Another Checkup

Monday I was scheduled for another check-up with the breast surgeon’s office. Good, I could tie that appointment to my trip to the Cancer Center for my port flush. Too bad the office called early Monday morning to reschedule. The PA I was seeing wouldn’t be in the office Monday morning. Bummer. I still needed that port flush ASAP (since it had been a week too long already), so guess I couldn’t tag team the appointments.

I rescheduled for Thursday at 11am. It would break up a school day (the other advantage for the Monday appointment), but at least it was close to lunch and perhaps wouldn’t screw up the schooling too much that day. The check-up was quick and easy, although we had a bit more to talk about than usual. She commented on the circle of pink on my expander. I explained about overdoing the yard work, pulling a muscle and the significant pain associated with that event. She commented I might have torn a muscle, and what we were seeing was a hematoma. Just keep an eye on it and call Dr. Kang’s office if it got worse. It continues to get fainter, so I’m not too worried (although it better be all healed by October 10th. I don’t want anything to mess with that surgery date!!).

The other topic of conversation was a cough I seemed to have picked up. For a couple of days, I could hardly talk because every time I tried, I started coughing. Again, the PA was a little concerned because it’s always possible the cancer has moved to lungs. If it doesn’t go away in a reasonable amount of time, I should get a chest X-ray “just in case.” Of course, now I’m all paranoid about recurrence, when I’m sure it’s just allergies. It’s prime allergy season (StatsGuy lets me know every morning), and I’ve had this cough-when-talking phenomenon happen before. Hey, at least I already have orders for a chest X-ray before my surgery so I could get one without having to see a doctor first. I scheduled an EKG before the surgery (one, because I’ve never had one, and might as well add to the tests I’ve taken, and two, less radiation, which I’m all about with all the testing I get.), but I could always change my mind.

The coughing does seem to be getting better. Lots of raw honey from my mother and trying to rest and heal as much as possible.

Port Flush

It seems I’m definitely on the mend, finally. After a week on the couch (and Saturday was the worst, although that could have been the NyQuil StatsGuy convinced me to try Friday night. Won’t be doing that again) I can survive the day without completely craving a nap. I am not 100% yet, but I’m pretty darn close. It no longer hurts to breathe, although I could do without the coughing. The nausea has gone away, and my appetite is back. Good. We’re all tired of me being sick.

Sunday night, as I was trying to get to sleep, I suddenly remembered I’m supposed to get my port flushed every four to six weeks. Wait, when was my last Herceptin treatment? The end of July? That makes it…one..two…oops. It had been seven weeks (to the day) since the last time my port was accessed on Monday. Guess I needed a quick trip to the RCC. Too bad my other doctor’s appointment for the day was cancelled, or I could have gotten them all taken care of in a day. As it was, I had to make a special trip, but it’s kind of important to make sure no clot grows in/on the port.

Special trip it was. And a bit of a wait, even if I did manage to schedule a time before lunch for the flush. Luckily the kids were completely occupied by the puzzle that’s always in the chemo waiting room. The flush itself just involves accessing the port, and vial of saline, and a vial of Herparin (an anticoagulant). Band-aid on, and out the door five minutes later. I promise I won’t wait seven weeks until the next port flush.

How Quickly I Forget

Not that anyone in my family would be surprised to hear that I forgot something. It’s a running joke that goes, “Hey, do you remember. Oh wait, nevermind. You won’t remember.” I was reminded of two things this week.

The first reminder was how much pain messes with your life. My chest muscles are feeling somewhat better, which just means new achy spots have appeared. I think what may have happened is the expander shifted a bit. That would explain all the new aches and pains I’m currently experiencing. I’ve actually had to break out some of the left-over pain meds I had floating around just so I could function. The drugs work great. I feel completely normal, and then they wore off this evening and it was bad.

The constant pain just drains my energy. The not sleeping because every sleeping position involves some amount of pain doesn’t help. I’m also not hungry, which is a key characteristic that says “Not feeling well.” It is getting better, slowly but surely.

Working hard

Working hard

The other thing I noticed was how much easier homeschooling was this year compared to next year. I figured it was just because the kids were another year older and that much better at working independently. Someone (I think either my mother or sister) commented it was probably because I didn’t have to schedule homeschooling around cancer treatments and doctor’s appointments. Oh yeah. That would probably make things much harder than this year.

Working hard

Working hard

Now to feel better, soon.

Overdid It a Bit

I just found another activity I really shouldn’t do – strenuous digging. I decided to put some bricks down off the back patio, which required digging through some gravelly dirt. Usually, I can tell when I’m straining the muscles over my expander. I didn’t feel anything at this time, but when I woke up the next morning, I could hardly move. It hurts just to breathe and heaven forbid I have to cough. It feels like I just got the third expansion again. Three days later, I can exist without pain killers, but I’m still waiting to take a deep breath.

