Tag Archive | gown pattern

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.

 

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Clean Mammogram

Since it’s been a year since I was diagnosed with cancer, it’s also been a year since my last mammogram. Back downtown I went. I had forgotten to check the name of the practice that does the mammograms, so I was a bit lost when I got to the professional building. I knew I was at the right building, but finding the right floor was trickier. Got it in one, though.

They were quick to call me back to get my mammogram. I barely had time to fill out all the paperwork I was supposed to before they called me to change. Everything off from the waist up, of course. At least they had decent gowns – they kind of felt like a bathrobe.

My gown for the mammogram

My gown for the mammogram

Once I was escorted to the mammogram room, it took half as long as last year, since there was no reason (or ability) to do the right side.

A mammogram machine - your breast gets squished between the clear and black panels

A mammogram machine – your breast gets squished between the clear and black panels

They do two images. The first is with the machine parallel to the floor, and the second is at a 45 degree angle, and your arm has to hold the metal bar on the gray outer circle. The technician very tenderly places your breast in between the two plates, and then starts to squish. Not painfully, but quite firmly. She stays in the room the whole time, behind a little protective station.

The technician's station

The technician’s station

Once she finished taking the photos, she headed out to the radiologist to “check the quality of the image.” Dr. Chan actually came in to the room to go over the results with me. He started out his conversation with, “I don’t know if you remember me.” Of course I do! He started the whole process, so he’s seared into my memory. Luckily, the results were much better this time around. He let me know things looked fine this time. Yeah! Won’t have to do that for another year, although I have plenty of other doctor’s appointments still on the docket.

Graduated From One Doctor

I had my last appointment with Dr. Figura, my radiation oncologist, yesterday. It was just a short check-up. I got my vitals checked first. I never bother to get on my scale at home, because I know I’ll be weighed nearly every week at the Cancer Center. It looks like my weight might be dropping slightly instead of climbing slightly for a change. Then, it’s into the room to meet with the doctor.

A radiation check-up room

A radiation check-up room

Dr. Figura asked me how I was doing (fine), any pain (I’ve got a spot on my shoulder-blade that’s been hurting since radiation. If it gets worse, I’m supposed to let them know), any problems (no), and then into the gown:

The gown I chose was really long and ugly.

The gown I chose was really long and ugly.

Dr. Figura checked over the radiation site and confirmed there were no issues (you can’t even tell where the radiation was at this point) and I was done. It was a short enough appointment I would have felt a little cheated if I had paid my co-pay for the visit. The best news was I don’t have to go back and see him again. I can cross one doctor off my list. I’m pretty sure the other doctors will make sure I don’t miss him.

Gynecology visit

Vacation is over, which means it’s back to doctor’s appointments. I think next week I have no doctor’s appointments (either for myself or for the kids), which is the first time this year I’ve gone a week without waiting in a doctor’s office somewhere. I don’t consider vacation week to count, but even so, that’s not a good record.

This week, I was off to the gynecologist. If you remember, way back at the beginning of this process, my PET scan had turned up a couple of anomalies. One was a cyst on my kidney and one was a cyst on my ovary. The last time I visited Dr. Li, he asked that I get the ovarian cyst rechecked, just to see what it was doing. I finally got around to calling the doctor. My primary care doctor couldn’t do it. I actually had to go to a gynecologist. Sure, what’s another doctor to add to the fleet of doctor’s I’ve been seeing!

The gynecologist the nurse recommended is part of OBGYN Associates, in the same office building as my plastic surgeon. It’s a huge office – both times I was there this week, there were at least 15 people in the waiting room. They give you pagers to know about when your number will be called to go back in the office. The doctor was very nice – took a quick history and then did a gynecology exam, since I was there and it had been about a year since my last exam anyways. Besides, I wanted to make the visit worthwhile, since they weren’t going to do the sonogram that I really came for that day. I needed to make another appointment for that visit.

Latest gown pattern, with a white sheet on the bottom half

Latest gown pattern, with a white sheet on the bottom half

At least I didn’t have to wait too long for the sonogram – I was back in two days for that. It was a quick wait and then in to meet the tech. You take off the bottom half of your clothes, wrap yourself in a sheet and lay on the bed with your feet in the stirrups. There was a cyst on my left ovary, but no blood flow to the mass, which implies fluid filled and not a tumor. The doctor will look at the scans and double-check, but the tech didn’t seem too nervous. Good. Even though I didn’t think it would be anything serious, any kind of doctor’s visit and test now implies a bit of nervousness.

The start of radiation

Thursday was my first radiation treatment. I find the whole process even more surreal than chemo. They do a great job of getting you in and out as quickly as possible, with minimal waiting. Even check-in is streamlined – just scan your card under the bar code reader:

How to check in for radiation.

How to check in for radiation.

Once you’re called back, you need to change into a gown, if you’re not already wearing one. I was actually given a gown to keep, although they hope I’ll give it back when I’m done with treatment. It’s called a Hug Wrap and it’s much nicer than your typical hospital gown. For one thing, it’s made with flannel, so it’s comfortable on your skin. For another, it comes in a variety of patterns, anywhere from sedate to loud. I decided to go with a fun print. I mean, everyone knows why I’m hanging out in the radiation waiting room. I might as well have a little fun while I’m at it. I was torn between a navy blue with geckos print or yellow with monkeys. The sunny yellow color put the monkeys on top. Check it out:

The pattern to my Hug Wrap

The pattern to my Hug Wrap

Once I’m called back to the radiation room, I lay on the table, put my arm in the stirrups and then try to stay still as the technicians move me about in tiny increments. Soon enough, I’m all lined up and ready for the first dose. (I get four doses – one from the right, left, directly above me and nearly underneath me.) The techs leave, turn on the machine for about 20 seconds, and then come back in to move everything for the next dose.

