Over the First Hurdle: Day One Post Surgery

Yesterday afternoon was the lumpectomy.  The removal of the cancer tumor in my left breast.  All went as well as it could have.  I arrived at the hospital at 8:47am for the scheduled 9am check in time.  This was with heavy traffic on the Blue route because of the morning rush hour and heavy rain.  My friend David did a great job in getting us there on time and in one piece.  He dropped me and his wife Carol off at the Warden Lobby of the Bryn Mawr Hospital.  She stayed with me almost the whole time.  She was a trooper.  I suggested she get David to take her home but she insisted on staying.

I was already registered as a patient there from when I had blood work done last week.  All I needed was my wrist band to which everyone and I mean everyone referred to always asking me “What is your name” and “What is your date of birth”.  The other popular questions for the day were “What are you having done today?” and “On what side are you having that done on?”

Bob, the hospital volunteer, took Carol and I up to the nuclear medicine department as my first step into this long day.  I was told by the nurse navigator last week on a couple of occasions that it would be a 6 hour turn-around time from start to finish but it ended up be more like 12 hours.  In the nuclear medicine department I met Dr. Carter’s female Fellow again.  She injected me with radioactive dye which would, after several hours, light up my lymph nodes on my left side arm pit.  It was injected into my outer left breast.  It was a bit of a pin prick for the lidocaine and a bit of a burn feeling when the dye was injected.  As far as pain is considered for the days activities, it wasn’t bad. She warned me my pee, over the next couple of days, would be blue from the dye.

The next stop after nuclear medicine was the “Green Room”.  It is the surgical waiting room.  A volunteer came to us and asked us our names and said she would be the one to take me to the surgery.  After about an hour waiting and getting hungrier and hungrier and thirstier the volunteer came up to us and said my friend’s Carol’s name.  We said yes and I got up and went with the volunteer to the surgical area.  When I got there nurses there looked at me and said “Carol?”  I said no I’m Melissa so back I went.  I am not really upset about the mix up as I got to see the next step.  It was a rectangular room with curtained off mini rooms along the right side, big enough for a bed and a couple of monitors.

By this time Carol was getting hungry.  At around noon I was in one of the curtained rooms, watching nurses dart back and forth, doctors glide in and out.  The nurse was trying to be up beat but I was having none of it.  This is where I had an iv put in my hand.  I wasn’t happy before this and I was definitely not happy afterwards.  The anesthesiologist came around and asked me a couple of questions:  had I have had surgery before was I allergic to any medications.  The Fellow came around and said my surgery was scheduled for 2pm.  I told her that the nurse navigator told me it would be a 6 hour affair and I would be done by 3pm.  She said it would be more like a 9 hour affair.  Actually it was 12 hours.  The most painful thing for the day was getting an iv put into my right hand just before the procedure.  The idea of having a needle threaded in my vein was more disturbing than anything else I had done that day.  After I got my iv the volunteer brought Carol around.  She said she was going to get some lunch and would call David.

The last thing I remember before waking up in the recovery room was the anestheisiologist putting some clear liquid in my iv.  I asked him what it was and he said “It was to take the edge off.”  I don’t remember being wheeled anywhere or counting down from 100 or any of those tv scenarios just the anesthesiologist asking me about my ceramics.

I think one of the first questions that came out of my mouth after surgery was when could I get something to eat.  I hadn’t eaten in 18 hours but they put that off until I got sent to a hospital room with the threat that I could end up spending the night if I wasn’t completely recovered.  They told me I had to be able to: pee; drink (keep down food) and walk without assistance before I would be allowed to go home.  When I got to the hospital room my friends came by and said the doctor said I could stay the night if I wanted to.  I didn’t want to stay the night as people catch all sorts of diseases in the hospital.  My friends decided to go home without me so that I could work on meeting all the hospital requirements.  I got an omlet and chocolate ice cream out of the deal; I peed blue and they helped me get my pants on so I could walk down the hall way.

