January 7, 2020

December 2019 Post Op Surgery Appt

Post Op Appointment

I had an appointment with the surgeon as a post follow up to surgery. When Dr. Times walked in the room he said: "I understand that you already have the good news."  I told him that I had because the oncologist had told me that all the cancer was gone prior to surgery and that only scar tissue remained. The surgeon also confirmed that no lymph nodes were involved.

This was all great news. The best!

I thanked him and told him he was awesome.  He asked me to let the oncologist know the he thought she was awesome because her regiment of drugs had successfully killed the cancer. I told him that I will and I will! I'm so grateful to both of them...so grateful!

He examined me and we talked about the scar and soreness that I still felt in my arm and chest. He said it will eventually go away. I asked him about the documentation that I needed to return to work and they provided it.

Gathering Return to Work Documentation


What a process...
I started pulling together the documentation that I needed to return to work which included a Return to Work Authorization from the Oncologist, all the hospital notes (about 100 pages at .05/page); oncology notes,  radiology notes, surgeons notes.  It is a massive amount of information.

I called Prudential Insurance to  let them know my return to work date and called the Leave of Absence Administration.

Again...what a process... but I'm on my way back to normalcy.

December 2019 Oncology Appointment - Pathologic Complete Response

Appt With The Doctor


Finally I had an appointment with the doctor. My last several appointments have been with the nurse. Doctor Tian is great!  So glad she is my doctor. She did not have the pathology results yet from the surgery so we talked about next steps if there was remaining cancer found during surgery. I would have to take pills for a couple of months.  If there was no remaining cancer found I would not need to take the pills.

The Port Removal


I asked her why I needed to leave the port in and when I could get it out and she said because she needed to see the pathology report and because if my cancer is coming back it is coming back in two years. She "recommends" leaving it in for 2 years!  I told her that is NOT preferable but we will take it one steps at a time depending on the results.  Until removal I'll have to get the port flushed every 6 weeks...good grief!

Phone Call from Nurse Navigator


Katina called to check on me following surgery. I told her what I knew and that Dr. Tian did not yet have the pathology report and all we could hope for was the best. Katina explained to me what a "complete" response was...no cancer remaining and advised that is what we are hoping for. We talked about Christmas (which I'm not so much into anymore...gratefully...honestly research this tradition and where it came from).

Phone Call from The Oncologist


Dr. Tian called the next day after the appointment and told me said "Good News" she has the pathology report and I had a complete response to treatment.  There was no cancer found during surgery everything that was removed was scar tissue.  I will not need to go on the pills after radiation and she is alright with removal of the port.  Excellent!


Friday, December 13th Day of Surgery

My Day of Surgery Is Finally Here

This is the day I have been trying to get to for 7 months! 

Preparations


The night before you have to take a shower with Dial Antibacterial Soap, not eat anything after 12 and sleep on clean sheets. The next morning you have to take another shower with the Dial soap...and then you  are ready.

Pre-Op Procedures


Pre-op was PAINFUL! The first nurse had a hard time finding a vein for the IV. Painful!  She couldn't figure it out and decided to wait until I came back from the Women's Unit.

Before the lumpectomy they wheeled me half-way across the hospital (in a wheel chair - in a hospital gown) to the Women's Unit to:

1. Have them do a "Sentinel Node Mapping" by putting 4 needles in my nipple of dye that would travel to the 2-3 lymph nodes the surgeon needed to remove in order to check to make sure the cancer had not spread beyond the breast. It was PAINFUL! 


2. Have them do a "ultrasound-guided wire localization" by putting 2 wires (metal looking wires)  in my breast tissue to put a frame around the mass that the surgeon had to remove. The nipple needles were painful but the wires were TORTURE!  They were using an ultrasound to figure out where to put the needles and couldn't quite see where it should go so it was a lot of back and forth. The doctor doing it kept apologizing. He was a nice man doing a painful procedure.

It was helpful that I knew the ladies from the Women's Unit.  They were the same ones who did my mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy back in May. I was happy too see them and again they had done this hundreds of times so knew it was painful.  One of them gave me her hand to squeeze to blunt the pain for those two procedures (as she does this and I'm squeezing her hand I think about creating something to sell to the hospitals like a stress ball) ...then they tell me...

3. We needed to do a MAMMOGRAM with the wires inside of me. I thought they were kidding!  They were not.  More PAIN! Why is anything dealing with women's health so damn painful. As many women as there are in the medical field someone should be inventing more tolerable procedures.

So after these three procedures I'm wheeled back through the hospital back to the surgical unit and IN PAIN.

There is a new nurse there who was EXPERIENCED and put the IV in my hand without a problem. The anestheiologist and her crew came in and asked me some questions. The surgeon came in and looked at the computer screen about where they put the wires.  He then wrote his initials on my right breast. I guess that is part of the process of how they know the surgeon has been in.

Surgery Time


I waited about an hour more before the surgery nurses came in to get me. They asked my name and asked me to tell them which breast was being operated on and what the operation would be.  Apparently operations have gone wrong in the past so this was a check point.