When the X-ray machine is on, I can hear it buzzing, but I can’t feel a thing. That’s the surreal part. Essentially, I’m taking it on faith that I’m actually receiving a dose of radiation. Now, they did put a dosimeter on me to make sure I’m getting the correct dosage, but there’s nothing to see or feel during the treatment. I keep looking at my skin to see if there’s any noticeable effect, but I can’t see any difference at this point. It does feel a little sensitive and tight across the expander, but that’s about it. Twenty minutes later, I’m back in the car and heading home.

The next step

Last Thursday, I met with the oncologist and the radiologist. Dr. Li’s visit was really just a check-up. I had gotten blood drawn the day before so he could check my levels. Everything was back to normal – no anemia, liver enzymes were back within expected ranges, and even my iron levels were good. We did talk briefly about whether or not I would benefit from taking hormone therapy (something like Tamoxifin). The tissue from my lymph nodes was weakly positive for progesterone, which means I’ll get a minor benefit from the drug. We decided to try it (after radiation is done) and see how well I tolerate the drug. If the side effects are too bothersome, I can stop taking the drug.

The big meeting was with Dr. Figura so we could discuss what radiation would entail. Once again, the particulars of my case are causing difficulties. The normal sequence of treatment for breast cancer is surgery, chemo, radiation, and during chemo you do all the reconstruction. Having already done chemo, I don’t have that window of time to fill the expander and apparently, skin doesn’t stretch as well after radiation. Once I start radiation, I can’t make any changes to the size of the expander either since it changes the geometry of the area being irradiated.

I didn’t realize it would be such a problem. I know Dr. Engel had mentioned that reconstruction would be difficult after radiation, but I will admit I kind of ignored him. Dr. Figura and Dr. Kang talked about the case and were able to come up with a viable plan that wouldn’t push back the start of radiation too much. For once I’m happy I’ve got a small chest size since that means I won’t need too many fill sessions. In fact, with the first fill the very next day, I’ll be done in two weeks with two more 100cc fills. I’ll be carrying a giant boulder around on my chest while undergoing radiation, but at least we can get it done beforehand.

And to close, another gown pattern to add to my collection:

A particularly hideous gown pattern

A particularly hideous gown pattern

Surgery day

Dr. Engel performed a modified radical mastectomy, taking some of the lymph nodes under my arm as well. He was able to get all the tissue he needed, and none of the lymph nodes were obviously abnormal. I’ll have the results from the pathologist early next week to see what it looks like under the microscope. Dr. Kang worked next, putting in an expander. Because of the amount of skin Dr. Engel had to remove, Dr. Kang was only able to put 50 ccs of fluid in the expander, while the breast tissue removed was just under 200 ccs.

My collection of bracelets

My collection of bracelets

Before I went into surgery, I got a collection of identifying bracelets. The red allergy bracelet refers to the reaction I had to steri-strips when I had my biopsy. The white bracelet is my personal identification bracelet. It even had a QR code on the front the nurse would scan any time she gave me medicine. The pink bracelet says “Do not use this extremity” since I shouldn’t use my right arm for blood pressure or giving blood ever again. The yellow fall risk bracelet is because I’m getting full anesthesia and the first time I get up afterward surgery, the nurse needs to accompany me to make sure I’m stable on my feet.

My gown pattern - not too bad this time.

My gown pattern – not too bad this time.

I had an IV put in my left hand. The anesthesiologist who was did it remarked on how small my veins were. It probably didn’t help that it had been almost 12 hours since I had anything to drink. Unfortunately, he put it so close to my wrist that any time I bent my hand back, it would hurt. That made it really tricky getting out of my hospital bed since I couldn’t push with either arm comfortably. I also found out my airway is classed as a one out of four – who knew I had such a high quality airway! It’s just one of the many fun facts I’ve learned by talking to the techs, nurses, and anyone else I come into contact while I’m being treated.

When I woke up after surgery, I had an Ace bandage wrapped tightly around my chest, and two drains snaking their way out of the bandage. Every once in a while, a nurse would want to look at the incision, which was always a bit tricky because she would just stretch the bandage a bit more to look under it. The bandage was so tight to my chest, it would hurt a bit to check under it.

My pain levels weren’t too bad. It certainly didn’t hurt much to lay in bed. Getting up was probably the hardest thing I had to do since I couldn’t push my torso upright with either arm. I didn’t realize at first that I had to ask for more pain meds, so I probably let the pain build a bit more than I should have before asking for another dose, but I paid more attention after the first time. I find the pain feels mostly like I pulled a muscle, or a set of muscles. Every once in a while, I’ll get a spike of pain if I move the wrong way and activate muscles across my chest, but it usually isn’t too bad.

The worst thing about being in a hospital is the lack of sleep. A nurse came in every two hours to check my vitals. She skipped the 2am time slot, but my IV drip ran out at 3am, so I got less than three hours of continuous sleep. At least the pain meds kept me sleepy so I had no problem going right back to sleep. Even so, I looked forward to a good night’s sleep in my own house.