Beating Breast Cancer – Weekly Update, 9-24-2017

I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and have decided to blog about my journey.  If you need to catch up on my story, please check out this page for the chronological list of posts.

Beating Breast Cancer as a Thirty Something

Oophorectomy was the name of the game this week.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Blue Eyes and I dropped the kids off at school and then headed straight up to the hospital for my surgery.  Upon my arrival, I had to go take a pregnancy test (standard operating procedure for women of child-bearing age, but it was definitely salt in the wound for me).  There was some confusion at the lab about my need for a CBC blood test, so they just sent me up to same-day surgery and said they would come up for any blood they needed.

Once I was in the same-day surgery room, I scrubbed down with special wipes and got dressed in my oh-so-stylish surgical outfit.  The nurse asked me a ton of pre-surgery questions while I got a wonderful neck and shoulder massage from the in-house massage therapist.  Shortly after that, the nurses accessed my port in order to get the CBC blood sample and start me on fluids.

That’s when things got weird.

As I was talking with Mr. Blue Eyes after the nurses left, my chest started feeling really heavy and I had trouble taking a deep breath without coughing.  I had not coughed AT ALL prior to my port being accessed and now I was coughing pretty regularly.  We called the same-day-surgery nurse and, as she was coming to check on me, the nurse from the surgical floor walked in the door as well.  He decided that we would talk things over with the anesthesiologist and my OB/GYN once I was downstairs in the surgical department.

So I walked down to the surgery wing, coughing through my small talk with the hospital staff.  The anesthesiologist came into the room and we talked about how I have handled anesthesia in the past.  I told him about my nausea after the mastectomy, so he said he would like to try a patch behind my ear after this surgery.  Then he noticed my cough and asked me a few questions about that.  Then he left to discuss things with my doctor.  I didn’t have to wait long until my OB/GYN was in the room with the news that they didn’t like what they were hearing about my cough.  They were going to send me in for some quick imaging to make sure that I didn’t have any fluid in my lungs and that my port hadn’t migrated.  If anything came up in the imaging, I would have to postpone my surgery.

prepped for oophorectomy

At this point, we were invested in this surgery.  I had been at the hospital for over two hours, had been poked and prodded and was ready to go lie down on the surgical table.  I had been weepy all morning and was dreading this surgery, but the news that it might be postponed made me realize just how ready I was to get this over with.  I really hoped that nothing came up on imaging.

I walked with a nurse over to the radiology department, where they took a quick picture of my chest (after checking the first x-ray, the radiology tech thought the surgery department had left EKG leads on my chest and was going to come take them off for a better image….we both chuckled when I told her I had tissue expanders.)  After the regular x-ray, I went into a different room for a live x-ray, where the radiologist injected contrast into my port and watched its path to make sure the catheters on my port hadn’t migrated to somewhere they shouldn’t be.

Everything looked fine.

I was relieved, but still confused.  I’m not sure where the coughing or chest heaviness had come from, but I was grateful that they could go ahead with the surgery.  They quickly walked me into the surgery room, had me hop up on the table, got me snuggled under a warm blanket, and I was out within a couple of minutes.

When I woke up in recovery, I was SORE.  My innards felt very similar to how they felt post-c-section, but the incision pain was much less intense.  The recovery nurses checked my pad and informed me that I had a little more bleeding than they had expected because there was some tearing.  After a short time of being awake in recovery, they wheeled me back up to my room in the same-day surgery wing.

Once I was back upstairs, I could feel the clock ticking.  I just wanted to go home, but I knew that I needed to eat and pee before they would release me.  My body decided to prolong this whole experience by gifting me with a TON of nausea (even WITH the fancy patch behind the ear).  Every time the nurses tried to get me up and ready to sit in the chair, I tossed my cookies.  I had ordered toast and jello almost immediately after getting back up to same-day surgery because I wanted to get out of there, but I threw that up (and then some!).  Luckily, they gave me some pain meds before trying to move me over to the chair, so I had kept the meds down and my pain level was down to about a two by that point.

At some point in this ordeal, a chatty roommate was brought in who had apparently gone through a much less emotionally and physically draining procedure (or she was just handling life much better than I was).  Either way, I was in no mood for that.  Shortly after she was wheeled in on the other side of the curtain, I decided it was go time.  Bring on the puke, because I was going to get out of that bed, by golly!  I had the nurse bring me a throw-up bag and help me get into the recliner.  I was determined to get out of that place.  After sitting in the chair for a short time without throwing up again, I got up to go to the bathroom and get myself dressed.

We’ve gotta talk bathroom business for a second, here.  (Just skip this paragraph if reading it will make things awkward between us.  No hard feelings.)  The nurses in the same-day surgery wing went into a little more detail about what went on vaginally during surgery.  Apparently one of the instruments that was used during surgery brought some tissue with it when it was removed.  It wasn’t really a tear so much as an injury to my labia.  As you might expect, my first trip to the bathroom was a doozy.  I felt like I was peeing glass for a few days post-surgery.   Hats off to you ladies who have vaginal births.  Ouch!

Anyways, back to my story….

Having peed and eaten, I was released to go home.  All I wanted to do was get into my own bed and sleep.  So that’s what I did.  I was really out of it for the rest of the day.

Wednesday morning brought quite a bit of soreness and gas pain, so I used my pain meds that day.  Needless to say, I was a little out of it on Wednesday as well.

By Thursday, the pain and soreness had subsided to more of a menstrual cramp level, so I was able to manage on ibuprofren.  However, I was still sore enough that my family was concerned about me driving myself to our soon-to-be new town for house hunting on Friday.  (Mr. Blue Eyes was already there because he was starting his job on Saturday).

As it turned out, I was feeling pretty good by Friday morning, so I went ahead and drove myself into the city to go house hunting with Mr. Blue Eyes.  I did pretty well pain-wise, but I was VERY tired by the time I got home that evening.

As one might expect, I was pretty useless on Saturday.  I had definitely overdone it the day before, so I spent the day slowly gathering paperwork for our lender, exchanging calls and texts with our realtor (we made an offer on a house), and resting.

Sidenote:  Buying a house is an extra-stressful process when you’re less than a week out from surgery.  I have had to apologize to our lender and realtor a few times for not firing on all cylinders.

Overall, my recovery has gone pretty well.  I can now pee without wanting to scream, my two smaller incisions don’t really bother me much at all (the incision in my belly button is still pretty tender), and my internal soreness is at a mild menstrual level.  Emotionally, I’m doing okay.  I have had a few distractions to keep me from dwelling on things too much.  I am definitely bummed, but I am grateful that the surgery is no longer looming over me like a dark cloud.   The doctor informed Mr. Blue Eyes post-surgery that my ovaries looked healthy (no obvious signs of cancer), so that was good news.  They sent samples away for further analysis, but we are pretty confident that my ovaries were cancer-free.  (As a reminder, my main reason for having them removed was to help limit my body’s estrogen production.  I also thought it would be a good idea to have one less potential cancer site in my body.)

This next week will bring a long-awaited trip to the plastic surgeon.  Oh, boy…I am SO ready to get back on track with my reconstruction now that radiation is over.

Keep Reading —> Weekly Update, October 1, 2017 {Refilling the Tissue Expander, Fingernails, Irritability}