My first update, January 26, 2008

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Dear Friends and Loved Ones,

I’m at home and resting comfortably.

The forecast was for 6-9 inches of snow between today and tomorrow, so LeAnn and I decided that I should come home today instead of tomorrow. The city closes my street sometimes in bad weather and we felt that for safety’s sake, we should get me here before the snow started.

You truly find out who loves and cares about you at a time like this, and I want to thank each of you for your help, prayers, healing thoughts and good vibes. I am completely convinced that without your help, I would not be in the emotional and physical condition I am in right now. Because, frankly, I’m usually a basket case and I do have a diagnosed panic disorder. One major panic attack (and a few minor emotional meltdowns) isn’t so bad under the circumstances. You have propped me up and I am grateful for that.

This is how I remember it; you mileage may vary, so to speak. The doctor has me on Hydrocodone Apap and I’m feeling no pain.

Millie took me to the hospital on Jan 4 for my mammogram which turned out to also be my biopsy (this short visit ended up taking hours, and Millie stayed there with me through most of it, while still trying to get some urgent business done before she returned to Hawaii.) She also took me to my first visit with “Dr Incredible,” my surgeon, on the 15th. Dr Incredible explained to me my mammograms. He was very respectful and kind, and spoke to me sometimes like I was his sister and sometimes like I was his Anthro prof! He’s a really sweet guy and a doctor who is primarily a healer, not just a guy with a scalpel and an MD. He showed me how much of my breast was cancer tumor, and clearly it was half. There was also some concern about whether it had spread to other parts of my breast. The area of biggest concern was whether it had spread to the chest wall muscles. It was hard to tell from the pictures.

He told me he could try to do a lumpectomy but that would leave me horribly deformed anyway, and he couldn’t be sure if that would get all the cancer. He was recommending a simple mastectomy. After some further discussion (maybe three mintues) I had to agree with him. You know how stubborn I am, so that tells you how good his explanation was of my condition. Clearly the breast had to go. He was also emphatic about my needing to have reconstruction. We had to find a plastic surgeon who would do it using the medical coupons. Not an easy task. The state pays what they consider reasonable and customary. Well, anyway, reconstruction would come later. He said it would be 6-8 weeks before I was healed enough.

Now, Dr. Incredible has no problem accepting “reasonable and customary” but the plastic surgeons I spoke with did have a problem with it. More on this later.

Terry took me to the hospital on Wednesday morning, a big sacrifice for him because he was at work late into the night on Tuesday. He stayed most of the morning (with a brief trip to take Puck, his dog, back home so the poor girl didn’t freeze in the back of the car), until he had to leave to teach class on campus. Terry is a professor in the Theater department and teaches directing. After same-day pre-op (they gave me this heated hospital gown to wear! It was wild!) I went to radiology for the dreaded radioactive dye procedure to find the sentinel lymph nodes. That was very, very painful. Ouch. Sticking a needle in a very sensitive area. The technician was almost as pained as I was. He apologized three times before he even started. However, the procedure went very well, and they found three sentinel nodes. He said the procedure isn’t always that successful; in fact, it usually is only moderately successful. I took that as a good sign.

Back to the pre-op staging area I went and Terry was waiting. My anesthesiologist introduced herself and I told her I get really jarred if I go under too fast, so she said she would do it more gradually if she could. They would also give me something to calm me down beforehand. Good idea. Panic attacks suck. Then my OR nurse introduced herself. She was really sweet. She’s worked with Dr Incredible many times and she left me feeling confident that I was in good hands. Then two guys wearing scrubs came in, one was from India and the other wore these geeky glasses. The guy with the glasses introduced the other guy as a student or something, I don’t remember.

I said, “so what are we doing today?”
The guy in the glasses, wearing a smart alek smirk, said, “surgery.”

I hadn’t recognized Dr Incredible in his geeky glasses, and he was enjoying it immensely. We talked a bit and I told him to do what he thought was best; if he thought we could do a lumpectomy, that would be good, but if he got in there and it looked as bad as we thought, to go ahead and do the mastectomy. I said I trusted him and knew he had more experience with breast cancer surgery than I did, so I would trust his better judgment on it. He thanked me for saying that. We talked a little more and he left.

Terry stayed with me until they wheeled me into the OR. On the way to the OR I had a minor meltdown, but that was all just fear, and the nurse said it happens all the time. Even with the calming drug, I was still scared out of my wits.

I had hoped to finish this update but it looks like naptime is creeping up on me.
More next time.

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