Monday, February 21, 2011

A Dr update

So, today I went in for my second expansion. I'll go into detail about the process because I don't think I did before, and it's actually a very interesting procedure. Basically, the expander they put inside me is much like an implant. It's an empty bag that looks identical to an implant bag, but made of slightly different material. It's not clear, it's almost a tan color. They stitch it in place and cover it with this webbing material called Alladerm (not sure if I spelled that correctly). That helps it to stay in place since I have no tissue to keep it in place. They filled it up with 300cc's of saline at my surgery. At my last expansion, they added more saline. There is a little magnet inside the bag and they use this little magnet finder and mark an X on that spot. That's where they insert a very large needle. Not a long needle, but a fat hollow one. It only stings a tiny bit during the insertion. Then they attach this syringe to it and suck up saline from a bag and it goes through the syringe, through the needle and fills up the bag. The whole process takes less than a minute. They ask me the whole time if I am feeling pressure because they don't want to add too much at one time. So last time Chris estimated they added about 100-200 cc's. We forgot to ask how much exactly, but it was 2 large syringes full. This time they only added 75cc's. So, if I had to guess, I have about 600cc's in there. The expander they used can hold between 800-1000cc's. (I have pretty big boobies normally so they try to match the shape as best they can.) I have one more expansion left next week and then they have to deflate me for radiation. I have to be as flat as possible for radiation to work properly.  I find this process very interesting, so that's why I thought I'd go into detail.

I also got my second drain tube taken out today! YAY! So, aside from a small hole where it was inserted, I am FREE!!! No more drain tubes till my next surgery.

Now, while I was there, I asked quite a few questions and got some not so great answers. It wasn't bad news, it was just not really what I had expected. Here goes:
1. I have mentioned this butt crack looking thing in my armpit. They told me that I had a lot of good salvageable skin, so that's why I was puckered and it was there. I thought that as they expanded, it would go away, but today I found out that it is there because of all the lymph nodes they took out. You know that piece of armpit fat that most of us women have that is SUPER hard to get rid of? You know, the one that sticks out in between our bra cup and bra strap? Well, picture that, but then the expander goes over to that point, so it LITERALLY looks like 2 butt cheeks with a crack in the middle. The PA (Physicians assistant) told me that at reconstruction, he would fix that, but I was stuck with it until then. It's apparently because they removed all 29 of my lymph nodes so there is nothing there to fill it in. LOVELY!!! So, since reconstruction isn't until October or November, if you happen to see me in a tank top or sleeveless shirt this summer, please don't stare at my butt crack...OK? Also, don't point out my hairy armpit. I shave it the best I can, but that stupid butt crack is hard to shave in between...seriously! So, even if my armpit is freshly shaven, it's gonna have some hair in the butt crack. Yep, I have a hairy butt crack in my armpit. Yay me! It's also hard to get deodorant in there. I use a solid roll on, so I do the best I can to coat the entire area as much as possible, but if you happen to get too close and I accidentally stink....sorry in advance! It will be over soon...but we all know how flipping hot it is in the summer here in Texas.
2. I thought they were going to fill up the expander as much as possible, then deflate it, go through radiation, and pump it back up again and go bigger. Not the case. I questioned this because I was worried about the effects of being stretched, "let out", and stretched again and what my skin may look like. My plastic surgeon, Dr Garvey, said that they usually only go back to about 60% of what I was before radiation. So, basically I will be uneven for quite some time. I asked about a prosthetic insert to wear for my self esteem/appearance purpose and he said he did not want me to get one. He said the skin can be irritated and when going through radiation, you don't want ANYTHING touching the skin, because it could cause an infection in the expander therefore causing it to become infected and have to come out. So, again....tank top...summer...don't stare at my un-even-ness. I can stuff my bra with Kleenex, gauze, or any soft substance, but still...lumpy, crooked, and definitely uneven for quite a few months.

