Sunday, November 28, 2010

lumpectomy & biopsy

My surgery was on Wednesday and wiped me out way more than I thought it would. I had the idea that I was going to be out of it the remainder of the day on Wednesday, then fine for the rest of the holiday weekend. This turned out to not be the case. I learned 2 very important lessons:
1) Vicodin is not my friend.
2) Your body needs more time to recover than you think it will.

The pre-surgery prep was standard. No less than 2 dozen people asking what you've come in for. Sign this form. Talk to this person. Change into a gown. Sign this form. And this one. Get your IV. Here's another form. A quick visit from the surgeon. Sign this form (I think in total I signed 16 things, and Bart signed several more for me. Crazy.)

I mentioned that I had to get some wires implanted to help guide the surgeon to where he needs to cut...ultrasounds are impractical while in surgery. This was by far the worst part. I started by getting a new mammogram on my right breast. While my breast was still clamped in the machine, I had to stand there for 5 to 10 minutes while the doctor inserted the wire. With a fishook on the end. While I'm clamped. It was awful. It felt like it was poking all the way through me.According to the doctor, the pain and difficulty were due to scar tissue from the previous biopsy. I really wasn't sure I was going to be able to take it. The left side was much easier. No mammogram, no clamping. He did it by ultrasound. The position of the tumor did not require the 'digging' that the right side did. Plus I think this doctor numbed it better. It was quicker and much less painful.
By now I just wanted to be done and on my way home. Ha.
I remember them wheeling me to the operating room, and skooching over onto the table, and that's it. I woke up in recovery feeling really tired and with a dull pain in my chest. About an hour later I got to go home. I wasn't feeling too bad, but I slept for hours and hours. Bart would wake me every 4 to take vicodin and make me drink water. I tried to get up and watch some tv and eat a little something at 8pm, but I just ended up throwing up and going back to bed.

Thursday morning was more of the same, except now I had a headcahe and backache to contend with as well. My sinuses were killing me, so I took some sinus medication in the hopes that it would releive some of the pressure in my head. I've had enough headaches and taken enough medication to know that part of the problem was 'rebound'. I stopped taking the Vicodin and switched to Tylenol. And more sleep. More water.
We went to my dad's house for Thanksgiving dinner, but I ended up sleeping almost the entire time. I was able to eat and keep down a tiny bit of mashed potatoes and turkey. The more time that passed, the less sick I felt...just tired. After sleeping 36 hours it seems ridiculous to be so tired! I still feel the tired, but am awake much more. My back and legs were cramping up from too much laying down, so I make sure to get up and walk around all the time. My chest aches a bit, but Aleve takes most of the pain away. I need to start taking it before bed though...the last 2 nights I've gotten up in the middle of the night after flopping over onto my stomach to sleep. My breastbone hurts from the mammography machine.
The incisions are looking pretty good. No stitches, no staples...I am held together by glue, of all things! I finally got the Sharpie off my right side. I will wear a bra 24/7 until the glue is gone and the ache stops. I will visit the doctor in a week. I will wait patiently for the pathology reports and a clean bill of health.
Thanks to all of my friends and family for their kind words of support and love. It does make the entire process so much easier. Thanks for lifting me up when I've been feeling down.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

tomorrow's the day

My surgery is tomorrow morning at 11:30. Ugh.
The worst part is fasting before surgery. No food or drink after midnight. I wish it was going to be earlier for that part alone!
I will be going in early to get some wires inserted into the incision spots. I don't know how this helps the doctor, but it does. And then I'll put some big 'X's' on them with Sharpie, just to be sure. Wouldn't want someone to take out my spleen while I was under. You never know.
Thanks for all the kind words and well wishes! They are greatly appreciated :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

suck it, cancer!

