We met the plastic surgeon and the cancer surgeon, figured out the process and formulated a plan.
It will unfold sort of like this.
We decided on a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Several factors played into this decision. One – the cheK2 gene mutation I carry, indicating a higher likelihood of recurrence. Two – strong family history of breast cancer. Three – I don’t want to do this again. Four – I can control the outcome.
The process is long.
One week before surgery I will have my sentinel lymph node identified and removed for cancer screening. This will determine how far the cancer has spread and if it is outside of my breast tissue. It will help give the surgeon a clearer picture of how the axillary (armpit) portion of the surgery will play out. This is on May 19th. Results on May 23rd.
Main surgery is May 26th. The mastectomy surgery will take roughly 5 hours. The two surgeons work on me one right after the other, to lessen the time under anesthesia. So, as primary surgeon finishes one side, the plastic surgeon steps in to do his part as she moves on to the other side. I wake up in recovery 2 hours later and stay in the hospital for 2-3 days.
I get to keep my skin. The incision is the shape of an eye, right over to top of the nipple. I will lose my areola and nipples. I may lose all sensation on my skin. I may keep some of it. Nerves are severed when the breast tissue is removed. The surgeon said I can expect my chest to feel tight, as though I can’t catch my breath, post surgery. Beyond the soreness of recovery itself.
The plastic surgeon will put in spacers in place of where the implants will be, filled 50% full. I will be wrapped like a mummy with 2 drains on each side. I can’t lift anything for 2 weeks. After 3 weeks I can start to rebuild muscle – they will give me exercises for this. After 4 weeks I will start radiation therapy.
Radiation will last 6 weeks. 5 times a week. Only a few minutes a day. This has potential to both burn my skin and give me blisters. It will toughen my skin and diminish elasticity on that side. Breast implants go in 6 months after radiation ends. This allows time for my skin to heal from radiation.
I start Tomoxifin, an oral drug that inhibits estrogen, after I finish radiation. I think I am on this for the rest of my life.
Tomorrow is my last chemo infusion. Number 6. After tomorrow, I’m going from 4 drugs down to 1. The infusion time is only half hour after tomorrow. I will continue the Herceptin infusion, every 3 weeks, same as I do now, until January 2017.
And that, dear friends, is the majority of what we learned today. It’s a lot.
On the way home I texted Dr. F, the original radiologist who started me on this journey. He called me right away. Thankful to hear my voice. Happy I’m doing well. Glad to hear I’ve finished this phase of the journey. He asked me to stop in when I’m through the woods. Good guy.
May will not be my favorite month. This will not be my favorite year. But I’m thankful I’m nearing the end of this part of the story. Feeling informed is a relief. Having a plan is comforting. Still thankful I landed at Rush.
A few surprises landed at my doorstep.
Thank you to the Lopez family for this lovely arrangement.
Thank you to my colleagues, all the way from Poland. I will find my happy place thanks to Kristy and Lauren.
One of my cherished childhood friends sent this completely awesome handmade bag with all sorts of State Street goodies, some from stores we would venture to, back in the day. Ms. Stadler, my cup runneth over. Smoooch. Will keep me very entertained tomorrow!
Little did Miss Blair know this is my all time favorite graphic designer – an illustrator I’ve seen speak multiple times – whom you’ve surely all encountered at Land of Nod, Anthropologie and Free People… Thank you.