Archives

Successful Surgery

Surgery was scheduled for 6pm last night. The Infectious Agents doctor (I finally learned her name – Dr. Colpan) was disappointed the surgery was last night. She would have wanted to stop my antibiotics beforehand in the hopes of getting a good culture and some idea of the bacteria I’ve got growing inside me. Too bad – I wanted the surgery ASAP so I could get out of here sooner.

Before the surgery, I had to take off all my jewelry (they use a tool to cauterise blood vessels that could cause a spark on metal objects) and all my clothes (luckily, no catheter this time, just a breathing tube). I also had to wipe the area being operated on with a cleansing, antimicrobial wipe. Three minutes with one wipe, let it dry, and three minutes with the other. Three minutes is a lot of time to have to wash a small, tender area.

I had to go to the main OR, instead of the Women’s Hospital’s OR. Dr. Kang took what was available. By 6pm, the OR was pretty empty, so I got lots of attention from all the nurses prepping me. Dr. Kang showed up only a few minutes late and had to complete some paperwork and sign my breast. You have to be sure to mark laterality, just in case.

I was pretty woozy after the surgery and a little nauseous, but I never go to the pukey phase like the last time I had anesthesia. They game me a couple more drugs for nausea this time. My throat was quite dry and sore from the breathing tube, so I woke up every hour or so overnight to get a drink and go back to sleep. This morning, I’m feeling pretty good. I haven’t needed any pain meds, which is pretty awesome. The surgery site hurts every once in a while, but nothing too intense. It is weird not to have the expander in anymore. The right side of my chest is completely flat now. It’s covered in gauze, so I haven’t been able to look at it yet.

I do have two gown patterns to add to the collection:

The gown pattern for the Women's hospital. I've worn several of these during my current hospital stay.

The gown pattern for the Women’s hospital. I’ve worn several of these during my current hospital stay.

The gown from the main hospital's operating room

The gown from the main hospital’s operating room

Now I’m just waiting to see Dr. Kang and probably Dr. Colpan again to tell me when I can go home and what drugs I’ll be taking with me.

 

No Doctor’s Appointments!!

It’s a minor miracle that I have no doctor’s appointments this week. In fact, it’s the first week all year (if you don’t count the vacation week, which I don’t because I wasn’t in town) that I have not had to go to a doctor’s appointment for either myself or the kids. If you take the kids out of the equation, there’s been one other week all year, but I had to go and sit in a doctor’s waiting room for them. so I’m including the kids in my record. Pretty sad that we’re nearly half-way through the year and I’ve had, at the most generous, three weeks with no appointments. Don’t worry, I’m back to the doctor’s office next week. You needed worry I’ll miss those waiting rooms.

Since I have no doctor’s appointments, I’ll talk about something frivolous – my hair. I actually got my hair cut before I went on vacation. I was debating whether or not it was long enough to get it cut, but it was starting to annoy me and not flip up correctly. Besides, if I got it cut, it would have some actual shape and style as opposed to just being how long everything happened to grow in.

Before - looking a bit wild and crazy

Before – looking a bit wild and crazy

Not having a lot of experience at the hair dresser’s, I wasn’t really sure what to tell her. The conversation went something like, “I’d like it to flip up in front, but not be so crazy in back, and keep something in front of the ears, but maybe not so much. Can you do anything with that?” Luckily, she could.

After - much more tamed.

After – much more tamed.

I was quite pleased with how it turned out. It’s not too different from what I came in with, but it all works together better. I am amazed that hair an inch long can still manage to stick up funny in places. The curl seems to be coming back, and it looks a little darker than before chemo. That’s probably just because all the sun-bleached highlights are gone. I am glad to note that I can make it look presentable after swimming without needing a mirror or brush. Overall, I’m quite happy with my hair. The question becomes how long I can go between haircuts…

Happy Birthday to Me

Today’s my 40th birthday. I must say, all the anxiety about turning such a big round number has pretty much disappeared. A cancer diagnosis is much more stressful than any birthday. Instead, I’m happy to have made it to another birthday, and a cancer-free one at that. StatsGuy lamented the fact that there were no “Congratulations! You made it to another birthday without dying of cancer” birthday cards, so he modified one to make a joke about having only real boob.

It’s amazing to think that it’s been less than a year since I was diagnosed. It’s been a whirlwind of doctor’s visits, tests, and treatments. I do plan on having many more birthdays, and all of them cancer-free, thank you very much.

Who do you tell?

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, it was completely overwhelming. After I told my immediate family, the question becomes, who else do you tell and how do you tell them? I want my good friends to know because I and my family need their support while I’m going through diagnosis and treatment, but how do you tell them? I would get asked the casual, “Hi, how are you doing?” and I’d have to immediately decide between answering truthfully, “Fine, except for the breast cancer,” or just stick with the “Fine.”

