Surgery sucks.

Standard

Except when it saves your life.

But it’s awful in ways having my appendix and gallbladder out 20 years ago weren’t awful. Those surgeries felt like dental procedures in comparison. Of course, there is the thing about being somewhat younger back then. And the thing about once the last stitch is taken out at the two week post-op visit the deal is done. Finito. Fini.

None of that now. I’m already at the two week mark, but listen to me whine. Talk about being blindsided. I went blithely into surgery with my previous experience, expecting more of the same. Oh, maybe I’d use my time off for actual recovery and not plan any camping trips (I mused), but I had no real thought that things would be markedly different. After all, they weren’t even opening a major body cavity. Silly me.

In the be-ribboned world of breast cancer, I’ve won the lottery in several different ways. I don’t need anyone to tell me that. I deeply appreciate having found it in time enough that I’ll likely not be another woman trying to “live” with breast cancer until she can’t any more–often for less than five years.

Because a very experienced and persistent radiologist saw something that could hardly be seen, followed it up in slap-bang fashion with a series of biopsies that proved what he thought was there, leading to an MRI that showed something suspicious in the other breast, the decision to have bilateral mastectomies was a no-brainer. Waste time fishing around on the other side just to prove the “concerning” spot was indeed concerning (and what if it gets missed–the worst of it just micrometers outside the sample, or the real bad spot is just too small to show up…yet?), no thanks.

And because of his persistence and the expertise of his colleagues–the radiologists who nailed the lesions with their fancy x-ray guided biopsies–I get to go ahead with the plan to inflate the tissue expanders that were placed under my chest muscles rather than default to chemo or radiation and let cosmetics be damned. As it turns out, both breasts had cancer, invasive sorts of different types–a veritable smorgasbord of cancers and pre-cancers–but none was in my lymph nodes, nor in the little arteries and veins that course through the breasts, nor near enough to nipple and skin that I’d need those removed as well.

So. Onward. Stiff upper lip and all that.

Waitjustaminute. Not quite yet. I’ve got drains draining and pain paining, and have hit my wall for today. In other words, I am not feeling at all like doing anybody’s happy dance. I’m hoping against hope the appointment come Monday wherein they begin expanding the expanders and (hopefully) pull out these !#%! drain tubes will relieve some of their associated discomfort.

Discomfort. Now there’s a word. The expanders are flat things that resemble the stingray that killed Steve Irwin. The edges are thick, bump into each other through the muscles over my sternum, and slice upward into my armpits. The swelling associated with all this bumping and grinding gives me a bustline like Tarzan’s and the discomfort plays hell with my attitude.

Do you a favor. I won’t even get into the drains.

Until next time. Maybe.

15 responses »

  1. Hope you get through all of this “discomfort” soon..Pain sucks.. gald to hear that it seems they got it all though.. Pain for a short time beats the shit outta being sick for a long time and or dead..)
    Speedy Recovery My Friend.

  2. Forget the stiff upper lip and all that YOU CAN WHINE, it’s good for the healing process, I’m glad you where able to share it with us, then I can understand what your’re going through. I hear your gratitude for the no chemo/radiation but when your stuck here and swollen there,drain there, who wants to sing the hallelujah chorus. We all we’ll sing it for you. I’ll be praying for your appt. Monday, that it goes well. Keep on, keeping on!

  3. Just quoted to another friend of ours the famous Winston Churchill line, “When you are going through hell just keep going”. Seems to me that that is quite appropriate. Losing body parts and being put back together with artificial ones seems hellish to me. Whine away friend. Thank god tomorrow is another day farther away from the original surgery. At some point that will be a good thing.

  4. For once in my life, I don’t have words. We see real life everyday, the best, the worst and everyone else…but when it is happening to someone you admire, someone who is wonderful and brave and such a force in the world…well, it makes me want to use all the curse words I know. So fuck cancer. And bless you. You are adding to my definition of strong. Big, sloppy salt stained prayers coming at you sister. And Happy Solstice.

  5. Hi Kay, Hurray! It starts to get better after the two week mark. Three weeks — much better. Drains out — cause for happy dance! But I’m not going to lie to you — those expanders, once expanded, hurt. Can’t get comfortable, can’t sleep, Tylenol-doesn’t-do-it hurt. Fortunately that too gets better. Narcotics at night are your friend. Also bad television.

    • Thanks, Katy, that’s so good to hear. It’s almost week 2, and I AM feeling better, but I’ve a real bone to pick with Dr. Susan Love’s famous “Breast Book”. Somewhere in there it said something about minimal pain with these types of surgeries (and this I remember well enough to quote), “most women don’t even finish their narcotic prescription”. Later, one of my surgeons said I shouldn’t have read her, but hey, I wanted to read a layperson’s something rather than anything clinical, and that’s what I had in the house. Intellectually I’d questioned it when I read it–I mean c’mon, they’re severing nerves & causing numbness, yes, but there’s plenty of intact areas ready and able to feel pain when they amputate anything. What if I told any other kind of amputee “you won’t finish your pain med prescription because we’ve cut all those pesky nerves. You’ll just have some irritating numbness…” Ye gods.

      • You know, someone gave me that book and I never read it, and I guess now I’m glad I didn’t. I would not call that minimal pain. I’ve also heard that people don’t finish their narcotics — I did and re-upped for more. And, oddly, I’ve got phantom sensations — like other amputees report, I can feel things in my non-existent nipples. Fortunately it’s not painful. The brain is kind of cool. I won’t say “here’s to your speedy recovery,” because it’s going to take however long it’s going to take, but I will say “here’s to it not taking any longer than it has to!”

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