July 18, 2019 - Seven Days and Counting
I have started and stopped this update many times. I am going to finish it and I am going to post it. Grab a chair and get comfy as this one may be a long one :-)
It's been eight days since my DMX and TRAM reconstruction surgery. Recovering is happening, albeit very slowly. I am very grateful for my family who has been with me every step of the way. We were released from the hospital on Friday to our "new" temporary home. Our days have been consumed with Jamie setting alarms for meds and for drain care (more about that later).
Major surgery. I have just had major surgery. Major surgery SUCKS. In my head, I thought I would have bounced back quickly. I was wrong. This has been HARD. This surgery was quite involved in the beginning, but it will save me additional surgeries in the future, or so we hope. With the DMX, I had choices for reconstruction.
1) We could have done nothing, i.e. staying "flat". This would have been the easiest surgery physically, especially with recovery. Mentally, it is one I couldn't get my head around.
2) We could have chosen DMX with implants. This usually means multiple surgeries, beginning with expanders that "stretch and prepare your skin" for implants. The expander exchange for implants occurs months after the DMX. This would have meant multiple surgeries over the next year. AND, the big looming question for me was, "Do I want implants?". I have many close friends who have taken this route, either cosmetically or medically. They all seem pretty happy with their decision, but I didn't know if it was right for me. A consideration of that decision is the possibility of implant replacement in the future. They may leak, rupture, or may not last over time (10-20 years).
3) TRAM Flap procedure, where you take muscle and other tissue (fat) and re-purpose it as breast tissue. There are a few options with this choice (DIEP, Free Tram, Pedicle Tram, etc). With the guidance of my very skilled surgeon, we elected to go with a Pedicle Tram. This means that both abdomen muscle and tissue are moved (not completely cutaway) and re-positioned as breasts. This is very controversial and there are many strong opinions as to which TRAM should be performed. All versions of the TRAM are micro surgery and require reattachment of blood vessels, etc so that the tissue continues to have blood flow and live. Highly skilled and experienced surgeons are required, and I have a good one - if not the best.
So, when this is done, you end up with "new breasts" that are made of your own natural tissue and you get a bonus tummy tuck in the process. It would be great if it would also make my a#* smaller, LOL. Alas, that will be up to me.
I have to say, the care that I received at Northside Hospital was beyond measure. EVERY nurse, doctor, technician, etc that helped and interacted with me was top notch. We could not have asked for better compassion or care. Even though the stay at the hospital was exemplary, it was great to be released on Friday.
Since being "home", Jamie has become quite the expert on dosing narcotics and muscle relaxants. For me, this has been difficult. I have never been one to take much medication, so it has been hard to be a slave to drugs. Everyone cautioned me to stay ahead of the pain. We have heeded the caution and I am glad. Major Surgery = staying medicated = comfort.
Drains. Drains suck. Literally and Figuratively. They literally suck due to the discomfort. They figuratively suck out the fluid that keeps producing due to my abdomen being cut and stitched. Because of the DMX with TRAM, I have the "pleasure"of having 4 drains coming out of my body. They are a necessary and important evil to this surgery. Drains play an important role in my recovery. Unfortunately, that means drain care from Dr. Jamie and Nurse Jackie. They have been wonderful. I am forever indebted and I don't know if my squeamish stomach would ever let me repay the favor. They basically setup a triage, strip and drain the tubes into the drain holders, empty them out into 4 numbered cups and record the output. They were doing this every 3 hours, but we are now down to 3-4 times a day. I get to keep the drains until the output measures very little in each cup. Based on my doctors visit yesterday, we may have them for at least one more week. BTW, these drains have to be pinned to clothes and care has to be taken that they are not pulled and do not become infected. It is a bit of a challenge. AND, not to mention that they are uncomfortable. BUT, they are not forever.
CANCER update. This is why we are here after all.....
The pathology came back. They took 6 lymph nodes + the Sentinel Lymph node, so 7 in total. Of the 7 lymph nodes, 3 were cancer. 3.
There are many ways to look at this. "Holy Crap - 3 lymph nodes have cancer - that is bad". OR, "Holy Crap - only 3 of the 7 lymph nodes had cancer - that is good". What I know: 3 have cancer. We are meeting with the oncologist next week. That will determine next steps (CT Scan, Pet scan - has cancer spread anywhere else??). Is it contained to my breast and 3 lymph nodes, meaning I am now cancer free? Until we know more, I'm going with that one. I am Cancer Free!
After our oncologist appointment next week, we will understand chemo protocol. With 3 lymph nodes showing cancer, chemotherapy will more than likely be a necessary step. We will cross that bridge next week. This week - I am CANCER FREE!
Friends - We have been overwhelmed with the outreach and kindness. My 30A family, Savannah family, Atlanta family, Northeast, Midwest, Texas, California - OOMPH - I have family everywhere! I am blessed. Flowers, gifts, food, visits - all have been so appreciated.
We have had dear friends take Mason for adventures to keep him occupied. He has been to the aquarium, laser tag, bowling, and to the zoo to just name a few. He is one lucky boy. He has received Lego gifts from dear co-workers. It is so heart warming to feel the love of family and friends.
Jackie and Rick - They have been in Atlanta with us since July 9th. They have been so helpful with physical things (cooking, laundry, nursing), but their moral support has given us so much more. We love you and can never repay you.
This post has been a bit of a rambling mess. Thank you for indulging me. I've also added a few pics of family. One is of Mason and Jamie holding a banner sent to us from our dear friends, Bridget and Ryan. They have been the power house organizing food delivery this week. The second is my dear brother showing his support over July 4th. And, I included a few of Mason with his buddies.