did the whole vitals and IV thing.

Then I went to nuclear medicine for the contrast dye injection, which highlighted the lymph nodes the cancer could spread to, the ones associated with the ducts. That was easy and painless. This time while in nuclear medicine, I was singing “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons in my head.

From there I went down to the Breast Center for the wire locator. The wire locator was literally a wire (two actually since I had an area of calcification that Dr B wanted to go ahead and take care of as well) inserted into my boob via needles. They were sticking out the side after insertion, it was quite weird. They were super thin and bendy though, sort of like a stiff fishing line, if that makes sense. This process stung a little bit, but it still didn’t hurt exactly. And for both this and the dye injection, I had a local anesthetic – Lidocaine. Oh, and this was mammogram guided, so I had another mammogram! Yay…

After that, I returned to my pre-op room. I took a while downstairs, spent a few minutes here and there waiting, so once I got upstairs I had people waiting on me for the next stuff.

Dr H (plastic surgeon) was there, and he marked me up for the reconstructive stuff. In addition to the nipple preservation (which is the reason I am having a lumpectomy and then a mastectomy in two separate procedures, for anyone who was wondering and hasn’t asked or who I didn’t have an answer for at the time), he shifted things around on the right side (reconstruction) and did a reduction on the left to match the right.

Then came the anesthesiologist. My favorite people. I just think the whole concept of general anesthesia is so cool. They’re like magicians…now you see me, now you don’t! Anyway, I got a nerve block for this procedure. He said it’s something they do with major breast surgeries that works a little bit better than general anesthesia alone. So he gave me a little bit of a sedative, Brad said his goodbyes, and they inserted the lines for the nerve block, one on each side of my back/spine. I had to sit up and sort of lean forward with my head on the table how you would for a seated massage. Also painless.

Then Dr JB came in and talked to me for a few minutes about the lumpectomy. Then I was rolled down to the OR, I moved from the stretcher to the operating table, I remember saying something about not having been awake in the operating room before, then it was lights out.

So I woke up groggy and my mouth and throat were super dry. I felt a little nausea, but that could have been due to the dryness from having the breathing tube. They did give me a good dosage of nausea meds through my IV (and morphine) before they removed it, just in case. I felt the meds coming in the IV, it was weird but didn’t hurt. I drank some cranberry juice and felt pretty good after a few minutes. I still have the nerve block, though not as high a dosage. I’ve got these two pouches that each have a bocci ball side rubber belly thing with meds. They give a slow drip of meds to the nerve block to keep things numb and keep me comfy. I increased the right side last night before bed since that side stings a bit. I got my discharge instruction, then I got dressed, and we were discharged. This was around 5:45 I think.

Traffic was a mess going home. Rush hour from downtown, up 61 through West Ashley is never fun. But we eventually made it to my parents’ house where we spent the night so I’d have adult supervision today to ease Brad’s nerves.

I hadn’t eaten since dinner time the night before, so I had half a Publix sub when I got to the ‘rents. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to eat (ha-ha), but I needed to get something inside so I could take the pain medicine. I took baby bites and was able to eat the sandwich over about an hour. I did take some Zofran, just in case, but no nausea.

I slept in the recliner last night because I figured it was the easiest way to stay on my back. Even if I fall asleep on my back, sometimes I end up on my side. Aside from Daisy waking me up to pee at 4:15, I slept well.

Woke up feeling some sting on the right side still, and took another pain pill with breakfast. Hopefully that’ll knock that out.

Overall I feel great. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as pain goes, and I’m sure the nerve block has something to do with it, but I feel good and that makes me happy. I’m having no trouble with movement, aside from a little soreness in my right underarm area, but I feel like I’ll be back to being (semi-) independence soon! I can’t lift anything for 4 weeks (ugh), but everything else should be good to go in no time.

I’m just finishing breakfast and the pain pill, Nucynta, should be kicking in soon, so I’m going to hit the recliner again!

Adios!

It’s been a while!

Happy New Year!!

Sorry I haven’t checked in since before Christmas. I was chemo sick during the holiday and haven’t had much new stuff to report.

I can say that I didn’t have the texture issues with food that I have had in previous cycles, with the exception of potatoes last week. I had steak fries at lunch on Friday when we went out for Brad’s birthday, and the texture of the fries felt gritty and gross. Same problem with McDonald’s fries when Brad and I were road-tripping. I’ve been avoiding French fries ever since. Probably not entirely a bad thing, but I can’t say I’ll never eat another French fry again. Ha. Right.

All in all, the fatigue this cycle has been brutal as always, and I’ve had this insane sinus garbage going on. The sinus issues are causing an evil post-nasal drip that will not go away, and subsequent dry cough, particularly in the AM and late PM. I tried a humidifier, and I’m not sure if the humidifier doesn’t work, or if the humidifier just isn’t helping. So there’s that. I’ve also tried a variety of meds. Most alleviate some, but not all, of the symptoms, so it’s just not worth it to take them. I have enough of a cocktail going on.

