Tag Archive | expander

Stitches Are Out!

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.

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.

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.


Surgery It Is

Dr. Kang came by this morning (at 7:45 – I was a bit surprised to see him so early!) . The site is still red, and black spot is visible, and it’s started dripping again. Looks like the expander needs to come out in order for the infection to clear. We tried to save the expander, but (unsurprisingly) it just isn’t happening.

I’m kind of excited to get the expander out (especially because it’s hurt since the beginning of the month, and I’m ready for that to stop) except for one thing. Since there’s an infection in the pocket, Dr. Kang won’t be able to put an implant into the site until the infection clears. That means he’ll be taking the expander out and putting nothing in its place. That makes a pocket where fluid can gather so I need a drain. Blech.

Surgery is scheduled for 6pm tonight. Luckily, Dr. Kang let me have breakfast. No food or drink after 9am. My breakfast arrived at 8:30 – plenty of time to finish before the ban started.

This morning's breakfast - French toast today.

This morning’s breakfast – French toast today.

The other good thing is since I’m already hooked up to an IV, I won’t have to worry about them trying to find a shriveled vein when I go into the OR dehydrated. I did have to get a new IV site yesterday since the old one started infiltrating (which means the fluid was being pumped into the tissue instead of the vein). The timing could have been better, since I was on a Vanco drip at the time. If it had just been the maintenance saline, I could have stayed off the IV until close to 9pm. As it was, I had a half hour or so free of my dancing partner. I took advantage of it and did a couple of trips around the hall.

My new IV site

My new IV site

It was very uncomfortable yesterday and I had a hard time finding a position the arm didn’t ache, but this morning it’s much better. Sleeping with it must have readjusted something since I can use the arm without it hurting today.

I’ve Entered the Despair Phase

When I first was admitted to the hospital, I was furious that I would have to spend days in the hospital. Who wants to spend days in the hospital? Stupid expander. Stupid infection. Can’t it all just be over. Now I’m at the point where I’m feel I’m never going to get out of the hospital. I’m not bored – just tired of being hooked up to an IV tree and stuck inside.

The lovely view out my window

The lovely view out my window

Today’s doctor’s visits didn’t go as well as yesterday’s visits. The Infectious Agents (IA) doctor wants the expander out (which is what Dr. Kang said they would say). Dr. Kang wasn’t quite as positive for today’s visit. While the redness seems to have declined (although the IA disagreed with that assessment), there’s a black spot within the oozy spot. Most likely, that blackness is the expander showing through. If we can see the expander, the sore will not heal over it and we’ll just need to take the expander out. It could be OK, but the spot will need to be gone tomorrow morning. Otherwise, it’s time to plan surgery.

Surgery will entail taking out the expander, cleaning out the area, and letting it heal with nothing in the space. I would actually be happy if we got the expander out. The big negative would be since we wouldn’t put anything in that space, I would need a drain. I HATE drains with a burning passion. Drains ruin my life. Once everything heals, Dr. Kang would go back and put in the implant. I’m torn – getting the expander out is a major bonus, but having a drain is one of the worst things.

Best case scenario, I could have surgery tomorrow night and be home within 24 hours. It depends on the availability of the OR. Tomorrow morning I’ll know more. It’s all so up in the air and dependent on how things are looking. We’ll see how it looks in the morning.

One At A Time, Please

Don’t problems know they’re supposed to come one at a time? I have the energy to deal with them as long as they come singly, not in the group I’m currently dealing with. It’s not fair when they gang up on me.

The pulled muscle seems to be getting better. I was able to mow a bit of the lawn today (the grass is getting to prairie stage, which the kids don’t want to play in as much).

I think I have the coughing mostly under control. I’ve been taking Zyrtex, which seems to control the coughing better than the Claritin I tried earlier. The coughing isn’t gone, but it’s much better. I’m usually fine until mid-afternoon, and then starting around 3 the coughing is worse. It makes it hard to lecture when you want to cough every time you say something, but the coughing has declined. Of course, going out to mow the lawn didn’t help the coughing this evening, but sacrifices must be made and chores must be done.

My new problem is I seem to have some kind of infection under the skin over the expander. It’s been a bit red and warm for a while, but I thought it was just related to the pulled muscle and being the expander. I started to get puffy areas on the expander the other day or so, and today one of those spots (a very thin spot that had just finally healed from picking some dead skin months ago) started oozing pus. Lovely. Guess who gets to call the plastic surgeon tomorrow. And if this messes up my surgery date, I am going to be really, REALLY mad. Maybe he’ll need to take the expander out to let the infection heal. That would remove the expander. The problem is, if Dr. Kang removes the expander, I’m not sure I’ll have the strength of will to put one back in. On a good note, perhaps the reason I’ve been so tired has been I’m fighting an infection, and not because I’m anemic. Lemonade anyone?

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.

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.

This entry was posted on September 1, 2014, in update and tagged .

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!