Adding and Subtracting Doctor’s Appointments

This week I’ve managed to remove a doctor’s appointment from my schedule, but I had to add two new ones. This is not the math I prefer to do when talking about visiting a doctor. At least the appointments I added are in my home town, so I don’t even have to drive far.

The cancelled appointment was with Dr. Li. I called in order to get my orders for bloodwork, which I had forgotten to ask for during my last Herceptin treatment. It really doesn’t matter where I get my blood drawn and tested, as long as it’s just before my appointment. I’d really prefer to do it locally than having to drive a half an hour for a five-minute needle stick. When I called to get the orders transferred, the nurse couldn’t find my appointment. That was curious. After doing a little digging, it turns out my visit to talk about Tamoxifen pushed back my three-month visit into October sometime. Great! Fewer trips to the cancer center! Except for the fact that I was planning on using the bloodwork I needed for that appointment as the bloodwork I need for my surgery on October 10th as well. The nurse just sent me the order so I can do the bloodwork when I need it.

The added doctor’s appointments were also associated with my surgery. Dr. Kang’s office called today to let me know they need medical clearance from my primary care provider before doing the exchange surgery. (Turns out, since this is essentially elective surgery, there’s a few more hoops to jump through.) Trick is, I haven’t seen my primary care provider since I was diagnosed (I figure I’m being monitored just fine without him) and the doctor I was seeing at my practice has since left. That’s OK, the nurses are still the same so they were able to hook me up. As a bonus, they can do the EKG I need before surgery at the office as well. It’s a separate appointment, since the doctor will want to see the results before giving me clearance for the surgery, but again, now I don’t have to drive across town to the Heart Institute.

So I’ve had a bit of a respite from seeing the doctor, but my schedule is filling up again as surgery looms. No problem – this is one surgery I’m whole-heartedly looking forward to.

Exchange Surgery is Scheduled!

I hope no one missed me too much these past few weeks. We went on our annual vacation to whatever city the Joint Statistical Meetings is at – Boston this year. It was great fun with lots of history, and just a few too many people for my tastes. Then it was back home and time for more doctor’s appointments.

I met with Dr. Kang on Monday to discuss my exchange surgery. It is an outpatient surgery (although it requires full anesthesia) with a pretty quick recovery time. That’ll be nice, but I still want to coordinate the surgery with my teaching schedule this year. Dr. Kang wants to wait six months after the end of radiation, to allow the skin to heal as much as possible, which means we’re talking the beginning of October. I wanted a Thursday or Friday so I wouldn’t miss any teaching days, so the earliest available date is October 10th. I got the first slot of the morning and scheduled a variety of pre-op appointments to be ready for the surgery.

I did ask a bit about the implant I’ll be getting. The room itself was full of options:

The variety of implants to choose from

The variety of implants to choose from

I reiterated that I wanted to go back to my original cup size. No more of this B-cup business, thank you very much. He’ll actually bring a couple of different sizes with him to the surgery and pick the one that provides the best symmetry with the other side. While they took out 200cc of breast tissue, he might need to put in something a bit bigger because the muscle tends to compress the implant, and sometimes the expander actually presses on the ribs enough to make a dent, so a larger size is required to get the same volume sticking out of the chest wall.

The other choice for the implant is the profile:

275cc implants - high profile on the left, medium profile on the right

275cc implants – high profile on the left, medium profile on the right. Notice the different in circumference

I’ll be getting a high profile, Mentor implant. The high profile aspect just means more of the volume goes to vertical vs. horizontal displacement. I’m guessing the medium and low profile implants are used to bolster someone’s natural breasts, instead of the complete replacement I’m getting.

Overall, I’m thrilled to have the surgery scheduled. I am so ready to get the expander out and something squishy in its place. I’m hoping with the implant it won’t hurt when I use my chest muscles like it does now. We’ll see in a few weeks!

Sore muscles

Summer is flying by, as is does so many years. I have been much busier living life and doing things around the house compared to last summer, which is great. I have noticed that I have to be careful with certain actions, or the muscles stretched across my expander hurt. They’re trying to contract and the expander underneath the muscles doesn’t compress, which leads to achiness in my chest. Just another one of those side effects they don’t tell you about ahead of time.

The worst I’ve found is a pushing motion, like when you’re scrubbing wallpaper paste off walls. I make sure to pick small sections to work on each day because I can’t do too much at a time. I also have problems laying on my stomach. I don’t usually sleep on my stomach, but I woke myself up this morning with the muscle over my expander cramping because I was sleeping on it. It adds to my reasons I’m actually looking forward to my appointment with the plastic surgeon. I so want the expander out. Now if this scab on my scar would just fall off…