My first week of recovery went well. Victory church, my home church, provided meals the week after surgery and that was a great blessing. Doug, my girls and my mom took turns checking on me.
My post-op visit was scheduled approximately one week after my surgery. During that visit, I saw the plastic surgeon and the breast surgeon. First, the plastic surgeon’s nurse removed the gauze, mummy bandages. Then, the plastic surgeon examined 8 of the 10 incisions. Everything looked good so the nurse removed a few stitches which wasn’t the most pleasant experience but all in all, I was making great progress. Then the pain pump was removed.
Next, the breast surgeon came in to examine me. She looked at the incisions and focused on the right axilla, underarm. She asked me to lift my arm as high as I could so I hesitantly lifted my arm about half way in the air. Then she took my arm and pulled it straight up. I just knew my stitches were going to burst but they didn’t. She gave me some exercises to do every day to help me regain full range of motion.
Then she began to explain the pathology report. In the right axilla. she removed all lymph nodes that she could see and she dug around in there to get as many lymph nodes as she could reach. Below is a summary of the conversation:
Dr. “I didn’t find anything.”
Me “You didn’t get the cancer?”
Dr. “It was gone.”
Me “What do you mean?”
Dr. “I removed 20+ lymph nodes and there were two that were necrotic.” “They were the size of a regular lymph node.”
Me “I don’t understand.”
Dr. “I found the two lymph nodes that were tagged during the biopsy but the cancer cells were dead and the lymph nodes were the size of a normal lymph node.”
(First, in case someone has not followed the entire blog, when I was diagnosed there were two tumors in the right axilla. One was the size of a AA battery and the other one was the size of 1/2 of a AA battery. Now, they not only contained dead cells but they were the size of a normal lymph node, which was a significant change.)
The news really didn’t register with me at that time. My Hematologist-Oncologist (Dr. Wonderful), refers to it as a ‘complete response to chemo‘. Every time a doctor says that I say, “…or a miracle.” Some doctors give me a smile and other remain stoic.
One More Surgery
Next, the breast surgeon explained the results from the lumpectomy/reduction of the right breast. The tumor in the right breast was busted into small pieces. The pathology report reflected that it looked like buckshot in the tissue, scattered everywhere. They were just the size of little pencil dots. So there was no lump to remove. I am still amazed at the outcome. However, the pathology report did not confirm that there was a clear margin of healthy tissue so I needed an additional surgery known as a ‘margin revision’.
The surgical drains remained in place and the nurse wrapped me in a garment similar to a tube top except it had to be very snug to hold the drains in place. Doug and I went home and processed all of that information. Now I realize why the ultrasound technician was shocked with my progress. It was a truly unbelievable response. It was MY MIRACLE.
A few days before my surgery, the breast surgeon ordered an ultrasound of my right breast and right axilla, under arm, so she could know the progress I had made with chemotherapy. I went to the Women’s Center and sat down until it was my turn. When I was called, I changed into the robe and sat in the next waiting room. All of the ladies sat there awkwardly and tried not to stare at each other. Then my name was called and I walked down the hall to the another waiting room. One thing I have learned through all of these medical appointments is that you hurry up to get there and wait.
Finally, I was called to the room where the ultrasound would take place. I recognized the technician. She was the one who was guiding the ultrasound machine during my biopsy. I laid down on the table and she began the ultrasound of the right breast, snapping pictures rapidly and then on to the right axilla (under arm) where she took even more pictures rapidly.
Our conversation went like this:
Tech – You must have had some good chemo.
Me – Chemo and prayer
Tech – Yeah, that positive thinking, meditation and prayer stuff works to help people remain positive through this.
….and she walked out of the room to talk to the doctor
Doctor – Do you remember us? We did your biopsy.
Me – Yes, I remember you.
Doctor – You have made good progress. Your tumors were very large and they have significantly changed.
Me – I believe in prayer and miracles.
The doctor just looked at me and finished writing her notes. They both left the room and I got dressed.
When I got to my car, I just sat there and cried tears of joy. Just a few weeks ago I was fussing at God for having to go through this and now I was overwhelmed with thankfulness. I was not deserving of His grace. I called Doug and told him the good news and explained that I was crying tears of joy. I sat there at least 10 minutes to regain my composure.
I knew that I would have good results from the surgery and this was just the confirmation that I needed. God is so good!