I'm still WAY off in size between the two. There is NO WAY that it will be remotely close to my other side with only one expansion left before radiation starts. I'm about an A+ or B- on that side right now, and that's being generous. (My right one is a full D cup) It's also not the same height, which adds to the major uneven look. Let's face it, I've mentioned it before...I have "3-kid-nursing-saggy-boobies" and the expander is the same size as my other boob, but because it's not hanging down on my ribcage, it looks WAY off. So, even when I stuff my bra, one is higher than the other. I can make the right side go OUT by adding stuffing, but I cannot make it go DOWN much. My left one sits in, hangs in, and is cradled by the bra cup. My right one can be indented if you hug me too hard. So, no hard hugs or you may leave me with a dented booby and I wouldn't know it.... :-)

So, as for pain, it is basically all gone. I have some discomfort and still major amounts of swelling though. Under my arm where the lymph nodes are, it feels like a bad sunburn. Like in my armpit, and down my arm on the under side. It feels like a burning sensation. Partly because they were rough in there removing the lymph nodes, and partly because they are just gone and my nerves in my arm got quite the workout. Please refrain from touching my right arm if you remember. It's like slapping a friend on the back when they are nice and sunburned. It also hurts if my arm is pulled down too hard. Children...please pull all you want on Mommy's LEFT arm, but do NOT pull my right arm...OK? Grayson is the WORST about this because apparently he likes to hold my right hand and not my left and he's just at the right height where if he decides to bounce, skip or hop, he pulls and tugs on my arm. OUCH!

My breast is not as tender, and it's not sore at all, it just feels like 1000 lbs sitting on my ribcage bone, and at the top, it's very sensitive to the touch. It's the nerve issue again. Because they were so invasive, my nerves got quite a workout. If you barely even touch the skin on the top of my breast (like above the nipple that used to be there) it is like pins and needles. They want me to touch it as much as possible to stimulate the nerves and get them used to being touched, but dang...that's like tummy time for an infant who hates tummy time. I touch it as much as possible, but it stings and I don't wanna do it. Grayson has a habit of laying his head right on it when he is sitting on my lap. UGH! I feel like it's hooked up to electrodes or something and they zap me constantly. He's even pushed off with his head, or laid his head on my breast, and once he even headbutted me there and Oh....My....Gosh.... that frikkin hurt! But I can't NOT snuggle my little sweet cheeks, so I suck it up. I wouldn't want him to think he "hurt" mommy, so I try and grin and bear it most of the time and just tell him to be careful of Mommy's boo-boo.

I can shower and dress by myself. I can lift my arm up high enough to put on a T-shirt over my head. I have enough muscle use to pull up jeans and button them now. Today was the first time I've been able to wear jeans since surgery. I've been hanging out in lounge pants or yoga pants and button up or zip up shirts and hoodies. I have finally started to lose some of the weight. THANK THE LORD!! I've lost 5 lbs so far and I'm determined, so it's only a matter of time. Most of you know me...when I put my mind to something I always succeed and never give up! I am cooking, cleaning as much as I can without over using my arm, and I have mostly productive days. I've even had a few days of MAJOR energy bursts here and there where I've gotten a LOT accomplished. Like, I wear out Chris.... with chores, errands, tidying the house, making a few shirts for orders, following me around the house saying "damn, aren't you tired yet?" Now, if I do a lot of walking or strenuous activities (like yesterday we went shopping at Target, Wal-mart and Costco) my underarm will get a little sore and swollen. So, I chug the water, and sit down for a bit once I get home and poor Chris and the kids get to unload all the crap from the car.

So, if I can get some decent, non pornographic pictures of my "butt crack armpit" and my un-even-ness, I will post them. We will work on that later. It's really quite a site, but only a few people have seen my actual "incision/nub". When I take off my bra, you can TOTALLY see the lopsidedness in person, but I don't know if the camera will pick it up. But, since I have brothers, and my husbands family and friends reading my blog....I won't show anything graphic...for their sake. (and out of respect for Chris, for the guys who wouldn't MIND seeing it....LOL) But, if you see me in person, AND YOU ARE A WOMAN, and you want to see....I really don't mind showing you. Just ask. I'll strip for ya.....  ;-)  It is very interesting looking.

