My Cancer Journey - Surgery/Hospital Stay
Updated: Feb 10, 2020
There were a number of appointments leading up to surgery - the general surgeon (who would perform the mastectomy), the plastic surgeon (who would reconstruct my breast), the radiation oncologist (to discuss circumstances of needing radiation afterwards), the medical oncologist (to discuss the types of therapy I might need, chemotherapy, hormonal, etc, and possible side effects), and pre-admissions. More on therapy later.
Finally, the day had arrived. September 5, 2012 (one day after our 19th wedding anniversary). I checked in and they sent me to a room for a shot of radiation by my nipple. The radiation would travel through my lymph nodes and show the surgeon where the hot spots were (i.e., where the cancer was) and would help him identify which lymph nodes would need to be removed. The technician who administered this shot said it would feel like a bee sting. The shot was given right on the edge of my nipple and I have to say that if it was supposed to feel like a bee sting then that bee had to be the size of Texas! I levitated!!! The sting didn't last long but he then informed me that I had to have a 2nd shot...what nerve!!
Surgery was supposed to take 3 hours (1 1/2 for mastectomy and 1 1/2 for reconstruction). It took 7 hours! Not that I minded, I was asleep. But my husband had a hard time. Thank goodness his brother and one of his sisters were waiting with him. So grateful for them!
The mastectomy involved removing the nipple and much of the skin of the breast as well as the breast tissue itself.
Reconstruction (called a Tram-Flap Reconstruction) involved cutting my lower abdomen completely from side-to-side so that the tissue and muscle could easily be moved (close to skin level) up to the breast. Today's medical technology is amazing, right!?! There was a risk of a slight bulge near the center of my body due to rotation of the abdominal muscle that would be correctable if it didn't go away (I never had the bulge).
I woke up to 3 drainage tubes (1 on either side of my lower abdomen and 1 on my breast) plus an IV, of course, for fluids and pain meds. Drainage of blood had to be tracked (the tubes would be removed when there was little to no drainage).
By the morning on Sep 6th, I was starving! I had not eaten since the afternoon of the 4th and I was ready to eat. They were still monitoring drainage, which was a little heavy from their perspective, especially drainage of my breast, but they said I could order something. I was so excited! I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, one of my favorites, and thought it would be a perfect light meal for me.
Sadly, though, the drainage in my breast was still heavy and when Dr. C came to check on it, he said he had to go back in. He thought there was a leak and it needed to be addressed. They literally wheeled me out of my room for the additional surgery as they were carrying in my grilled cheese sandwich. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?! Talk about being bummed!
Another 3 hour surgery then smooth sailing from there, although a 2nd tube was inserted by my breast. I'm an avid exerciser and Dr. C said I would only be able to walk and lift nothing heavier than a gallon of milk for 8 weeks. Needless to say, I didn't like that but would stick to it starting with walks in the hospital hallways. I was up and walking as soon as possible.
I stayed in the hospital for 4 nights before going home. All 4 tubes remained and I would have to monitor the drainage of each until my next appointment.
Next up: Recovery and Prep for Chemo