It’s been exactly nine days since I’ve had my mastectomy and I must say that I’ve been managing it better than I had thought! I had my one week follow up with both of my surgeons yesterday and they both agreed that I’m healing very well. My plastic surgeon took one of my drains out and we’re hoping to take the other one out at next week’s appointment! To give you a better idea of the drainage system i’m referring too; I’ve included an image.
My (many) Doctors met with the tumor board the morning of my appointment to discuss my case and pathology report from surgery. I’m later told that I should “celebrate” the wins, but let me tell you about the process of my surgery before I get into that. (If you don’t want to read the whole story and want to cut to the chase, you can just scroll to the bottom.)
~ Pre-Mastectomy ~
In preparation for my surgery, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink after a certain point. At 11:50 PM, I had my last snack and drink before my midnight cutoff. I went to bed shortly after so I wasn’t tempted to start munching away.
I had to be at Rhode Island Hospital for 8:45 in the morning to get an injection of two different types of dye. The dye they injected was a radioactive dye that highlights areas of concern and the other was a colored dye to pinpoint healthy blood vessels in my skin (this is to help save skin during surgery.) Thirty minutes after they’ve injected the dyes, I’m asked to come back into the room to get a CT scan done. They use a lead magnet to highlight where the dye tracer goes and they take images of those highlighted areas for the surgeons to review. All of the dye will highlight areas of concern and what needs to be removed during surgery. I’m given a copy of my scans and told to take them with me to give to my surgeon.
My surgery wasn’t scheduled until 1:45 that afternoon and it was only 10:00 in the morning by the time I finished all of my scans, but we (my boyfriend and I) decided to make our way over to Women & Infants where I would be having my surgery, seeing as the hospitals are right next to each other. We pulled up to have my car valeted and we got badges and checked into the hospital. The process now is pretty standard; you’re given your hospital tag for your wrist, wait until your name’s called, asked to pee in a cup and before putting on your hospital gown your asked to clean your body off twice with cleansing wipes. Oh, and you have to let yourself air dry after wiping yourself down. Yes, you have to stand wet, naked and cold in the inpatient area of the hospital. Once you air dry, you can put your gown on and get as comfortable as possible before everyone and their mother comes in to ask you a million different questions. Every doctor usually asks the same questions.
My surgeons came in to mark and sign the parts of my body that they would be working on during surgery and I’m asked if I have any questions after I’m walked through the process again. I then met my care team that would be assisting my surgeons throughout my surgery.
One of my anesthesiologist came over to ask me a bunch of questions and then he got me prepared for the the IV. After chemo, my veins have gotten so small that he had to tie a band around my arm to cut off the blood flow. He tapped on the little veins in my hand until they started to show themselves, it took some time. He then inserted a small amount of lidocaine, intradermally, before spraying a numbing agent and then inserting the IV.
Once I’m set up on fluids, they give me a medication through my IV to calm me down before my surgery. I then met with the anesthesiologist that would be putting me under and staying with me throughout my surgery. She was super nice, told me that I had all of her favorite doctors and assured me that I would be taken care of. Not long after that I was being rolled into the O.R and asked to breathe into a face mask.
~ Post-Mastectomy ~
Four or five hours later, I woke up with an oxygen mask on and was set up in the post-op area. I don’t remember much from this time, but I was told that I woke up pretty fast and was smiling and talking through the oxygen mask. My nurse ended up taking my oxygen mask off shortly after, because she felt I didn’t need it anymore with all the talking I was doing. I started getting my hot flashes almost immediately after coming out of surgery, so I asked the nurse to change my gown and have my compression socks taken off (they were drenched in sweat.) I remember having to use the bathroom so bad after surgery and the nurse told me I would have to use a bedpan. I don’t remember what I said or did, but I know that I was walked over to use the bathroom. After I get back into bed, i’m given my first round of medications, which included Morphine for pain. Not long after the nurse gave me 2, of the 4 cc’s of Morphine, I started getting itchy and breaking out in hives. I was then given Benadryl to counteract the allergic reaction.