So, that's it for now.... I'll write more when I have something else to humor you with.....

Tentative Schedule:
Final expansion is next Monday, Feb 28
Radiation consultation is on March 3
Follow up with my Oncologist is March 7 (and probably my deflation)
I begin radiation sometime during the week of March 7th and go for 6 weeks, 5 days a week. (approx 3/7-4/15...ish)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm pumped up!

I can't say "pumped up" without doing it in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice.

I went in for a follow up visit yesterday. They added about another 100 cc's of saline to my expander. Chris said I look like a full A cup on that side now. I compare it to a clementine orange. (and that's being generous) It matches SOOO well with my grapefruit size on the other side. I never realized how big my boobs were until you have a small one sitting right next to my normal one. Yikes!

They removed one of my drains. They were both at a point where they could both be removed, but they don't like to remove both of them at the same time, so only one came out. I still have the other one for another week. It should come out next Monday when I go in for another pump up session.

I'm not really sore like I thought I'd be. I am a little stiff when I wake up in the mornings, but it goes away after a while and after I get moving. The crappy part is that I am a right side sleeper so I don't feel like I've been getting good rest lately because I have to sleep on my back or sitting up. I did actually roll to my left side last night at some point, but I tossed and turned so much last night that Chris said it looked like I had a fight with the covers in my sleep.

I've found that the only things I really do with my right arm are: wipe my booty, spank the kids, carry my purse and talk on the phone. I've managed to accomplish them all left handed now except spanking the kids because I haven't needed to. They all feel a little weird, but I'll adjust.

I weighed this morning for the first time in about 3 weeks. Let's go with "I'm still swollen from surgery" OR "this drain tube weighs 10 pounds" as my excuse. GOOD LORD!!! I need to get my ass in gear although in the back of my mind I keep thinking..."if I don't lose any weight, I'll have more tummy to work with when they make me new boobs" but they want me at my goal weight for reconstructive for best results. So, I better get busy.....

Friday, February 11, 2011

I am officially CANCER FREE!!!!

I went for a follow up appointment with the surgeon Wednesday. We went over my pathology report. She said that out of the 29 lymph nodes she removed, NONE of them had any cancer remaining. So, at first I was a little bummed because they basically removed them for nothing, but it is better to be over cautious than over confident. So, I chose to look at it as a complete response to chemotherapy in my lymph nodes rather than a "removal for no reason".

My tumor that was removed had a clear margin around it. So, they removed enough and there were no traces left behind. My tumor shurnk tremendously, and it showed that it was almost cancer free. There were still a few viable emboli (traces of cancer cells) that showed they had been treated with chemotherapy, but it was not completely dead. It's all out of my body, but the tumor was not 100% dead tissue. So, I'm cancer free because it was removed, but it wasn't considered a complete response because of the few cells remaining inside the tumor. She said it is the next best thing to a complete response.

Next step is 6 weeks of radiation after I heal from the mastectomy, and then a 6 month break before reconstruction.

I still have both of my drain tubes in place, and I haven't been expanded yet. I go Monday for a follow up with the plastic surgeon, and he will remove at least one drain and pump up my expander a little bit.

