My cancer saga started when I was diagnosed at 38 with Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I have a twisted sense of humor and have tried to continue that laughter and optimism on my journey...

Surgery Day

Episode LIV - There she goes again...




(Be warned -
Some images of my surgery & healing shown... )

I woke up bright an early (4:50 am) so that I could shower with my "special" soap (which I also used the night before) to help disinfect my body and prevent post-surgical infections. Then I got to put on a tube (yes, a tube) of lidocaine cream over my nipple. I started in the center and slowly and circularly worked my way outside of the nipple. And since I have had negative results with my port - I covered it up good. Then I put a large piece of Press n' Seal Saran Wrap over my nipple and breast. Finally, putting my bra directly on so that I would make sure it stayed in place for then next few hours.

Of course the day before surgery I was sitting in the doctor's office with my daughter who had a serious asthma attack and would require care the next day. My mom who was going to go with me had to remain home with her, so thank goodness my friend was still planning on taking me. However, now she was fully in charge of me... a task I would not wish on anyone!!!


Pre-Surgical Procedures:

Instead of going straight to the hospital, I was in for a visit to the breast center to complete some of the pre-surgical work. I got to change into the double gown (1st one open front, 2nd one open in the back) I was so accustom to wearing now. Then I made my way back to the ultrasound room.

The ultrasound tech took a look at my tumor and removed the cream off my nipple. Then we had to wait on the doctor because that was when the real work began. First the doctor numbed my breast where she would be cutting and inserting the wire to my tumor. I could watch the entire thing on the monitor, which was actually pretty cool.

She made a tiny incision and placed a long needle into my breast until it reached the tumor. Then a small wire was attached to the tumor and a clip was placed on the outside so that the wire would not get lost (or pushed inside). Of course that would have been near impossible since they left a lot of wire outside - enough that it had to be wrapped in multiple circles. A large bandage was placed over it to keep the wire down and out of the way.

The wire would be a direct guide for the breast surgeon to find the tumor during the lumpectomy procedure.


Wire is officially inserted and I better not show more or it will flip out, 
as it is coiled up under the dressing. 


Then the doctor used a needle to place radioactive tracers in my body, via my nipples. Oh yeah... it was slightly uncomfortable. I had multiple injections directly into my nipple. The cream did help numb the nipple, but the radioactive tracer burns. However, compared to what I have already been through this was a minor annoyance. I must have handled it well - because the nurses were all impressed with my attitude.

I would like to say I was off to surgery, but we had to make sure the wire was in the perfect location for the Breast Surgeon. I was off for a mammogram. Thankfully, all of these procedures are done in one location. When I was in the room the bandage on my breast was taken off and the wire was loose. Then I had to take multiple mammograms while that wire was positioned carefully. Ewwww... but not painful.

The radioactive tracer would be combined with the some blue dye injected during surgery that would help turn my sentinel lymph nodes blue, so that they would know which ones to take out.


Surgery Time:
Lumpectomy & Axillary Sentinel Lymph Node Dissection

Once all that fun stuff was complete, I was wheeled to the hospital and taken back to a room. I got to change and wait... and wait... and wait.


 
Hanging out with my buddy before the operation!


Hospital visits are as fun as you make them. And I opt to have a good time and laugh. After a lot of joking and teasing - including the text message sent to my husband warning him that I had to take a pregnancy test (potential daddy... not) - it was time to get the show on the road. I got my IV (yuck) and had a chat with the anesthesiologist... mainly focusing on her not killing me. And then it was time for surgery.


IV in. Ready to go!


Often the surgical cut is horizontal across the top of the chest, however due to the larger size and location of tissue they had to take the surgeon opted for a horizontal cut. In addition, I had a horizontal incision under my underarm where the lymph nodes were being removed. And finally they were removing my port, so I would be re-cut over my initial port incision to remove the Powerport. I was expecting to have a new array of war wounds when I woke up!!!

