Expansion #3

Goodness, when Dr. Kang mentioned the expansions get more difficult, he wasn’t kidding. I did take the Valium before I went, and I couldn’t even tell. There was a fair amount of grunting in pain as the expander was filled and I really wondered if I needed the full 100ccs added. I did take pictures this time, so let me walk you through the procedure with visuals.

I go into what I call “the expander room” since that’s all that seems to happen in the room.

The expander room with the hot, bright lamp.

The expander room with the hot, bright lamp.

I’m not sure what the machine in the corner is, but Dr. Kang uses the light over the bed. When he turns it on, it’s noticeably warmer where it’s shining on me. After I’m escorted into the room, I get to put on the vest.

My high quality vest

My high quality vest

It’s got two snaps and it’s sleeveless. Unfortunately, the room isn’t very warm so I try not to shiver too hard while I’m waiting for the doctor. Shivering uses chest muscles and using chest muscles hurts. Once Dr. Kang comes in, he finds the port for the expander using this device:

The magnetic dousing rod.

The magnetic dousing rod. The silver part is a magnet.

Once he finds the port, he accesses it with a needle:

The access needle

The access needle

I realized when I took the picture that this is a looong needle (everything below the green device is needle). I’m not sure if the whole thing gets put into the expander, because I won’t look. I get a little woozy when I see needles hanging out of my skin. Dr. Kang then attaches a large syringe.

photo(3)He fills this twice from the saline bag and pushes the saline into the expander.

This is what 100ccs of saline looks like, with a pen for comparison.

This is what 100ccs of saline looks like, with a pen for comparison.

I know 100ccs doesn’t look like much, but oh did it hurt. The pain was much more intense in the muscle under the arm this time, although the pain across the chest was there as well. In fact, the pain radiated all the way around to my shoulder-blade. Just taking too deep of a breath hurt badly, let alone moving my torso. And let me tell you, those chest muscles get used a lot just existing, and trying to sit or lay down, or anything else you want to do.

I had to up the ante on the meds and add pain meds. The Valium alone just didn’t cut it. In fact, the pain woke me up every four hours overnight when the hydrocodone wore off. Sadly, I discovered this morning that taking pain meds on an empty stomach is a bad idea. I woke up slightly nauseous and light-headed. I ate a bit of breakfast and then crashed on the couch for two hours. That was enough to return me to the land of the living. It’s not exactly comfortable, but at least I’m down to manageable pain instead of excruciating pain.

I am so glad that’s the last expansion, and didn’t decide I wanted to be bigger. If I was on the typical schedule and undergoing chemo at this point, I would have been able to split that last expansion into two, but since I’m supposed to start radiation stuff next week I need to be done with the expansions. The skin doesn’t expand well after radiation (it gets a ladder-like appearance, apparently). It doesn’t heal all that well either, so I’ll have to wait a couple of months after radiation is over before I can get the expander removed and the implant put in. Being lopsided for months won’t exactly be fun, but at least the pain of the expansion will go away soon.

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