The deed is done!
The pre-op procedure was the worst part. I had it done at the Polyclinic and although I loved all but one medical professional I encountered, the process itself is bumbling and awkward.
We had to check in at the Polyclinic on Madison for the radioactive seed implantation, so that was my first change into a gown. The technician/nurse there, Alka, is and has always been so amazing that I need to send her flowers to thank her. Smart, professional, kind, and compassionate. After that procedure, which hurt SIGNIFICANTLY less than the biopsy, I went across the way for a mammogram. Then I had to change into my clothes again, we had to get into our car, and drive to a different Polyclinic. Now, I knew this was coming, but the way the nurse and doctor made it sound, I had the impression that this would all run smoothly together – in fact, my nurse navigator told me that although my actual surgery wasn’t scheduled till 12pm (we went to the first appointment at 9:45am), that if we were ready sooner, they’d start sooner. This turned out to be very far from the case.
We got to the Broadway Polyclinic at about 10:30 and were told the nuclear medicine guy had just stepped out, “But your appointment isn’t till 11 anyway, right?” (This was for the injection of radioactive dye – lots of needles yesterday.) So we had to sit and wait for half an hour before that could be done – second gown of the day. When that was finished, we went up a floor for the surgery and checked in there – this was probably around 11:20. About 11:30 they took me back and I got changed into my third and thankfully final gown of the day. I had a nurse come see me one time to check my vitals* and chat with me briefly, and then never return with any more info. So that is the one medical professional I am grumpy with – I mean, again, surgery scheduled to BEGIN at noon and by the time it was 12:15 we still had no information or idea how much longer we’d be waiting? And it was COLD back there. Finally my doctor popped his head in and he went and found out it would be about 15 more minutes because they were running behind. Fifteen minutes later he came back and told me it would be another ten. So you can probably see what I mean about this being frustrating and awkward. Honestly everything should be in the same damned building and they should have at least two ORs to make this sort of situation avoidable. And you should only ever have to take off your clothes and put on a gown one time. Anyhow.
Once I finally got in to the OR, I was actually shivering – like, teeth chattering! – from the cold, so they got me all bundled. By now it was about 1:15 or so and I hadn’t eaten anything since 9 the night before, or had even water since 11 the night before. I have notoriously deep and difficult to find veins, so of course the anesthesiologist couldn’t find a vein with me basically being dehydrated. Eventually he had to go in through my wrist which was surprisingly painful, but honestly, at this point, I was just so relieved to finally be on the table I almost didn’t care. Just like I don’t care about that split infinitive right there.
They started the IV pain meds, which burned, but only for a second because then I was asleep!
I woke up with much difficulty in post-op. I just wanted to go right back to sleep, I was so warm and cozy. But eventually I came to. I asked to speak to my doc but they said he’d already spoken to me and left – I imagine his day must have gotten mighty screwed up by my surgery being over an hour late as well. I found out from the nurse that they’d only had to remove one lymph node, which is GREAT news because the fewer they have to remove, the lower your chances of developing lymphedema. Can’t get any lower than one! I was in pretty moderate pain in my breast and armpit, but they gave me some more IV pain meds, which brought it from a 5 to a 3. Then they gave me some crackers and water and a pain pill, and that took it to a 2. They took me to a room where Jules came and met me, and I got dressed, and that was it! Home I went.
I didn’t get home till about 4:30. The kids were AMPED to see me, which was wonderful. I was pretty dopey so I drowsed in bed from then till about 6. I was able to read stories to Greg and help put him to bed, which felt really good. I kept ice on my boob pretty much nonstop. I went to bed around 11 and slept till 6, got up, took some more meds and got another ice pack, then went back to sleep till 9.
Today I have been icing regularly and frankly the pain is very minimal. I have a hard time sitting still but Julian is staying on me to relax and not strain myself. The pain is worse at the incision in my armpit than at the one in my breast. I am allowed to take the bandage off on Wednesday, and I’ll post a photo of the incision with the steri strips when I do. You see all these absolute horror show scars when you look online and I don’t think mine is going to be that bad, so maybe it will give others some comfort!
People keep asking, “What next?” and obviously if you’re reading this you’ve been keeping up with my blog and already know the answer! But just in case, next they biopsy the lump and lymph node. Assuming the margins are clear, no more surgery. If the lymph node is clear they recommend radiation and tamoxifen, which I plan to talk to my doctor and team about. If the node is not clear, that means chemo as well. So, more waiting, BUT: the first, most major step has been taken.
I am so grateful to everyone who has shown me support and love over the last month and a half. What a crazy journey. I wouldn’t be as strong and optimistic without all of you holding me up!
*On a super awesome note, my vitals were kick ASS – my pulse was 52 and my BP was 120 over 68. The nurse actually asked me if I was an athlete or exercised a lot!