My pain has subsided, I am just tender, bruised and a little swollen. All in all, I am very happy with my progress and I have SO MANY reasons to celebrate!  Thank you all for your continued prayers!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

1 week post surgery

I never thought I'd have to stuff my bra. Here I am, 33 years old with a size D cup on one side and barely an A cup on the other. I had a lot of salvageable skin so I am very puckered and one part, right under my arm, looks like it has a butt crack. It's also due to a lot of swelling but it looks funny. So I stuff my bra on one side with gauze (also to protect my incision and keep my lovely bra from rubbing it). Then I have this lovely Velcro belt that holds my drain bulbs and its wrapped around my waist so I look all lumpy and like I have a weird shaped growth under my shirt. It's very attractive, really. (sarcasm eye roll)

Aside from that, I am doing very well. I went in for a post op visit yesterday and they were very happy and impressed with my range of motion in my arm. I can't lift it all the way up yet, but it's getting there. They were going to add more saline in my tissue expander, but I was still too tender so they decided not to. (Thank God!!!) so, next Monday they will add saline and take out one drain tube. The following Monday, they will add more saline and remove the second drain tube. So I'm stuck with these darn drain tubes and major uneven breasts till the 21st. Actually, my breasts will probably be uneven until reconstruction in October but they will be a little closer. Maybe I wont have to stuff my bra much longer. :-)

They also replaced my pain meds. I was on Narco and they kept making me tired and very dizzy. I almost lost my dinner one night from the dizziness so they switched me to Ultracet. Much much better.

So, there is my update. Lopsided, and wrinkled with a butt crack under my arm, but CANCER FREE!!!!! Can't complain.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Update day 2 post op

My pain is subsiding some. I'm still in pain because they beat me up so bad during surgery, but the pain is slowly going away. I am able to move around better and I can almost get out of bed by myself. I can go up and down the stairs by myself without an escort. I am really dizzy though from the medicine. It's one of the side effects. So I'm slow going because I have to watch out for things spinning around me. My arm can raise about half way up and can rotate some too. I slept pretty decent last night too. I finally fell asleep just before 10pm. Chris came to bed at 10 and gave me my pain pills and I slept until 2am when it was time for the next round. I took those at 2 and wasn't able to fall back asleep until about 3am. I slept like a baby until 6am when I was due for more pills. I got up at that time because it is Kaylee's birthday today and I wanted to tell her Happy Birthday before she left for school. After the kids left for school I laid down and took a nap until about 10:30am.

I finally was able to shower today. I had to wait 48 hours before I could shower because of the drain tubes but it felt so good to feel somewhat clean. It was hard to shower with the drain tubes in place but I managed to get all the important parts clean anyways. I got a look at my battle wound. Its pretty scary. We had already decided that the kids would not see my scars and today re-assured that thinking. I've seen mastectomy scars before, but because my tissue expander isn't filled up yet it looks awful. I'm puckered and gathered under my armpit and looks funny. Then it's swollen where the drain tubes are sticking out. Throughout this all, my husband still looks at me with love in his eyes and sees me as beautiful still. Thats the best feeling of all. No words are necessary. I can feel and see his love for me and I know that even though he is a boob man, he loves me for my insides.

Well, tonight we are celebrating my sweet baby girls 8th birthday. Spaghetti dinner, presents and lots of love. We have a snow day tomorrow (not because we are expecting a blizzard, but in Texas if it starts snowing at all the town shuts down) so we will spend tonight with hot chocolate in hand and watching Kaylee's movie choice.....Evan Almighty.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I'm a little lopsided

Surgery went well. It took about 5 hours and they took out a really good margin. My tissue expander is in place but very painful. My throat is extremely dry from the intubation but hopefully it will feel better soon. Pain medicine is working but not 100%. I'm in so much pain that I just don't think it will get down to a 1 on any drug. My pain level is about a 5 and will get down to a 2 once the pills kick in. I just feel like I have an elephant sitting on my chest. I have a burning sensation on my side up by my armpit. They only put in about 300cc's into my expander and it holds 900cc's. So, I have my normal D size booby on the left and I look like a 10 yr old with a bud on the right side. So, I have about a boob and a half, if that.....

They were able to remove my lymph nodes through the same incision so I only have the one scar. I am supposed to start on my exercises today, but I'm in so much pain I don't see that happening. I'll have to get Chris to help me get them done.

I know the pain is temporary, but the thought that I am OFFICIALLY cancer free now that the tumor is gone is a great feeling.