They take me on the gurney to the operating room where there were at least 8 people in the room!  I was shocked at the number of folks who were there. Again they asked me my name, what type of surgery and which breast for the entire room to hear...then...I felt the anesthesia going up my arm and I was out.

After Surgery


The lumpectomy surgery took about 2.5 hours. I woke up but don't remember anything from waking up to getting in the wheel chair to get to the car to go home...BECAUSE I don't remember putting on my  clothes and seeing the 5-6 inch scar on the side of my breast. Once I got home I saw it and was surprised it was so long.  I don't know what I was thinking...laser surgery...smaller scar.

Then I went on line and watched a lumpectomy surgery (not all of it...hard to watch...don't recommend watching it before the surgery)  and understood better why I had this large scar. Then I remembered how lucky I was to still have a right breast because I think any other surgeon would have done a mastectomy based on the length of the mass.

I didn't get a chance to see the surgeon before I woke up but he talked to my son. He told my son the lymph nodes were good...the cancer had not spread...and something about scar tissue.  So that was all good news.

When I got home I was in pain. By now I was just glad that I was almost at the end of this process of pain. I could endure it. I hesitated to take the pain medicine but I did because it was so much pain. The pain lasted about three days and then I was just really sore and bruised AND a sharp pain from the elbow down to my armpit.  The navigating nurse told me it was a nerve and would go away eventually.  I'm thinking just like the neuropothy in my feet will eventually go away.

It could always have been worse...I'm grateful for the surgeon, that the surgery went well, and that today I'm still alive and have both of my breasts.

November 2019 Getting a Cold, Fainting,Emergency Room

Getting A Cold


The Sunday before Thanksgiving I got a cold.  As the week went on it turned into a bad cold.  I was congested and coughing day and night.  I had already decided not to go to Atlanta for Thanksgiving and THANK THE ALMIGHTY GOD that I did. I was very sick and weak.  In the bed and not moving much. I had decided to try Whole Foods for Thanksgiving Dinner.  I was exhausted when I picked the meal up.  I had NO desire to eat any of it...let alone warm it up...and I didn't.  Thanksgiving came and went and David brought me a plate which helped bring me back to life.  It was memorable.

David decided to go out of town for the weekend and I just prayed I would survive.  I mean I was thinking is it possible to survive Chemo and then die from a  cold? That would be tragic.

Fainting in the Grocery Store


Sunday after Thanksgiving and I needed to pick up a few things from the grocery store...like cough medicine and more tissues.  I had about 10 items on my list.  I had on leggings, a black t-shirt, felt hat (no wig) and grey hoodie.  I had the hoodie on over the hat going in the store and just decided to keep the hoodie on while I shopped.

As I was going around the store I noticed how tired I was.  I was leaning on the cart.  Not really pushing it but leaning and pushing. I got up to the check out line and was exhausted.  I remember taking one thing out of the cart and then the cashier helped take everything else out.  I was grateful.  Then I watched as he started to scan the items.  I felt like he was moving in slow motion. I was thinking OMG I'm not going to make it. I took out my store card and the money I thought it was going to cost and put it on the counter. All of a sudden I got SO hot.  It was the same type of hot that I felt during the MRI the week before.  I took off the hoodie and put it and my purse on the empty counter. I remember thinking I need to put my head down.  So I put my head on my purse...

...the next thing I heard was "Ma'am, Ma'am are you alright?"  I was on the floor. I had fainted. I looked up at the manager who I knew because I went to that store often and she was asking me if I was alright and telling me that I had fainted. I told her I was alright.  She said she couldn't let me drive like this and needed to call 911.  All I thought was "Oh Boy! This is bad!" She called 911 but in the meantime there were some fire department guys shopping and they came up to check me out.

They took my pulse and it was low...I can't remember how low but he said it was low.  Temperature was okay and blood pressure was high.  So they talked to me and asked me what happened.  I told them I was a cancer patient and just got overheated. They asked for my ID...name and address ( I thought that was strange).  Then they asked for my SS# and I told them I didn't feel comfortable giving it to them. So they said okay.

They asked me to stand up so they could take my pulse again.  I got up and was a little dizzy but okay.  They checked my pulse again and it as boarder line okay.  By this time the ambulance was there and they were coming in the door.   I overhead the firemen talking to the ambulance guy and told him that I checked out and it was up to me if I went with them.  Perfect. So I got myself together answered he ambulance guys questions about how I was feeling and if I felt okay to drive.  I said I was okay.  They said I could go but needed to verify my information...name, address and SSN.  I asked why they needed my SSN and they said it was part of their reporting.  It looked more official because the guy had a handheld unit he was entering the information into.  So I gave him the SSN.  My goal was to drive myself home and figure out what had happened to me.