I had to wait awhile in the post-op area for my private room to be ready. Someone was getting discharged, so they had to clean the room and get it ready for me. I think it was around 7:00, or 8:00 at night, that I was finally rolled on a wheel chair to my room. I got myself settled in and one of my nurses assistants came in to take my vitals. Later, my nurse came in to check on my drains, empty them and administer my next round of medications. I was then given Ibuprofen, Tylenol and Gabapentin (for nerve pain.)
My boyfriend came back to the hospital to see how I was doing and spend time with me before heading home for the night. My Cousin, Aunt and Grandma stopped in to see how I was doing and bring my boyfriend and I something to eat. They brought us each an Italian wrap from Jersey Mikes and after not eating for almost 19 hours, it was the best thing ever.
My family didn’t stay long, and not too long after they left, I told my boyfriend that he could go home and sleep as well. I spent all night awake, watching TV. With my hot flashes, the room was too hot for me to get comfortable in (even with the a/c on the coolest setting.) Thankfully, I knew I’d be leaving the following day so I didn’t let it bother me much. Every four hours the nurse came in to check my vitals, give me my meds and take care of my drains. Around 6:00, or 7:00 in the morning, my doctors started making their way in to check on me and the surgical sight. Later, I was brought breakfast.
I wasn’t there to order my food ahead of time and the kitchen didn’t answer when I tried to call in the morning, so I just ate whatever looked appetizing. I was given a whole wheat english muffin with butter, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, homefries, coffee and orange juice. Out of everything, I only ate the home fries and drank the orange juice (and drank some of the bitter coffee.) I was (thankfully), discharged from the hospital a few hours later, making it home that afternoon.
~ How my recovery has been so far ~
I’ve been healing very well and haven’t had any reason to take any of my pain medication. I’m definitely much slower, and don’t have full range of motion on my right arm, but I am doing good! It’ll be awhile before the numbness in my arm goes away and I regain feeling in those areas. I’m still using my arm, stretching it as far as I can and showering regularly. My mental health is okay right now, i’m not having as hard of a time as I thought, but I know that is something that can change at any minute. Right now i’m just taking it day, by day and being thankful my cancer was removed in surgery!
>> Fast Forward to my Pathology report >>
During surgery, my surgeon had to remove 10 lymph nodes that were highlighted and it turned out that 3 of them had cancer left. They also removed the remainder of the mass (which turned out to be only 1% of the cancer that was there before) my nipple, areola and surrounding breast tissue.
This is where I get told to celebrate the wins. I don’t really know what I was expecting to hear when I walked in there, but I guess I had higher expectations than I thought. It’s not like I expected the cancer to be fully eradicated, or maybe I did? I don’t know, but I guess hearing something and thinking it is a different story. I wanted so badly to have all clean margins. I didn’t want to have to go through radiation and worry about juggling that with work and school, but now it’s definitely on the table.
Once my drains are out, we’ll start filling my expander. Over the next five weeks or so, I’ll have my expander filled until it gets closest to the size it originally was pre-surgery. I don’t know the exact details, but sometime after my expander is full, I’ll start my radiation treatments. I don’t know how many sessions i’ll have yet, or how frequently. My main concern is getting back to work. My medical leave is up in a couple weeks, and I need to get back to a somewhat normal life. My doctors say that most women can work throughout radiation treatments, so i’ll just have to hope for the best!
~ Recommendations on Post-Mastectomy Wear ~
In my previous post, I added a few links to a couple of items that I had bought for my mastectomy and said that I would let you if the splurge was worth it. Well, it was! I’ve literally been living in my robe and because you have to keep your compression bra on for weeks after surgery; it’s nice knowing you can switch between a few bras when you want to feel clean. I’ve been wearing my robe around the house and to sleep since I got home, but I ended up buying a couple of other things so I didn’t feel gross walking around in the same thing every day. I bought a clip-on drain management belt that I could wear under normal clothes and a belt that I could wear while I’m showering. I was using a lanyard at first, but when you’re trying to bend over to wash yourself in the shower it’s not very comfortable having your drains flailing in front of you. I’ll make sure to include the links below so you can check them out!
Thank you so much for reading and following my blog! Comment below or PM me with any questions you have! Remember to do your self exams once a month! Until next time..♡