The worst of it all, I think. You know, I’m not gonna go into details here. It was hard. The potholes in Houston roads made for a torturous ride home. The trip up the steps to my bedroom. Fiona, my faithful dog, jumping for joy. Getting comfortable and settling in for the long recovery. Feeling concerned that I left too early. Anyway, not a good evening that was.
It’s time to swing.
As is the case with surgery in general, I don’t remember much. I was nervous, absolutely. But, I did well with regard to not completely losing it in the pre-op room. One crying session and then it was done. Dr. Spiegel came in and made some marks on my skin. The anesthesiologist came in to introduce himself and let me know he would be with me throughout the entire procedure. Dr. Lim came in to tell me they were ready. I was given a shot to calm my nerves and immediately felt the brakes release on the gurney. Down the hall I went giving Ken the “thumbs up.” I remember getting to the operating room where there were people and things moving around like a fast game of chess. That was it.
I opened my eyes. The thing I kept saying I wanted was happening. I wanted to open my eyes. I was so worried because of the Lupus and AFib, I just wasn’t confident everything would be alright. The surgery was about 6 1/2 hours or so. There I was, opening my eyes. I heard my family’s voices, “Mama,” “Hi, Honey,” “We’re here,” “It’s over.” I think someone said, “You did it.” But, that could’ve been me in my head. It’s that profound moment before the fog just envelopes you. I don’t know how long I was in recovery. I know I threw up, I groaned in pain, I tried to talk, I tried to remember everything. I don’t remember any specifics, whatsoever. I remember each doctor coming into the room. I remember pushing the button to go to the bathroom. I remember answering the nurses. I remember drinking water and eating two bites of mashed potato. To tell you the truth, it sucked. Oh! The morphine button. I pushed the hell out of that thing. It made me itchy and I was scratching like crazy. My mouth was like sand. The nurse kept expressing my drainage tubes and I kept thinking I would never understand how to do this and that I’d hoped Ken was watching closely.
I went in for something called a Lymphoscintigraphy today. This has to be done prior to the mastectomy so the surgeon can identify the lymph node(s) that may be draining the cancer. The nurse gave me two numbing shots and then injected a radioactive isotope, followed by a scan of some sort. The lymph node will be blue so the surgeon can easily locate it tomorrow during the procedure. I’m a little sore from it, but it was a nothing burger, really. I did feel some strange little stings in my chest wall and left arm about 15 minutes later, but it’s gone now.
Ken and I went to mass today at Holy Rosary Church. I just needed to. I cried because I’m nervous. Plus, I always cry when I go to church. Back in my ’20’s, a religious friend told me it was because the holy spirit was getting into me. I happen to think it’s because I feel moved, maybe safe. Either way, I’m ok with it.
I’m washing everything on sanitize mode so there’ll be fewer chances of anything interrupting my recovery. Such a long process and lots of loads, just to be thorough. I have to shower with a medicated soap tonight and again tomorrow morning. Clean, clean and more clean.
A LITTLE HUMOR INBETWEEN
When Ken had his thyroid cancer, he used to whine when I’d play fight with him, “You’re hurting my cancer!” Back then we were both scared and, as is always the case with Ken, he knew how to put a laugh back in the mix. This morning we were competing to get through a tight space in the house and I complained, “You’re hurting my cancer!” He tried to tell me that’s his line, it’s copyright infringement. We finally agreed in the car that the line may be used by whoever cancer is affecting at the time. We’re assuming we’ll have to come up with a different line here soon, anyway. It’s fun getting him back, though.
ANXIETY SINKING IN
I’m going back and forth — fight or flight. This morning I woke up to a full on anxiety attack. This would be the last morning I would look like this, feel like that, be able to do this or be able to do that. I thought I’d lose it getting the shots and dye, considering the earlier meltdown, but nothing. I’m now writing and focusing, so all is aligned. Tonight, going to sleep, I imagine it will hit me again. Time to remember that one word I’ve been repeating for months. Trust.
Discontinued today. Will resume with doctor’s advice; hopefully, soon after the surgery.
GP APPOINTMENT FOR CLEARANCE
Went to see my GP, Dr. Stephanie Mundy, today for a full clearance for surgery. She reviewed all my test results and discussed what I should expect going forward. Dr. Mundy is a terrific doctor with compassion for ages. She will provide clearance to the surgeons today.
Today, I went for my pre-op appointment at the outpatient center/APEC (Anesthesia PreEvaluation Clinic). Today, I did more blood work, an EKG and a chest x-ray.
Good to go!
I was so worried about this damn thing. I’m out of shape and tired as hell. I thought I’d have some weird fainting episode or worse. I went by myself because Ken is out of town. I ended up doing such a great job and stayed on that thing for the entire time, minus 15 seconds. I swear it made me feel like I could train for a marathon. Not only that, Dr. Awar said the test was negative and my heart is good to go for the surgery. I really just can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have this out of the way. Dr. Awar did discuss a certain medication that is given beyond surgery during cancer treatment and the effects of this medication on me would have to be closely monitored. He said that if I had a complication called ejection fraction that the medication would have to be discontinued immediately but that the condition reverses itself. I’m glad he told me and we will cross that bridge later if necessary. My cardiologist is simply wonderful and I’m so glad I have him on my side. What a great support beyond just clinical banter.
I spent the weekend feeling really heavy. I wish it wasn’t my decision, but it is. The doctors have given me the information and, instinctively, I feel like I understand what they think would be right for me. Thankfully, my next door neighbor is a long-time GP here in Houston and knows several of the doctors and the hospital system here quite well. She told me if it were her she would do the double mastectomy. Thankfully, I had already pretty much made my decision by then and my discussion with her was validating. I called Dr. Spiegel’s office. It’s done. Decision made. Not an easy one and I’m somewhat sick to my stomach. I’m a bit of a wreck.
RETURN TO DR. LIM
My final meeting with Dr. Sherry Lim. We reviewed the information, specifically her feeling about the 6:00 mass. She made sure that I understood her suspicion about it and that, although I still had a choice, a lumpectomy would, undoubtedly, lead to a future mastectomy. She also explained that prior to surgery I would need to come in for a shot in my left breast to insert a dye that would help her find the lymph node(s) that connect and receive fluids/cells from that breast. She will remove at least one lymph node during the surgery. She gave me the weekend to make my decision and I was to call the office on Monday so they could schedule the surgery and get things moving.