Here’s the final, never-before-seen (except January 18th, when I posted it on my Steemit blog *grin*), installment of my blog series about my breast cancer scare over the summer. When I first started putting this post together, I was still
doing some heavy and happily legal drugs recovering from surgery, and I got lazy about finishing it it kind of got away from me. But now, for your entertainment, here are all the deets on my lovely surgical experience.
Oh, but first, I feel I should explain the blog graphic. When I told my mother about my idea for this series, the first thing she said was, “NO BOOB PICTURES!” You’d think, after 52 years, she’d know
that would only tempt me to post boob pictures me better. This is the photo (taken by yours truly) that I featured for my first post graphic –
I thought it was fitting to use the pair of pink, one-slightly-bigger-than-the-other flowers (also taken by me) as the bookend graphic, especially given the state of my boobs at the time of writing this. Now, on to the final
countdown chapter (and apologies for the earworm).
From October 2nd, 2017 (the day I originally planned to publish this) –
This is it! I’m done! Even if I’m not done, I’m done talking about it (in theory, anyway 😊 ). At this point, everything has healed to the extent that I feel confident this will all soon be a distant memory (it better be, after three LONG months of dealing with it). But since I skimmed over the whole surgical experience on the 11th, I figured I’d revisit it. As with all my other posts in this series (links at the bottom), proceed with caution.
Day before the surgery
My surgeon had said the hospital would call the day before with the time of my surgery, and how to prep. Every time the phone rang (which, thanks to all the bill collectors telemarketers, was about once every two seconds) I’d grab it, check the caller ID, and die a little inside. When 4pm rolled around, I got a bit concerned, knowing most offices call it quits at 5pm.
I took about a bazillion deep breaths (all the while imagining all the worst case scenarios for the lack of a call), and rang Dr A’s office. The very nice receptionist (and I don’t just say that because she politely ignored my overly cheerful and obnoxious demeanor as I tried not to cry) said it was understandable to be concerned, but the OR nurse typically made the calls between 4pm and 6pm. She also offered to give me a number to check if I wanted, but I said, “Thanks, but I’ll try to be patient! (insert groan here).” Needless to say, less than ten minutes later, I got the call.
My instructions were simple – show up at the hospital for 12:30pm and don’t eat or drink anything after midnight.
After my whimpering calmed down enough that I could hear her, she clarified that I could drink clear liquids until 10am, and black coffee with sugar definitely counted as clear.
Morning of the surgery
Any other time I had surgery (three c-sections and a hysterectomy) I was told to be at the hospital at the ass crack of dawn. I was wicked psyched that I’d get to sleep in – I figured I could get up around 9:30, have my “required to live” cup of coffee, and have plenty of time to get ready without having too much time to overthink everything.
Yep. I woke up at 6am, because, my brain.
I took my anti-anxiety medicine (approved and encouraged by the OR nurse) and crawled into a cup of coffee, while contemplating all the reasons I should just cancel the whole thing. Luckily, hubby & our eldest daughter (the two who volunteered to be my ride and moral support) ignored me, and hustled me into the car at the required time.
We got the the hospital five minutes early, which was actually twenty minutes ahead of time. I’d told them
a bit fat lie to preserve my sanity a little fib that my arrival time was supposed to be 12:15pm, and they showed how much they loved me by getting me there at 12:10pm!
At the hospital
After signing in on the arrival sheet, I barely got time to sit down in the waiting area before the receptionist called me over to check in. We had a somewhat surreal exchange while verifying all my info – she asked if I had a sister named “J” and when I said yes, she said she knew her, and how funny and small the world was. After about ten minutes of conversation about her that seemed almost right but not quite, she said something about how her friend “J York” was married and my brain finally kicked in. I said, “Umm… York is my married name, and my sister is also married and has a different last name, and if your friend J. is married…” A half second later, she realized her mistake, and we had a good laugh together.
During that little interlude, a dear family friend (who’d gone through his own breast cancer experience, because yes – boys get it too!) arrived and snuck past me into the waiting room. It was beyond wicked awesomesauce to walk around the corner and see “Fred” (his nickname) sitting with hubby & the eldest, but I only had about 3 seconds of catching up before the nurse called me in. Hubby & eldest told him they’d be back to the waiting room once they got me settled in the day surgery room. He said something to the effect of, “no worries – I’ll hang out for a bit, and if I have to leave before you get back, I’ll check in with you later.”
I took all of this speedy attention as a sign this would be all over before I knew it. I’d already gotten the impression the surgery would take about an hour, and it would probably be another hour before I was awake enough to be discharged, so I figured I’d be home in record time.
Yep, record time – the longest short surgery ever. The poor person before me ended up being on the table much longer than expected, and hubby & eldest got stuck in the pre-surgical room with me for ages. Every time they thought, “hey, let’s go tell Fred what’s up” a nurse would pop in and say, “any moment now.” I thought about texting Fred to let him know, but realized I only had the phone number for his wife (another dear, dear friend) and I knew she was at work, and I didn’t want to disturb her unnecessarily.
Around 2pm, after being told it would actually be at least another hour, they headed out to grab a snack, and discovered Fred was still there! Turns out, he’d struck up a conversation with the other family in the waiting room, and he’d ended up being a source of great comfort for them (they were there for the person in the longer-than-expected surgery) since he’d gone through the process himself. Just another one of those instances of everything happening for a reason. 😊
Fred ended up showing H & E through the maze of corridors to the cafeteria, and they all got to hang out and eat together, which helped me feel less guilty (like it was my fault – silly me!) about how long everything was taking.