I took the generic Prilosec for heartburn this time around, and it either worked or I didn’t have heartburn, at least not in the beginning of the cycle. I started taking it the evening of chemo as sort of a preventative measure, and like I said, it either worked or I never had the heartburn, which works for me either way. I did have heartburn a couple days ago, and a combination of Tums and Prilosec knocked it out. Yay.

Diarrhea is still super present. It’s been the one constant through this entire experience. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I’m finally regular again. It has become the new normal for me to be irregular, but I’ve learned how to manage and alleviate some of the less than desirable things associated with diarrhea (which, let’s get real here, is pretty much everything associated with diarrhea). Vaseline is my best friend. I even bought one of the small tubs (normally used as lip gloss) to keep in my purse for emergencies.

My last chemo is January 8th. I’m super excited for that part of this journey to be over and done with. I’ll still have to go for injections for the hormones, and I’ll find out the schedule for that on the 8th, but the days won’t be as long and the side effects won’t be as bad (except for the hot flashes, yuck!).

I hope everyone reading has had a nice holiday season! Despite feeling utterly crappy on Christmas, I had a nice day. And despite falling asleep before midnight last night, I had a nice evening yesterday as well.

Good news!!

Sorry for the radio silence over the last week or so. I haven’t had anything new to report since the bronchitis. I’ve just been laying low, getting well, and enjoying my good days.

I had my ultrasound with Dr. JB today, as well as my consult with the plastic surgeon, Dr. H.

First we did the surgical consult and talked about the lumpectomy, mastectomy and reconstruction stuff. Now remember, I’m not a medical professional and may not use the correct terminology here, but hopefully you’ll get the gist of it.

The lumpectomy would take place about 2-3 weeks after my last chemo treatment (Jan 8). Recovery would be about a week, I believe it’s an outpatient procedure.

About 3 months after that is when the mastectomy and reconstruction would take place. This would involve about a 5 day hospital stay and about 6 weeks of recovery. As I mentioned in a previous post, they can use belly fat (which would be my choice over artificial implants), which would essentially add a tummy-tuck to the procedure. Using belly fat eliminates the need to return to the plastic surgeon in a few years to have the implants/spacers replaced. Dr. H talked about what he’d do, and that includes transplanting arteries to keep the fat tissue alive when they move it to the breast. They also transplant a piece of skin attached to the fat, sort of a lemon shape, that will stay on the outside of the breast and be monitored to make sure the tissue stays alive. I guess if that skin dies, it’s an indication that the tissue has died as well. After a certain amount of time (I don’t remember what he said), they’ll remove that skin from the outside. Please see my horrible drawing below, which is sort of like Dr. H’s drawing at the appointment today. That’s what it would look like when the skin is there, after they remove the skin, it would just be a line-like scar in that same place.

So, the options are still just the lumpectomy, lumpectomy and a single mastectomy, or lumpectomy and a double mastectomy. The lumpectomy alone leaves me with the highest risk of new cancer in either breast, and recurrence of the existing cancer in the right breast. Single mastectomy reduces the risk of new cancer in that breast, but doesn’t eliminate it, and does nothing to reduce the risk in the other breast. Double mastectomy reduces the risk of new cancer in both breasts significantly, but also doesn’t eliminate it entirely.

So, regardless of what I choose to do, there’s still going to be risk. It’s likely I will face this again in the future, but we’re talking many many years into the future when it’s possible there’s some new and (hopefully) less evasive treatment.

So after the surgery talk was over, we did the ultrasound.

And…drumroll please…

There was nothing there!! The cancer is gone!

Yes, we can still feel JP, but he’s not showing up on the ultrasound, which means he’s blending with the other we can also feel that he’s much smaller than he was in the beginning. He was very apparent on the first ultrasound, so this is great news!

I still have three rounds of chemo left, the next one being Monday after my little break for Thanksgiving. Why more chemo if the cancer is gone? Because it will grow back. So before they do the lumpectomy, they want to shrink everything as much as they can so they can get the best margins.

Lots of information today, lots for me to think about. But today we’re celebrating that I kicked cancer’s ass. 😉

The Pros of Losing My Hair Follow Up

I’ve been without my hair for a couple weeks now, so I wanted to follow up to see if I was right or wrong about some of these pros I listed while looking at the bright side of hair loss. 

– Hair Clogs In Drain: Truth! I actually stopped to listen to the sound of water going straight down the shower drain this morning, versus the soundlessness when it has to bypass hair clumps.