I did wake up briefly in recovery, I remember that, where I asked if I could have something for pain. I was not in a lot of pain, but if I could have something great if not ok too. I remember the nurse talking to me about giving me something... then I only remember having an oxygen mask put on and being woken up told to breath. Apparently they gave me too much of a good thing cause I was so out of it I was forgetting to breath.

Then before I was ready, cause they were yanking the mask off, I got rolled into my room where I saw not only my friend, but my husband and another friend. I was so out of it. I remember trying hard to be coherent. I remember the nurse discharging me and not really knowing anything. I remember getting in the car and still feeling overly medicated. I remember getting home and passing out in the bed. I remember waking up and being upset with that I was discharged too early and that they gave me way too much pain medication.


Post Surgery:

Beside waking up feeling hung-over from all of the drugs, I woke up to being sufficiently wrapped and taped. However, I was at home and in bed which was far more comfortable than the hospital!!!


I woke up and I was completely wrapped up!


Day 3 after Surgery:

I could officially take off the larger exterior dressing and get down to the tape. The tape over the stitches could not be removed as I was still healing. I will say I felt slightly less uncomfortable when I got to remove the exterior dressing. However, I was required to wear a bra (sports bra's worked better) 24/7 for the next 2-3 weeks. And trust me, I wanted to wear one as gravity can be unkind when you are cut open on parts that hang.


 
Under the wrapped boobs was my surgical tape covering my incisions.
Slight bruising began to show.


Week 2 after Surgery:

Over the past few week after taking off the exterior dressing showers began to slowly wear away at the tape. Unfortunately for me - tape loves my skin. After the first week of no tape coming off, I had to get a small amount of rubbing alcohol and a q-tip to start working on the edges. A tip given and shown to me at my follow-up appointment with the breast surgeon.


 
Slowly peeling back the tape over the next weeks during the shower.
Some bruising and small tears from the tape.


 
Finally, the tape is off and the scars are on display!
Some bruising remains, but at least that darn tape is off!


A few weeks out from surgery and I am still feeling sore. Mostly I have trouble sleeping because I only want to lay on my left side and place multiple pillows around me for support. That one position was getting old and making my left hip sore. The overall procedure was not as painful as I expected. As with any surgery, it was not fun and had some pain, but compared to other surgeries I have had it was pretty easy.



In my head...


Glad that the cancer mass is out. Now I just have to wait on the results and to heal. I was amazed at how smoothly the procedure (minus the recover room drugging) was. It was actually really detailed and organized to make the surgery less invasive. And for that I was grateful.

The tape was a pain, but that tends to be an issue for me anyway. So, I am just glad that it is all off now and I don't have to deal with it any more. Overall, I am just glad to be done with this part of my treatment!!!


“I didn't expect to recover from my second operation but since I did, 
I consider that I'm living on borrowed time. Every day that dawns is a gift to me and 
I take it in that way. I accept it gratefully without looking beyond it. 
I completely forget my physical suffering and all the unpleasantness of my 
present condition and I think only of the joy of seeing the sun rise once more 
and of being able to work a little bit, even under difficult conditions.” 
- Henri Matisse



Episode Reference: There she goes, Sixpence None the Richer song


Pre-Admission side note:

The week before surgery I went to have my pre-admission visit. I mentioned that I had blood work done regularly at the cancer center and they were able to get my records. No needle needed. If I had known this, I would have called that information to them sooner. However, I was still spared a needle even though at this point I have no issue with it.

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About Amy Brock

Amy Brock is a cancer fighter and survivor. Diagnosed with Infiltrating Breast Cancer at 38 she has gone through chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, hormone therapy, and other procedures since 2013. Post treatment she has been diagnosed with lymphedema, chemo-induced neuropathy and bone degeneration in her back, as well as other issues including dysphagia, bilateral hearing loss, and arthritis. From being completely healthy, to having a variety of issues, Amy began blogging about her experiences as a way to help others. Read more about finding humor in the craziness of cancer at her blog www.tatawarrior.com Amy is the mother of two children and has worked for various non-profit agencies. In addition, she is a fine artist creating works in multiple mediums which can be seen at www.amybrock.com

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