Grace's Breast Cancer Journey
Surgeries, Pathology and Recovery
My last post left off with my surgery scheduled for May 10, 2017. It was to be a double mastectomy and also removal of the ectopic breast tissue on both sides. The afternoon before surgery I went to the hospital to have the dye injected into both breasts which would allow the lymph nodes' locations to show up during surgery.
May 10 I checked in at St. Vincent Hospital at 5:00 am and it wasn't long before I was taken back to the "Short Stay" surgery area and given a small room just large enough for the bed and a chair. There were many things done to prep me for surgery. I was also visited by the anesthesiologist, Dr. Ghode and by my surgeon, Dr. Ulloth. We discussed what she would be doing during surgery and she then had me sit up so she could use her permanent marker pen to draw the areas where she would make incisions and the sections she would be removing.
At 7:30 am I was wheeled out to surgery. It took about 5 1//2 hours and at that time, while I was in recovery, Dr. Ulloth went out to tell Paul (and Alberto who had come to sit with Paul) that all had gone well and the lymph nodes were negative. That was a huge sigh of relief. It did not take long before I was out of recovery and back to the small room where I would spend the night. I tolerated the anesthesia and the pain meds I was receiving and did not get sick at any time. This sped up my recovery and I felt lucid and conversational very quickly. Because I had been advised not to be a hero, I took the pain medications when they were offered, which included both oxicodone and Tylonol every three to four hours. The night went well and I slept, using my own CPAP machine.
The second day I enjoyed breakfast and lunch while waiting for the doctor to come by in the early afternoon and give approve my discharge. Back home I went directly upstairs to our family room where the big leather recliner is located. This would be my "bed" for some time to come, until I can use my arms well enough and can sleep on my side. I continued on the heavy medication regiment for almost a week.
Six days after surgery, May 16, I saw Dr. Ulloth to have the bandages removed and the drain tubes taken out. Since the pathology report had not yet been posted, she made phone calls and talked to the pathologist. That is when I went from "Interesting" to "Complicated." That word kept coming into the conversation. It turned out that the one lymph node she had removed on my right side had in fact a malignant spot on it, which had broken open. At that time we all agreed that she had to go back in to get more nodes to make sure nothing had spread farther down the line. The next surgery was scheduled for the following Wednesday, May 24 when she would go back in through the same incision in my right armpit.
Surgery number 2 took place May 24, again in the first time slot of 7:30 am. For this one, my friend, Melanie, was back in town to be with Paul. I was only in surgery a little over an hour and it went well, again. By noon I was in the car and we were heading home. This time I only took a few heavy pain meds for a couple of days, then Tylenol for a couple more. Through all of this, the only parts that hurt were the incisions across my armpits. The original one on my left side continues to bother the most. I was assured that with time that would improve.
When I had the single drain tube from the second surgery taken out during an office visit on May 30, the pathology report had not been finished on those last nodes. Everything else was looking good. I made my final visit appointment for June 5. After she had inspected everything and removed the last lingering seri-strips Paul finally asked the big question. What was the result of the pathology report. ALL OF THE NODES HAD BEEN NEGATIVE!!! There was an audible sigh of relief from all of us.
One last test was ordered. It is the Oncotype DX test which looks at 21 different possible gene mutations for my type of cancer, the Estrogen Responsive Positive, all others negative. The score from this test has a high ability to predict risk of re-occurrence and whether or not chemotherapy will be helpful or not. This test will take about two weeks.
We said a final farewell to Dr. Ulloth and wished her well on her upcoming African Safari and retirement. I have appointments made with Dr. Christine Cha, a radiation oncologist; Dr. Acheson, a medical oncologist; and Jennifer Batchelor for a physical therapy assessment.
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