– No More Shedding: Not quite there yet. I still have a buzz, and those hairs are taking their sweet time coming out. They will come out when I wash my head and when I run my hand over it, but they’re not shedding profusely. Also, they’re tiny! So aside from one hair splinter on my ear (ouch!), I can’t see them lying around the way I would have seen my long hair.

– Shorter Showers: Yes and no. I am finished in the shower pretty quickly, honestly I always have been that way, but I like to stand under the hot spray for no reason other than it feels nice. So I’m not exactly quick, but whatever. 

– Saving Money on Hair Expenses: Yes! Canceled my hair cut for this Friday, actually, so that saved me a few dollars! I imagine this mega bottle of Johnson’s baby wash will last me a while, too. 

– Less Laundry: True! I do have a little hair turban thing that I put on my head after the shower because my head gets cold, but I’m not using a full size towel on my hair anymore, so that’s nice!

– Wigs: Yep, glamorous. Also hot. I have 2, haven’t worn them yet because it’s honestly so warm! I can’t even wear some of the thicker hats and scarves I have because I get too hot. But I can’t really go bald either because then I get too cold!

– Other Hair: Yes! Leg hair and underarm hair are also falling out, also taking their time. What stinks is that I shaved a while back, so the hair is kind of trapped in limbo because it isn’t really long enough to fall out, but it’s just long enough for me to feel it. Ugh.

– Head Rest/Hair Knot in the Way: This has been great! I can lay down anywhere and lean against anything. 

– No Hair Tie Headache: Truth! It has been great, however I still have some follicle discomfort so my scalp does occasionally ache. I imagine that’ll go away once the hair is completely gone.

– Two words: blow dryer: Nothing to add here!

– Two more words: straight iron: Nothing to add here!

– Brad Massage Feet: Haven’t had him do this yet, but he’s been a trooper with everything else, I imagine this will be no different. 

– Cute Hats And Head Wraps: Heck yeah! I love them. I even wear them to bed because my head gets super cold!

– Shower Then Sleep: True story! 

– It’ll grow back: To be proven.

– When it grows back, it may be cooler than before: To be determined. 
So there you have it! 

There are some cons, and right now that’s mainly two things:

1. Temperature. I go from hot to cold and vice versa in 0.18 seconds.

2. People stare and/or pity. I like to blend, and my cute wraps make me stick out like a sore thumb. They sometimes give sad or sympathetic smiles/looks. I get it, I’ve probably done it, but like people with disabilities, I just want to be looked at (or ignored) like everyone else.

Hello darkness my old friend…

Let me start by saying I’m using that lyric in reference to the original song, not the remake. Mmmkay?

So yeah, it’s that part of the cycle again.

I feel cruddy. My body is sore, my throat is a little sore and tight, my head hurts, I’m tired, etc. Waa waa waa. I don’t want to read or write, so I’m just laying in my bed and occasionally listening to books on tape. I’m bored, but don’t really have enough strength or brain power to do anything productive, which sucks because there’s a lot I could be doing for school and around the house. I finally reconciled my bank account yesterday after about a week, that was fun. I hate falling behind.

I’m hungry, and so far I’ve been able to eat. I get nauseated, but that’s what the Zofran is for. I learned what I could tolerate last cycle, so we stocked up this time. I had Campbell’s chicken and dumpling soup yesterday, the kind in the plastic microwaveable bowl, and it was wonderful. Today I had oatmeal, this time the fruit and cream variety, not the plain cardboard type. It was good. Then I had macaroni and cheese for lunch – a Kraft microwaveable bowl. Not all the healthiest of selections, I know, but I’m managing with what I can. I had a sandwich yesterday with meat, veggies and avocados, so my system seems to be allowing some variety, I just don’t always have the umf to make it fresh. I can also tolerate water better this time around, more so than the Crystal Light that was my saving grace last time. It’s so weird how things flip and flop like that.

Things that are particularly annoying: sounds. Phone ringing, door bell, text tones, dog barking, etc. It’s making me quite irritable, which I’m sure is just pleasant given all my charming characteristics as of late.

Brad has been a real trooper. He’s always been super tolerant of me, but he should get an award after this, even though he’d deny deserving it. “Can you get me this?” “Never mind, not this, that.” “I realize you worked all week and weekend, but I want popsicles.” “I left my puzzle book in the other room.” “Has Daisy been outside?” “I want a popsicle, but a good flavor.” His personal assistant job description does include criteria about mind reading, FYI. And he does it all without whining about it AND giving me compliments, which I’m not so sure I’d manage if the roles were reversed. I’m tired from doing nothing, so I’m sure he’s exhausted.

So kudos to the cancer spouses, caregivers, parents, children, siblings, etc. Your job is hard, too. Really hard.