In the meantime, I had to hop up and head to the little girl’s room a number of times, thanks to being well hydrated via the IV bags (sadly not filled with vodka, even though I specifically requested it). Our poor girl got an eyeful on more than one occasion (as I mentioned in this post), but day surgery wing was essentially empty, so the only people who were consistently flashed were her (sorry again, baby!) and hubby (who laughed).
The nurses during all of this were AMAZINGLY AWESOME! One nurse joked with me about me being rebellious (and I wish I could remember the exact convo). Another nurse chatted with us, recognized the eldest as one of the YouTubers her daughter watched, and asked if she’d to sign her business card! I also ended up showing her my current Tarot Tuesday posts, and it was wicked cool. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone read their card reveal in person, and I think I was more stoked about that than the eldest was at getting asked for an autograph! 😊
Around 4pm, Dr A finally popped into my room. I was actually afraid she was going to say we’d have to postpone because it had gotten so late (day surgery was a ghost town), but she said, “No problem – the show must go on!”
She asked me to tell her in my own words what she was going to do, and joked about, “if you can remember, since it was so long ago that you got here.” She also signed her name above Leaky, as one of those pre-surgical precautions to make sure they got the right (literally, in this case) spot. I told her to be careful not to mess up her sig during surgery, so I could get her autograph tattooed afterwards. I got hugs & kisses from H&E, and the orderly wheeled me down the hall to the surgical room.
I swear it was only a second later a nurse was waking me up! I’m not sure what I said to her, but I remember thinking I sounded amazingly coherent. She must’ve agreed because a moment later, she stepped away and I heard her telling someone over the phone that I was ready to come down to recovery, and I was a rock star for waking up so quickly and so well. Note to self – maybe try going under anesthesia in the future whenever I want to sound intelligent and pithy – LOL!
They brought me out to a different room, and in short order H&E appeared. When I was given the okay to get up and get dressed, I noticed I had orange on my right arm and all over Leaky from the iodine, and I joked about getting a spray tan bonus. Not too much later, I was wheeled out by a nurse who I swore was Belinda Carlisle (did I mention all the good drugs they gave me?), and left with instructions to leave the waterproof dressing on for a week, rest, and see Dr. A for my followup in a week.
Home again, home again
We stopped by the store on the way home to get my drugs, but even though I felt AMAZINGLY good, I wisely decided to stay in the car (not to mention, H&E threatened me with all kinds of things if I budged one inch). We arrived at the house and everyone hustled to get dinner going while I relaxed on the couch and marveled at how great I felt.
A short time after eating, whatever they’d given me for pain at the hospital wore off, and I began to feel like someone ripped off my nipple and stapled it back on.
By the next day, Leaky ballooned up almost as big as when I nursed our three, and was more bruise than boob. However, the pain was manageable, as long as I stayed on top of it. It was difficult to type, or really do anything, because my right side was so swollen. I’ve never been a big fan of wearing bras, and try to avoid them
whenever I’m not worried about tripping over my boobs possible, but my oldest, most beat up bra quickly became my new best friend during my recovery.
Two days after the surgery, I got two phone calls. The first was from the hospital, making sure I was okay. The second was from Dr A’s office, which could only mean one thing – they found something BAD!
Yeah, no. Turns out, they simply needed to bump the time of my appointment up a bit, due to a scheduling conflict.
The official diagnosis
Long story short (yes, I know – far too late for that!), Dr. A said she found an hourglass shaped aneurysm in my milk duct, and “debris” (like cholesterol crystals) was buffing up against it, causing the slow bleed. She removed the duct, and took tissue samples from multiple places, including my nipple and areola, and everything came back…
NEGATIVE FOR CANCER!!!
Yes, the cause of all this drama was a tiny little blood-filled bulging blood vessel. Even Dr. A, who has been doing this for ages and ages, seemed surprised by her discovery. Like I said at the beginning of this, it would be my luck that it would turn out to be something small and silly (and believe you me, that’s not a complaint)!
Almost 6 months later
Which brings me up to now (January 2018). The swelling took about four months (if I remember correctly) to go away completely, but now Leaky and Lumpy are a matched set again. The two inch scar still looks welt-like, and a small hemotoma remains, which I talked about in my post “You can’t make this stuff up – Leaky is leaking again!.” I also continue to get random stabby pains in the area of the incision. I haven’t checked to see if there’s still any bleeding from my nipple, because I’m not sure I want to know. Also on the positive side, the lump in Lumpy inexplicably got smaller at some point over the last few months.
Why did I share all this?
As I mentioned before, when I first discovered the nipple bleeding back in July 2017, I googled like a mad woman, trying to figure out what was wrong. I decided to share my
very long-winded story on WordPress while it was unfolding, as a way of coping with the stress. Then when I joined Steemit, I thought I’d share it again (much to Cheetah’s dismay) because I was lucky enough to have an amazing support network of family, friends (local & online), and medical professionals who helped me through this process, but I know that’s not the case for everyone. I was hoping to show, by example, that with humor and lots and lots of vodka you can get through just about anything.
I leave you now with this message –
Previous posts in the series
- I Have My Father’s Eyes (and possibly his cancer gene
- Further Adventures of Lumpy and Leaky (aka my breast cancer concern)
- No News and Good News – a Quick Update on Lumpy and Leaky
- Good but exasperating update on Leaky aka my breast cancer concern
- Running out of tests to run on Leaky aka my breast cancer concern</li>
- Surgery this week and Lumpy wants attention again aka my breast cancer concern
- Lumpy is happy and Leaky is healing aka my breast cancer concern
- You can’t make this stuff up – Leaky is leaking again!