This has been one hell of a week.
Last Thursday night I got a call from the surgeon telling me that they found somethng on my MRI, and he would like me to come into the mammography center on Monday to do another ultrasound and possible needle biopsy.
What I did not fully realize until I was there was that they were now discussing my left breast.
I had the ultrasound & needle biospy at 11:00 on Monday. 3:00 the pre-surgical screener called me to set up my surgery time. 3:30 the surgery was cancelled by the surgical coodinator. The doctor now wants to see me in his office on Thursday morning to discuss the findings. In the span of the 3 minute phone conversation, she called me 'honey' and 'sweetie' 5 times. And come to think of it, the pathologist and tech both wished me luck and touched me before they left the room.
Those were the longest 72 hours ever.
The good news is, I don't have cancer. Not today anyway. I have what is called a phyllodes tumor. It's rare. It's the same tumor that was removed in 2003. They are aggressive and resilient.
Here is a little more information on them:
Phyllodes tumors account for less than 1% of all breast cancers. Even though the tumor may be benign, it is still considered a type of breast cancer, because it has the potential to become malignant.
Phyllodes tumors are not all cancerous. Many will be classified as benign and not require further evaluation. A skilled pathologist is needed to distinguish a benign phyllodes tumor from one with more aggressive malignant potential. In any event, women who undergo surgery for removal of a phyllodes tumor require close surveillance with followup mammogram and physical examination at regular intervals. Malignant phyllodes tumors are best managed with a wide excision of normal breast tissue around the tumor to obtain clean margins. In most cases, radiation therapy is not required. Very large malignant phyllodes tumors may require complete removal of the breast for management.
The less than good news is that now I have to have bilateral surgery. The atypia cell mass on the right and the phyllodes on the left. They will do a wide excision, which after having done once will leave me with very little breast on the left. I can live with that. They will test the cells and hopefully not come back with any malignant ones.
I'm having the surgery the day before Thanksgiving. It was either that or wait until the middle of December. We're going to Florida for some of the holiday break, so I didn't want to put it so close to the travel time.
In short, I am very relieved. I won't feel totally safe until after the surgery and I get the all clear from the doctor. But I am optimistic that it will turn out ok.
BTW, the phyllodes was only detected by the MRI. Not the mammogram.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back to Square One

I found out late Thursday night that the MRI revealed another spot.
I'll be going in tomorrow morning for another ultrasound and perhaps a needle biopsy.
As of now, my surgery is still on, but depending on what they find tomorrow it might be cancelled.

celebrating eleven!

This kid turned 11 a few days ago. He's pretty much been doing this since.
His big gift from us this year: his own cell phone. Heaven help us. The kid loves to be on the phone. He loves to hold it in his hand. He loves to open and close it. He loves to text. We are very glad for unlimited texting.
We had the family over to celebrate last night after his first indoor game (they won!)

This cake might not look that impressive, but don't let my frosting skillz fool you. This is truly the best chocolate cake you'll ever eat. I've made it twice now, and it's received rave reviews both times. Gather ingedients and make it immediately. You won't be sorry.
I only had 10 candles, so we used this tall one in the center. It was blazing away right after I snapped this picture. I thought we were going to have cake flambe.
Lola was very into Max, especially when we pulled out this squeaky giraffe. She kept leaning forward and trying to take it from him, ever so gently.
Max was waaaay over tired so this was the best shot of the three I could get.

He started getting silly and laughing/hiccupping at his Grammy, which made us all laugh.
Evan had a good day, and got pretty much everything he asked for.
Here's to hoping 11 will be better than 10!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

MRI Recap

That almost makes it sound like a vacation, right?
The MRI I had today went very smoothly, I'm glad to report.
My total time in the tube was 12 minutes (which seemed like 30) but wasn't nearly as 'confining' as I thought it would be. Having the scan done on a breast is totally different than on other body parts. For one, I was laying on my stomach. I was supported up on a ramp like device. There is a round pillow where you put your face, and your boobs dangle down. I'm sure it was super attractive! The most uncomfortable part was that the ramp hits you in the rib cage, so breathing was hard. And I may have been hyperventilating a bit. There is no moving air around your face or anything, so it got warm in my little pillow very quickly. By the time I was done, I was all sweaty and my hair was plastered to my face.
I also had to lay with my arms extended straight up, so my shoulders were achy and my arms were tingly. But the MRI itself wasn't painful. It wasn't even as loud as I thought it would be. I don't know how they get an accurate read of the breasts though, with as deeply as I was breathing!
Glad to have it done. One less thing to worry about.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Take it from me, GET YOUR MAMMOGRAM!

