Saturday, February 6, 2010

Knife time

As I wrote to a number of my friends immediately after seeing my surgeon on Thursday, it's very interesting how my demons continue to play with my mind - while it was just tests and more tests and conversation, the reality of this 'bump' in the road didn't really hit home - now that the die is cast and surgery is imminent, suddenly I'm not so tough and strong. I want to whimper - I shed a few tears and angrily wiped them away, hoping no one sees. Silly girl.

Anyway, as soon as she can book a table, maybe as early as Tuesday, or maybe not for a couple weeks, I go under the knife. The good news is that the biopsy on the left breast came back negative - no bad guys. So we're just going to lop off the right breast, and take out all the lymph nodes on the right side. That's all. Fuck.

As a dear friend reminded me, yes indeedy, I will be lop-sided! But the doctors agree that since there's no indication of cancer on the left, there's no reason to take it too. And if I showed a wish to remove it, they'd recommend talking to other doctors first.

OK - details. Dr. K (her name is Sitara Kommareddi) says because I'm large breasted (the Silver Fox reminds me she said 'voluminous') and relatively slim (what a sweet gal to phrase it that way!!), my scar will be large, and probably not as cosmetically aesthetic as in a smaller breasted woman. And there might be a little poochy scar tissue under the arm because the breast is large and a bit wrap-around. If I find it unpleasant down the road, she could recommend a plastic surgeon tidy it up. She says the hardest thing about the surgery will be looking at myself in the mirror afterwards. (And I guess that might be true, for a gal here in the RV park, who has just finished up her chemo, says she still cannot look in the mirror without crying!)

The lymph nodes - This same gal had a double mastectomy. When I told her they will be taking all the lymph nodes, she told me of her experience and recommended I get a second opinion. It seems that her tests showed no sign of the cancer metastasizing beyond the breasts. So prior to her surgery, she received shots of dye into her breast tissue which, if there was outside involvement, would be revealed. Her lymph nodes did not, in fact show any signs of the bad guys. Research (and a call to Dr. K) taught me that this procedure is called Sentinal Lymph Node Biopsy

Reading into it, this procedure is used, as I mentioned above, when there is no indication that the cancer has spread. We know that mine has metastasized to at least two lymph nodes on the right side, so the procedure is not needed in my case. And because we know it's lurking in at least two, they will yank them all, because if they're in one, they're probably in them all, if just in microscopic size.

Removal of all the lymph nodes might (read 'probably will') lead to some difficulties. These little bean-shaped organs are part of the immune system (500-600 throughout the body), filtering and trapping foreign particles, and draining fluids from various areas, in this case, my arm - meaning my arm may potentially swell somewhat, which could lead to other troubles. And there are no exercises to help that out. Ducky.

The surgery is done on an out-patient basis. Huh? I said impolitely! But yes, unless there are complications, it's about a 3-4 hour surgery, and after a brief time in recovery, home I will go. With a couple drains in my chest, which will stay in for a couple weeks, and will need regular cleaning. This is going to be a lot of fun.

Because my cancer is HER2+, I've almost made up my mind to do the chemo, which I abhor! But since the doctor used the word 'cure', I guess I simply have no choice but to go ahead with it. Apparently that won't happen until I have a chance to heal up - 4-8 weeks down the road.

But, one step at a time. I've delayed posting this note, hoping to have a date for my surgery. Now that the decision has been made, I want to get it over with. Obviously the possibility of Tuesday is past, and even though I'm bugging the poor scheduler, she still hasn't been able to find a table for me. So I wait. Again. Gawd I hate waiting.

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