What else is new? Well, the diarrhea is back. That started around 1:00am last night and continued every couple hours throughout the night. It stopped around 11:00am, I think. Then happened once again since, but it at least seems to have slowed down. I’m taking in fluids and took Pepto, so hopefully we’re on the upside of that, though after last cycle it’s anybody’s guess. I’m doing my best to stay horizontal and not jostle anything.

I mentioned nausea…that’s been pretty persistent, and I wonder if it’s because I’m eating more and trying to be a little more active? The medicine helps, so I can’t complain, but it’s definitely more present this cycle than last.

My tastes haven’t completely become shot just yet, and I’ve been able to taste what I eat, but I do have that horrible taste in my mouth. Yuck. I need some peppermints, the red and white ones, you know? Those seem to help. (*cough*Brad*cough*) The blue and green ones are too close to mouthwash right now, and my gag reflex is ready!

Daisy has had enough of my boring self. She keeps looking at me and sighing these big huffy sighs. Like, “Come on, ma. Get up. Watch me roll on the floor. Watch me chew my foot. Watch me scratch.” She’s just not used to me being home and doesn’t know what to do with herself, or me.

Whoa is her.

But anyway, I’m on the flip side! I should be feeling pretty good by the weekend, so I’m looking forward.

Tomorrow I have labs, so we’ll see how I’m doing, and maybe if I’m feeling like garbage I’ll get some fluids while I’m there. Next Friday, the 27th, I have my six week echocardiogram to see how my heart is doing with all the poison. Then, after that, I’ll have an ultrasound of JP to see what’s happening there.

I think I’m going to crawl out of bed and get a popsicle. 🙃

Week One Summary

It’s the end of week one, and it has been quite a week. It wasn’t horrible, but it was uncomfortable, mostly due to all the unknown. No matter how many side effects you’re warned about, books you read, and experiences you hear about, it’s impossible to prepare for chemotherapy and what follows. 

Highlights:

  • Mouth issues – skewed tastes, salty and sweet bad, bland good, metallic taste, sore tongue and throat
  • Body aches – no fever, light soreness, all-around bone aches, even my skin felt sore, headaches
  • Scalp – tingly and sore, hair feels rougher in texture 
  • Hearing – sensitive to sound, everything seems louder, including the fly that is buzzing around at the moment
  • Digestive – stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, gas, empty stomach, hunger, cravings
  • Fatigue – tired, sleepy, lightheaded, unable to concentrate, foggy 
  • Eyes – dry eyes, hard to see
  • Smell – hyper sensitive to smells, particularly sweet

Granted, these symptoms have been sporadic. If I’d been experiencing all at once, I’d have been freaking out. Usually it’s no more than one or two at a time and I do have remedies for most of them, and have called the doctor when I was unsure. 

Considering the chemo is kicking cellular ass inside my body, good and evil, it could be worse. I could feel worse. The most persistent symptom has been fatigue, and I know that’s because my body is working overtime, using its energy reserves to rebuild cells. I’ll accept the exhaustion.

So there have been audiobooks and games of solitaire on my phone. That’s about all my brain can compute. I did go to class Thursday night and that was interesting. Fingers crossed that next week will be better! But, of course, “they” say a week after chemo is when you can expect to feel bad. We’ll see what happens there. 

A point of contention between me and Brad has been my hydration. I’m admittedly not taking in as much fluid as I should be. I know this is bad, and I am trying, but it’s hard when even water tastes bad. It has to be in the right cup and the right temperature or else it’s gross. 

Now, keep in mind I should be drinking an insane amount of water, like 80 oz, and I’m drinking maybe 50-60. So it’s not like I’m having a glass and calling it quits, I am trying. It’s just hard to force feed myself water. Blech!

So my super husband made me cucumber water, and it’s delicious. This was after he took my bland grocery list to the store and bought me saltines (salted and unsalted, since we didn’t know what I’d like), beans, tortillas, soup, potatoes, and white bread. He’s been a good sidekick.

I do still have an appetite. No surprise there, right? Unfortunately, it’s a lot more sensitive than before. I have to eat much smaller meals, and I’m almost always hungry because I never quite fill myself up. If my stomach gets empty, or feels empty, it’s like I have to start from scratch to not upset it. If I eat too much or too fast, I feel bloated and gross. 

So this morning I had some vanilla Greek yogurt, and the first bite on an empty stomach sent me to the bathroom. I had to eat it super slow, and super small baby bites. I added an egg (separately, on a plate, ew), and continued with the baby bites. It worked.

The truth is, this entire thing is (and probably will remain) a work in progress. I have to basically relearn everything according to the new me. And that’s ok. If it makes me healthy in the end, then that’s ok. I’ll deal with it. It’s not going to be fun, but I’ll find the humor when I can. 

That’s all I’ve got for now. 🙂