The big reveal was this morning, the day after surgery when I peeled off the bandages.  I could barely make out the cuts.  The one under my left arm was about the same length, about 3 inches, as the one on the underside of my left breast.  The one on my breast had two stiches, one on either side of the incision, while the incision itself was glued shut.  Between the ink and bruising the incisions were barely recognizable.  There is a sense of relief and accomplishment that I have gotten through this first stage of my journey.  At least the cancer was out of me so far as the first tests could tell.

Pre-op Physical and Seed Location Before Lumpectomy for Stage 1 Breast Cancer

The most embarrassing thing about the physical was the ekg.  I couldn’t wear my bra as it had an underwire which would mess up the waves.  I also lied to her and said I didn’t have any lotion on my legs and arms.  The ekg was fine so much for their requirements.  No one told me not to use lotion which makes me think it wasn’t so critical.

My doctor was nice to me.  She said a few kind words about “getting through this”.  There wasn’t a rectal exam thank the gods.  I really didn’t see the purpose of that.  It was listed on the sheet the doctor was suppose to fill out so maybe it was optional.

Friday morning I got an epidural (steroids) shot in my back for my spinal arthritis.  Immediately after that down the street I had the radioactive seed location done at the Bryn Mawr breast center.  As always everyone I came in contact with asked me my name and date of birth.  They gave me a paper bracelet with that information.  I’m tired of answering that question but something tells me I’m going to answer it a lot more.  I think every once in a while I will tell them that I refuse to answer that question because I’m sick and tired of hearing the question.  Tomorrow is my lumpectomy so I expect to be asked fifty million more times.

The seed location involved about five mammograms of my left breast to get the radioactive seed in the right spot.  That spot is in the tumor right next to the clip that was put there during the needle biopsy.  The literature I was given said not to hold a baby for more than 30 minutes at a time or something scary like that.

So its the evening before the lumpectomy.  I showered with the Hibiclens which seems to have dried out my skin.  I’m used to washing with Oil of Olay with shea butter.  I had diarrhea again this morning which definitely is from nerves about tomorrow.  I guess that is normal.

Well that is enough for tonight.  Getting up about 7:15am to shower again with the hibiclens.  No breakfast for me.  The nurse that called me the other day said I could take some of my meds but I think I’m going to just skip it.  I don’t like to take meds on an empty stomach.

Thanks for reading


Appointments prior to a lumpectomy

My lumpectomy for what is right now considered stage 1 breast cancer is scheduled for April 20, 2015

There are several other appointments that have to happen before then:

This coming Wednesday I have an appointment with the geneticist as one of my sister’s had breast cancer.  I will give either a blood or saliva sample to test me for any of the known genes which almost guarantee me that I will develop breast cancer.  It includes the well known BRCA gene mutation and a few others.

Another appointment is to get a radioactive seed placed in the tumor the Friday before the lumpectomy.  This is supposed to help the surgeon find the lesion.  The paper work says I won’t need a bandage afterwards and neither I nor my clothes will be radioactive.  However, I shouldn’t hold a baby for more than 30 minutes a day until the seed is removed.

The pre-op physical with ekg will happen on the 16th with my primary care physician.  That includes blood work.  Karen, the scheduler, (not sure of her real title, will get back to you about that next week) gave me a form my primary care doctor is suppose to fill out which included a rectal exam.  I am not excited about that and not really sure why they must look there prior to a lumpectomy.  Probably just a case of CTA (covering their asses).  Whatever!!

I was supposed to have scheduled a 30 minute phone interview with a nurse within 24 hours of meeting with my surgeon.  Well that didn’t happen.  72 hours will have to do as it is the weekend.  I guess if it was that critical they would have called me.  The form the surgeon’s office gave me said the appointment is for me to “Find out how to prepare for surgery.”   My friend, Carol, who has had a couple of surgeries says that it is to clear me for anesthesia.  They want to make sure I haven’t had a reaction to it in past surgeries, which I haven’t).  They also check my medications probably to make sure I am not on any blood thinners.  I have been asked that several times already.  I am to stop taking Advil/ibuprophen and multivitamins including vitamin E several days prior to the lumpectomy.  That is the same instruction from my pain doctor prior to an epidural.

Another thing I am supposed to do before surgery is go to the pharmacy to pick up a bottle of Hibiclens. I am to bathe with it both the day before and the day of the lumpectomy.