I think it's safe to say that I dislike going to the Doctor more than the average person. And when I say dislike, I really mean loathe to my very core. But I made a promise in 2010 to take better care of myself and my health and the occasional doctor visit was part of the plan.

Without doctors, I don't get the meds which help my head stay in balance and I have terrible headaches that make life unbearable.
Without doctors, I wouldn't have gotten the miracle IUD that reduced my monthly flow to a reasonable level. *best thing I ever did, BTW. Highly recommended.
Without doctors, I wouldn't have discovered the lump in my breast.
Let me back track...

After the miracle IUD which took 4 visits to the GYN to become a reality, the last thing I wanted to do was go get a mammogram. So I didn't. I made excuse after excuse, and hoped that the passing of time would make everyone forget.
Bart didn't forget. He hounded me to make the appointment.
The doctor didn't forget, because I got bi-weekly automated reminder calls to make the appointment.
And Bart still didn't forget, going as far as to threaten to call the doctor himself. He's a pain in my ass sometimes. And because I didn't want him to call the doctor, I made the appointment.

Fast forward a week when I get a call from the hospital saying that they would really like it if I came back in for a re-scan because the tech saw something he couldn't identify.
Another few days later and another call; there is definitely something there and you need to make an appointment. My doctor calls with the number of the specialist she would like me to see.
Fast forward a few weeks and I meet with the specialist, who orders a needle biopsy. He is a very soft spoken, gentle Asian man. Kind. I like him. I've seen him before, in 2003, for a different lump.
The needle biopsy is uncomfortable at the least, but not terrible. The pathologist and tech are very nice. In fact, from the moment I got the first phone call, everyone is very nice and accommodating.
The call from the specialist comes quickly. No cancer, but atypia. Bad cells. Need to schedule for open biospy. One more appointment where he explains to me again that there is no cancer, but a mass of cells that need to come out. Different from before. Not urgent, but he wants to take it out.
He's ordered an MRI, the 'gold standard' in breast care. I have no family history, but my risk factors are high so I qualify.
And here we are.
Tomorrow I am having my MRI. I'm not nervous, but can't stop fidgeting when I think about it. I hope I can hold still long enough for the scan to be effective.
This weekend, I told my kids. I didn't want them to find out from someone else. I didn't want them to come home one day and not find me here, because I'm running late from a test.
Next week I am scheduled for the open biopsy. I'm not scared. I'm confidant that the doctor will remove all of the bad cells and not find anything else lurking in there.
I'm feeling very lucky.
Lucky it's not cancerous.
Lucky that I was approved for the MRI.
Lucky that I have so many people who support me.
Lucky that the tech took a closer look at the first mammogram.
Lucky that my husband didn't forget and nagged me to get the mammogram that started it all.
Let me be a lesson to everyone! Get your mammogram!
Self exams don't find everything.
Doctor exams don't find everything.
You don't have to have a family history to get breast cancer.
One benign lump is flukey. Two is a pattern. I will surely have to get mammograms every 6 months for the rest of my life. And I will consider myself lucky every time.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Listen up, November

I know it can't be easy to follow up an October like we just had. Truly the best October I can ever remember.
But it's like you're not even trying.
5 days in and I have seen nothing but gloomy skies and dreary days.
And what's this talk of snow showers possible tomorrow?
Not acceptable.
I was not pre-disposed to hate you; after all, you bring the end of soccer season and the beginning of the end for Harry Potter. Some of my favorite people celebrate birthdays during your 30 days.
So shape up.
You've been warned.