There was a REASON they needed my SSN...so they could BILL MY INSURANCE company. APPARENTLY there is a cost for emergency service EVEN if you don't take a ride with them. Here it is....
Ambulance Fee Information
  • Basic Life Support Transport: $500.
  • Advanced Life Support - Level 1: $600.
  • Advanced Life Support - Level 2: $750.
  • Evaluation - Non-Transport: $125.
  • Rate of Mileage: $11 per loaded mile.

I don't know why I find this INSANE. I knew there was a $500 fee for transport but there is a $175 fee if they just come out and check you out.  Another reason to run for political office.

The Emergency Room


I didn't immediately go the the emergency room.  I went home.  Ate something. Rested and went to sleep.  I thought I would be able to make it until Monday morning and go to the doctor. That didn't work out.  I woke up about 5 AM and felt DIZZY...like I'm going to faint again dizzy.  I called the number the oncologist gives you to talk to the on-call doctor.  I told him what was happening and he told me because my pulse (heart) was low I needed to go to the emergency room and get checked out.

I got dressed and went to the nearest emergency room. It happened to be an emergency room near the Oncologist office and it was COMPLETELY empty.  No one waiting.  Like a skeleton staff on duty.  I tell them I need to be seen and can barely stand up. They call for triage and take my vitals.  I can't remember what they were but they wheeled me back to a room.

The doctor came in and asked a bunch of questions and then told me they would be checking my heart, checking if I had the flu or pneumonia and doing blood work. Great...let's get to the bottom of it.   They put me on IV with fluids and I started to feel a little better.  Then they checked my heart and it was fine.  I got a chest xray and they checked to see if I had the flu (that hurt!) apparently I've never had that done before them sticking a long q-tip up your nose.

I waited for about an hour to the results. I did not have the flu.  I did not have pneumonia BUT I had problems with my electrolytes specifically my potassium was too low.  It was so low they needed to give me potassium intravenously.  They told me it would take an hour to administer but I should feel better and be okay. This made sense because after each chemo treatment on the AC drugs the doctor would prescribe Potassium bills but with the final chemo there was no final check of my levels....there probably should have been.

The emergency room doctor said I should be fine now and let me go home.  I didn't instantly feel better.  I still had the cold.  I was still weak but I didn't feel like I was going to faint anymore.

Whew...close call...

November 2019 Neulasta, Disability, MRI, Surgeon from Heaven

Neulasta


This time the Neulasta half dose put me down like the full dose.  I was in the bed again for two days almost unable to move. Too painful to remember how painful....just remember it was shocking to be so sick.

Disability Paperwork


After Chemo ended Short Term Disability has been a bear.   They only approve it from doctor appointment to doctor appointment.  Then you have to call and get an extension and send in medical records.  Also got an email from Leave Administration and from the Insurance company about Long Term Disability and that seemed like even more red-tape. I have to get back to work before January 25th or it will go into LTD.  Pray. I still wonder how guys in the yard get through all these deadlines and paperwork.  There definitely needs to be more help....a coach....to assist employees through this process. It's hard to do all of this while you are sick.

Surviving the MRI


I had the follow-up MRI.  I remembered that I had to stay completely still for thirty minutes and that hadn't been a problem for me.  When I got in the tube my nose was running and I couldn't do anything about it but watch it drip in the tube.  I was doing pretty good but all of a sudden I started to get HOT.  I mean deathly hot. I thought I was going to pass out.  I finally said something and they stopped the machine, came in the room and started taking the blanket off of me, my hospital socks, lifted up my gown from my back and ran a fan to cool me off. I was sweating profusely.  I felt better and we continued but it was scary.

Surgeon Appointment about Surgery


Well...the MRI showed something was there.  The surgeon showed me the results and said it was flat and long and doing a lumpectomy was going to be a challenge BUT he could do it.


I finally could breathe.

I had  been holding my breath for a long time waiting on the confirmation that I could KEEP MY BREAST.  I mean really.  To me it is RIDICULOUS that women lose their breast.  Cut off.  I mean its like do men get their private part CUT OFF like women do because of cancer?  NO they do not.

I think about the mammogram which is the start of the "breast cancer process".  Now, ALL women who have gone through a mammogram KNOW that there is NO reason that procedure should be that antiquated and PAINFUL. It is like a vise grip.  There must be a better way.

If the mammogram which is the start of the process is jacked-up then you can expect the rest of process to be "wanting" and then the end of the process culminates in LOSING a body part.  IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE.

So I breathe a sign of relief because I KNOW if I had another surgeon who didn't care about my desire to KEEP MY BREAST  or played power games it could be all different. I could be facing a mastectomy...deformity...a big L.

Some how The Almighty God had found this surgeon for me.  A superstar in the area.  A sought after surgeon. I leave the office just feeling grateful....grateful...grateful.

The Port Removal


I called the oncology office because I hadn't heard from them getting the okay to remove the port during surgery.  I get a call back from the doctor's assistant and she said that because the MRI is still showing something is there we need to leave the port in until we see the pathology report. Good Grief.  Is anybody thinking about the cost??? This is the only bad thing to happen.  I gotta take the big win (keep breast) with the lost (keep port).  I don't fight it...although I want to.