The fact that I have cancer just doesn’t come up in casual conversation. I made an effort to tell my close local friends in person. It wasn’t too hard since I was looking for childcare for all the doctor’s appointments and I needed to explain why. Widening the circle was harder. My mother and mother-in-law took care of much of the family. It’s the casual friends and the Facebook friends who don’t live in town that becomes hard. I did find the easiest way to slip it into a conversation came with “How’s your summer going?” at which point, I could answer, “Not as well as expected.”

I’m at the point now where I only tell acquaintances if the chemo somehow affects plans that are being made. I was a little afraid that once I cut my hair, it would come up in casual conversation more easily and I’d end up telling more people. It’s not that I don’t want people to know, but it’s such a shock when telling anyone that I feel bad for them that I have cancer. Needless to say, it’s not a conversation I seek out. So far, no one has asked why I cut my hair, and my new hats cover up the fact that there’s nothing much left on my scalp, but I’m sure the question’s coming.

It’s also not something I’m sharing publicly on Facebook, either. I am a fairly private person. I’ve told a few good friends that have moved out-of-town, but it’s too personal to share with all my random old high school friends or friends of friends. So, there have been many days where I’ve been silent on Facebook because the only things I could say had to do with doctor’s appointments or chemotherapy. It’s a hard decision whether or not to tell someone, and I have to remind myself not to feel guilty for not wanting to have to share my cancer diagnosis. It’s my information that I get to decide who to tell.

Second round of chemo

So, I’m back in the chemo chair getting my second round of chemo. I’m already up to the Carboplatin, with only the Herceptin left. Time flies as the drugs drip in!

The room is set up as a horseshoe - this is the curved end.

The room is set up as a horseshoe – this is the curved end.

There’s around 18 seats in the chemo room at the Regional Cancer Center’s chemo room, and most of them were full this morning. I’ve had my neighbors come and go at least once since my chemo takes six hours today. It’s an hour shorter than the first time since my Herceptin dose isn’t as big, but still longer than most of the other chemo patients in the room.

Before I got chemo, the doctor went over my bloodwork to make sure I was healthy enough to get the chemo. The bloodwork was mostly good. My hemocrit and hemoglobin levels were a bit low, so the doctor’s going to check my iron levels. I’ll be upping the fresh greens in my diet as well in the hopes of increasing iron without having to resort to medicine. I also had some high liver function levels, so we’ll have to monitor that since one of the side effects of the chemo is to mess with the liver. I still got the full dose today, but we’ll see what happens in the future.

Mom came to visit with me. I don't have near as much hair this time.

Mom came to visit with me. I don’t have near as much hair this time, but there’s still some under that hat.

My mom came with me to chemo today, so we’ve had a nice chat on and off throughout the day. It does make the time go faster when I have someone to talk to. She also helps with things like unplugging my stand when I need to use the restroom (and with all the fluids they’re pumping in, the restroom calls often in the afternoon) or fixing the pillow on my chair. I didn’t notice any of the drugs going in this time, not even the Benedryl. I also managed to sleep normally last night, even with the steroids in my system. Coming in rested makes the day go much smoother.

Neulasta side effects

So, 24 hours after chemo, I have to go get a shot to boost the production of my bone marrow to try to prevent excessive fatigue or infections or bleeding. Luckily, my local doctor’s office is willing to give me the shot so I don’t have to drive the half hour into the Regional Cancer Center for a five-minute wait for a nurse to give me a shot. One of my fears was I would forget to pick up the shot from the pharmacy after chemo and then be forced to come back to the RCC. The pharmacy actually brought the shot out to me so I didn’t have to worry about forgetting.

One of the side effects of boosting your bone marrow production, particularly in younger people who are starting with higher levels of bone marrow, is bone pain. The doctors and the nurses all told me to expect it, but it bothered me much less than I feared it would. I felt like I had the flu, without the fever. My whole body was tender, particularly along bones like my pelvis, spine, ribs, and skull. My head probably hurt the worst, along my cheeks, jaw line, and back of the neck.

Even though my body was sore, it never really slowed me down or affected my ability to do anything. I did notice it most at night when I was going to bed. For a couple of days, I slept with my daughter’s Pillow Pet down at my legs. If I slept on my back, my knees fit perfectly over the sides of the pillow and were propped up in a comfortably bent angle. If I slept on my side, I put the side of the pillow between my legs and again, was much more comfortable. I slept great at night and had no problems going to sleep, and part of that was due to being more comfortable in the legs with the Pillow Pet – highly recommended!

My new night-time friend

My new night-time friend