Things have been quiet around here lately, which is just the way I like it. I did have a doctor’s appointment last week. It was a little odd because my oncologist I’ve been seeing at the cancer center left to work somewhere else. For this particular appointment, I just met with a physician’s assistant. She made sure I was feeling fine, but didn’t even do a breast exam – she figured I had enough people poking and prodding in that area lately so I didn’t need another.
The big news is I’m getting ready to play hockey again. I’m giving myself eight weeks to heal from the surgery, and then I’m heading back on the ice. I will make one concession to the cancer. Since I still have my port in place, I’ve gotten a protective shirt to wear over the port.
My new shirt with a pocket for the protective piece.
It’s designed to protect your shoulder from the recoil of a shotgun, but it should protect my port from a random shot that my shoulder pads somehow fail to protect me from. The protective piece hardens with air contact, so it comes in an air-tight package with lots of warning labels.
When you open the package, the protective piece is soft, and it hardens over a ten minute period. I put it in the pocket and kept pushing it over the port and my chest so it fit smoothly.
Before hardening – soft and flat
After hardening, hard and curved
We’ll see how it works for hockey. I have quality shoulder pads, so I’m not too worried, but a shattered port would be a bad thing. I’m hoping I get a chance to get on the ice a few times before my first game, to get my legs under me. It’s been a while since I played hockey. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten it all!
Yesterday, I was back at Dr. Kang’s office to get my stitches out. He started by taking out every other stitch, and then said he’d take out the remaining stitches if everything looked good. Considering it’s healed completely, all the stitches came out. It was not the most pleasant of operations. Not as bad as getting a drain pulled out of you, but I could feel the stitches as he pulled them far enough away from my body that he could snip it off. I will admit to not watching. I can watch this kind of stuff in other people, but if I watch certain procedures on myself, I get a little woozy.
I asked Dr. Kang what was next. He said I have three possible options. Option #1 – I do nothing, and just leave the site as is. I would feel like I wasted all that effort with the expander, but it’s really nice not having an expander in place right now, and I’m not in a hurry to change things. If I decide I want to do something, I’ll have to wait four to six months and then, Option #2 – he’s able to put an implant in place. It’ll probably be smaller than originally planned for, but it would be something. If the skin isn’t stretchy enough, I may have to go with Option #3 if I want reconstruction – the placement of a new expander.
I already know that Option #3 is out. There’s no way I’m doing another expander. The question just becomes, do I want the implant, or do I say screw it and stick with what I have now. I’m not going to make that decision now. In fact, I can wait years if I want to and then finish reconstruction. I’ll wait until the pain and annoyance of the expander has faded significantly, and see what it’s like living lopsided before I make that decision.
I do have pictures. Not everyone will want to see them, so I’ll bury them under a bunch of whitespace. Scroll down if you’re interested in before and after the stitches come out. Close it out here if you’re not interested. You’ve been warned!
With the stitches still in. There’s a lot of dry skin around the whole area, and you can see my drain incision site.
Stitches out. You can see how the whole thing looks kind of like a crater, and the skin doesn’t slide along the incision site.
Alternately titled: I can give hugs without fear again.
My last dose of antibiotics was Wednesday, which meant I didn’t need my port accessed anymore. Yes – I could get that itchy thing off my shoulder. Bonus, no more danglies hanging off my front. I can wear a bra again, which makes it a little easier to be decent out in public. If I wear a bra, I actually look mostly even again. As soon as my drain access point closes up, I can even take a shower. Such things I have to look forward to.
The Visiting Nurse tried to convince me I had to leave the bandage over my port on for 24 hours. No, not so much. I’ll leave it on for a couple of hours, to make sure the incision site closes. I need to be able to itch that location, and another bandage doesn’t help me scratch.
I feel so much freer today, now that my drain is out! It wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as the drain from my mastectomy, partly because it went into my chest instead of into my armpit. Even so, I am thrilled to have it out.
Friday I called Dr. Kang about getting the drain out, because it had drained less than 30cc in 24 hours (the requirement for removing the drain). Even so, he wanted to leave the drain in until early in the week because of the severity of the infection. Being the model patient (would it result in me having to go back to the hospital if I don’t follow directions? Well then, let me follow the directions to the letter), I waited patiently all weekend and called Dr. Kang’s office again Monday morning. They managed to schedule me an appointment in between the visiting nurse coming at 10:30 to give me my antibiotics and draw blood and teaching at 3.
When I got to his office, the nurse apologetically made some comment about not being sure Dr. Kang would take the drain out, since she hadn’t had a chance to clear it with him. Luckily, he was satisfied with the drain output (20-25cc since Thursday) and took it out. Oh my, was it uncomfortable when he took out the drain. First he has to cut the stitch holding it in, and the he has to pull, and I could feel the drain under my skin as he pulled it out. Blech. One big bandaid over the incision site, and I was off and running.
The next big step is getting my port de-accessed, and I will have nothing dangling from my skin, unlike the picture below.
Aren’t I just a mess – gauze pad covering my surgery site, drain dangling from a lanyard, and IV tubing from my port.