Friday, July 15, 2011

Post surgical update

My lumpectomy is one for the history books. Thank God it's over.

I went in on July 13 at 11 AM where I was taken to nuclear medicine for my radioactive dye injection. The realty of my situation really hit me when I was laying on the table and the doctor injected me with the dye - which was pretty painful by the way.

I laid there and I just thought about all this radioactive crap entering my body and how much those injections hurt. And then I thought about my mother who had battled metastatic lung cancer for over two years and I remembered how much pain she had been in and how many uncomfortable procedures she had to endure. I felt her presence as I laid on the table and suddenly my fear mostly evaporated. I had an overwhelming sense of peace. I felt like I could get through this and everything was going to be fine.

I also felt like I could almost hear all the prayers, good thoughts and positive vibes coming from all my friends and family. During the time leading up to my surgery, a lot of people sent me encouraging cards and emails. I knew they were all pulling for me and I truly felt their collective positive energy when I was waiting for that dye to spread through my body.

After the injection, they wheeled me into the O.R. staging area where nurses prepped me for surgery. By the time Dr. K showed up at about 1:15 PM, I was totally relaxed and reading the latest issue of "Traditional Home" magazine. His first comment was, "You are so laid back and relaxed!" I told him, "I might as well be relaxed. It beats the alternative." He agreed.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up from surgery at about 4 PM. I was extremely groggy and didn't see the doctor. The nurses prepped me and moved me to a room for an overnight stay. As soon as I got situated in my room, my husband showed up and gave me some not-so-good news.

The lab found microscopic cancer cells in my sentinel node. He said everyone was extremely surprised at that finding and Dr. K had to remove several more lymph nodes for more testing.

Although my husband did a wonderful job of explaining everything to me, I was devastated. I knew that cancer in the lymph nodes moved me from Stage 1 to Stage 2. And once a cancer cell finds its way into your lymphatic system, it enters a super highway to all points in your body.

I felt this was very bad news and my cheerful optimism prior to surgery was replaced by a dark cloud of depression. All I could do was wait for the results and hope the surgeon was able to get clear margins around my tumor and that there would be no more cancer in my lymph nodes. Results would not come in for another 4 to 5 days.

That night in the hospital was a L-O-N-G one. I was lucky that I had my own room and was actually able to sleep and get some rest. But I felt like the wind had been taken out of my sails. I had the whole night to just lay there in the dark and think.

Dr. K showed up early the next morning and briefed me on the surgery. He really didn't tell me anything new. My husband did a great job of filling me in. But Dr. K was not his usual optimistic self. He said he "hoped" he got enough tissue around my tumor to get clear margins. He said he had to take more skin than he had originally thought he would need to take. And he said the skin had puckered up so then he had to release some skin to help smooth down the incision.

What happened to barely being able to tell I had anything done? Where was that confident surgeon I had met with on June 20?

I asked him how many nodes were removed. He wasn't sure. Somewhere between 3 and 7. You're not sure? HUH?

I was not happy when I left the hospital a few hours later all bandaged up with a disgusting drain hanging from my chest. All I could do was wait and hope for clear margins and remaining lymph nodes.

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