Five months had passed and I made it through chemo. It had been a busy time full of school events for my youngest daughter and a few plans here and there for Paige’s wedding. I said goodbye to my kids at home. Kelsey went to school and Paige went to work. I wanted to continue that sense of normalcy that we had worked so hard to maintain.
First Stop…Women’s Center
At last, the day had come…surgery day. Doug, my husband, drove me to the Women’s Center to have a procedure known as: Pre-Operative Needle Localization. In order to locate the tumor, a mammography technologist and radiologists secured my right breast in the mammogram machine using a special piece of equipment to hold my breast in place. That part did not hurt like a mammogram. It was imperative that I hold still. Next the radiologists positioned a needle in my breast which was used to locate the tumor. The video screen guided the location of the needle. The tumor was marked with a metal clip during the biopsy which made it easier to locate. Two pictures were taken to ensure that the needle was positioned at the point of the clip. Yay! Success on the first try. Then, a wire was inserted through the needle and the needle was removed. Two more pictures were taken to ensure that the wire was at the point of the metal clip. Woohoo! Success two times in a row.
Off To The Surgery Center
The technician put a surgical gown on me, so as not to disturb the wire and I was ushered out the back door of the Women’s Center and into the car. I arrived at the Surgery Center in that lovely surgical gown with a wire sticking out of my right breast. The wire that I was not to move at all. I was shown to a room that reminded me of a 6×6 box. A nurse entered the room and began to ask me all of the usual pre-operative questions: medications, allergies, etc… then she asked me, “Why are you here today?” I began the list:
- Lumpectomy right breast
- Partial Bilateral Mastectomy (both breasts)
- Lymph Node Dissection – Right Axilla
- Port Insertion
WOW! After five long months, I could rattle off all of those medical terms. I became very informed as an advocate for my health care.
After a few minutes, I was walked back to the holding area where the nurses start the I.V. and ask you all of the same questions you just answered for the first nurse. The place where you sit totally naked except for the thin surgical gown covering your body and where the person across from you can stare at you until you are totally uncomfortable. Can you tell that I hate the ‘holding pen’? It reminds me of the SPCA!
Both doctors, breast surgeon and plastic surgeon, came by to talk to me and review how this procedures would take place. Then the anesthesiologist came by. I told him to make sure that he gave me plenty of anti-nausea medicine because with past procedures nausea was a problem. Doug was the only one allowed to wait with me in the holding pen until they took me back for surgery. My mom, Uncle Leon (from Ohio), mother-in-law and sister-in-law (from New Mexico) were all waiting in the lobby. My sister-in-law had come for Kelsey’s graduation and just happened to be able to be here for the surgery.
Here We Go!
It was my turn. Doug kissed me before I went back to the operating room. As I was on my way to my special room, all I could think of was, “Please God, let them get it all, whatever it takes”. I also said a prayer of forgiveness and prayed for every member of my family.
The breast surgeon previously explained that she would work simultaneously with the plastic surgeon during my procedure. There would be three incisions in each breast. They would start with the right breast. Locate the tumor and remove all surrounding tissue and all tissue in front of the tumor, similar to a breast reduction. The plastic surgeon would put the right breast back together and then she would do her best to make the left side the same size so that they would be symmetrical. They would also place drains in the surgical sites, one on each side, to allow fluid to drain. The drain was inserted through a one inch incision site and held in place by stitches.
After the breast surgery was completed, the breast surgeon made a three inch incision, cutting through tendons and muscle under my arm, right axilla. Her goal was to remove as many lymph nodes as she could. Next, would be the port insertion. She used the same incision site as the last one where the infected port was removed in March. Six hours later, everything was completed and my upper body was wrapped like a mummy, holding the drains in place and I was sent to recovery.
I gave clear instructions that after the surgery, my fuzzy hat was to be put on my head before Doug was allowed back to the recovery room. I’m not sure that happened. When I began to wake up, Doug was there and my fuzzy hat was on. He sat with me patiently as I tried my best to wake up and get out of there. They made me drink some sprite. I was feeling good and I almost dressed myself. The cancer that tried to kill me was finally cut out of my body and I was alive!
I walked out of the surgery center with 10 incisions in my upper body and too many stitches to count. I had a pain pump and medicine for the nausea. When I needed meds, I took my meds. I remembered what Jerry, my first chemo nurse, told me…”Don’t be a hero.” I slept most of that day and remember my sister-in-law the next morning telling me that she wished she could stay and take care of me but she had to leave. Doug drove her to the airport and his mom left a couple days later. Doug, my mom and my girls took care of me the first week. In a week, we would find out the results from the surgeon. Regardless of the medical report, I stood in faith and on God’s word that I would live and not die.
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