Beating Breast Cancer – Monthly Update, October 2017

beating breast cancer as a thirty something - monthly update

We made it, my friends.

The MONTHLY update!

My cancer journey has slowed down enough that I can wrap it all up in one tidy little monthly package for you.  To say I’m excited about that would be an understatement and a half! I plan on publishing these updates on the first Sunday of the month; this one just got a little bit delayed due to our recent move.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you might have noticed that I had a visit to the plastic surgeon last month.  We are still trying to get my left tissue expander back to the volume it was prior to radiation. (If you remember, we had to take out 200 cc of volume out of my left tissue expander in order to have a better angle for radiation on the right side of my chest).  I have just a little bit left to go; the lopsidedness is no longer noticeable.  He said that it’s such a small amount that we don’t need to rush things – I can come in once things settle down after our move.

The week of our move, I had two final check-ups with some of my doctors.

The first was a follow-up with my radiation oncologist.  It had been six weeks since I finished radiation and he wanted to see how I was recovering, particularly my skin.  He said that everything looked good.  I went ahead and asked him how long the leathery feel would last on my radiated skin and the answer was as I suspected: That skin will always feel different than the rest of my body.  As I told the doctor, I really don’t mind that my skin is permanently changed (heck, my body is covered with new scars from all of this cancer nonsense),  I was just curious about whether skin is generally able to bounce back from radiation.

It was fun to see how excited the staff was to hear about our upcoming move; they were so genuinely happy for us!  But all of that excitement seemed to add to the finality of this last visit.  I was teary by the time I made it home.  It was really hard to put my emotions into words, but realizing that I was walking out of that cancer center for probably the last time as a patient stirred up a lot of big feelings.  That building symbolizes ten of the most horrible months of my life, but it also houses some of the most talented and caring medical professionals that I have ever met.  And over the course of those horrible ten months, those incredible people became part of my story.  Part of my family.  I am grateful to be leaving cancer treatment behind me, but I will definitely miss my cancer team.

A couple of days later I was able to go through this whole “final visit” stuff all over again, but this time I went to my breast surgeon’s clinic for a follow-up and…………wait for it…………the removal of my port!

port removal

I had no idea what to expect from the port removal process, but it really wasn’t bad.  I got into my gown and laid down on the procedure table.  She numbed the area on my chest (which always burns a little bit) and then asked “dull or sharp?”  Does this question make anyone else nervous?!  How dull is “dull”?  How sharp is “sharp”?  If I answer wrong, am I going to get sliced up before I’m actually numb enough?  No?  It’s just me?  Yes, I know I’m a weirdo.

So anyway, things felt dull enough that the cutting began.  She went through the same incision that was used for my port placement.    I really couldn’t feel much of anything, but I definitely felt pressure as she was tugging at the port.  She told me that sometimes they pop right out and other times she has to get in there and dig.  I’m not quite sure what camp I was in, but there was definitely one clear moment when the pressure turned into discomfort.  Luckily, it didn’t last long and she was stitching me up in no time.  She used the stitches that just disappear over time and then she put the purple skin glue on top of it, so I didn’t have to worry about bandages messing with my ability to shower.  (Sidenote:  I confessed to the surgeon that she has come to mind frequently through my cancer journey.  Anytime someone asks me if I’m doing okay during a shot or procedure, my mind immediately goes to the moment when my surgeon gave me the radioactive shot to my nipple on the morning of my mastectomy.  After a quick mental reminder of how horrible that shot was, I jokingly tell the person poking me that I’ve definitely had worse.  The surgeon got a good chuckle out of that, but also felt bad that it was a shot from her that was my barometer for future pain.)

To sum it all up, the port was removed and it was a pretty easy process.  HOWEVER, when I got back to the house, I dove right back in to preparing for our move that was coming up in three days.  I felt great at first (while everything was still numb), but by the evening I was pretty dang sore and had to take a break from packing.  The soreness didn’t last too long, but it took a couple of days before I really felt like I could lie on that side without feeling the tightness from the stitches.  It feels fine now, but is still just slightly tender to the touch. This morning I snapped a picture to show you how the glue/scar looks now and I noticed that there is still some slight bruising below the incision (where the port used to be), so that probably explains why it is slightly tender.

incision after port removal

Three days after our move, I drove back to town in order to have one more test done.  I went to the imaging department of our local hospital in order to have a baseline bone density exam.  Since I am going into menopause and am taking medication that can also cause loss of bone density, they wanted to get a baseline measurement in order to monitor future bone loss.  This exam was short and sweet; I just hung out on the exam table while a little machine scanned my hip and spine. For this test, I couldn’t wear any clothing with buttons or metal fasteners (similar to the PET scan).  There was a funny moment when I confused the technician a little bit….she checked out my outfit, which was free of metal, but then asked me about my bra.  She asked if my bra had underwire and I said “I don’t wear one.”  I think she must have assumed that I meant that I don’t wear an underwire bra, so she asked if my bra had metal hooks or fasteners.  I clarified that I don’t wear a bra at all, then joked that there had to be SOME perks to this process….and some artificial breast perkiness is one of those…um…perks.

So that is it for cancer news!  I will be transferring my care to the local hospital close to our new home. I will be having my initial appointment later this month, so I will report on that in my next monthly update.  For now, I will end with one last picture of the killer bed head that I am getting these days. Before cancer, I wouldn’t have dreamed of being excited about bed head (let alone post a picture of it on a public blog), but I’m so dang proud of my baby locks that I just have to share:

post chemo bed head