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Final Reconstruction Surgery in One Week

28 Nov

A week from today I will be in surgery.  I’ve been looking forward to finally having everything over with, but the last few days I’ve been struggling a little with sadness thinking about it.  So much so that I have been near to crying several times.  I just don’t want to go through surgery again.  I am almost 7 months post-op from the mastectomy.  I’ve gone through so much healing and now I have to go through some of it all over again.  My incisions will be re-opened and it just makes me sad to think about it.  I finally feel so good when I lift things and can do exercises normally again.  I remember the 1st few days/weeks after the mastectomy and how hard it was to do much for myself.  I don’t mind having people help me, but it takes so much energy to get back to normal.  I feel tired already. 

I know that I will be very happy a month from now and very glad I went through it, but on this side of surgery I can only see the hard road ahead.  Of course, I will be soooooooo happy to get rid of these tissue expanders, but it is still a little scary not knowing what it will be like having implants.  I still cry sometimes when I take a bath because I miss my old body.  The one God gave me.  It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was natural and felt normal.  Tissue expanders are SO strange and feel so hard.  Implants also seem so unnatural to me, but hopefully it will be better.  I also miss having feeling in my chest.  It is strange to run my fingernail over the skin and not feel it at all.  Kind of freaky.  I don’t dwell on these things for long because I am thankful that I live in a time where medical procedures are available to me to look normal again and that doctors can repair what’s been lost.  I am thankful.  Very thankful.  But, it still has some sadness to it.

I was talking to Kevan this afternoon about how sad I’ve been about having to have surgery again.  He turned to me and said, “I’m sorry sweetheart that you have to go through this again.  I really am.”  He’s so sweet.  He followed it up by knocking on my breast with his hand and saying, “at least you will be rid of these 1/2 baseballs!”  LOL!  I guess he’s looking forward to it too.   Even he’s tired of the “rocks”.  ;o)

Anyway, one more week. I am coveting any prayers regarding my surgery and my anxiety.  I have also developed allergies or a cold and haven’t been feeling or sleeping well the last few nights.  I’m hoping it doesn’t get worse and I’ve prayed that God would remove these symptoms.  We have some VERY busy days coming (women’s retreat with church and I have to travel to Atlanta for work) before my surgery…so that is adding a bit more stress to my mind. 

I will leave you with a few pics.  The first one is me sitting on my brother’s motorcycle.  I’ve heard rumors that someone said I was riding around Michigan on my new motorcycle…so I thought I better fess up here and say that it isn’t mine at all and it was even OFF when I was sitting on it.  lol!  I just thought the motorcycle would go well with my do-rag on my head so I put my older brother’s leather jacket on and sat on it.  :o)


Here is a current picture of Kevan and I attending a benefit dinner.  I have my wig on, of course, since we are at dinner and I wanted to look nice for my hubby.  :o)


Lastly, here is a picture of me with my immediate family.  I’m the one in the middle that looks like a boy.  Oh, and someone told me they thought I was my nephew when they first saw the picture.  Thanks Marie.  lol!  This should give you an idea of how long my hair is now.

Pre-Op Appointments

17 Nov

I had all of my pre-operation appointments yesterday.  This will probably be a boring post, but I just want to remember it later…so this is for my documentation mostly.  

I thought I would just walk into the doctor’s office and pay my portion of the surgery and that would be it, but it wasn’t.  Since I will be a part of a clinical trial (since the implants they will be using are not approved by the FDA) I had to fill out TONS of papers and sign & initial a lot of pages.  Also, they ask that I come back a bunch of times for follow-up visits and to fill out questions again regarding the clinical trial.  Good part is that I get paid $50-$100 each time I come in and do their surveys.  🙂

I guess I’m part of the “satisfaction and psychological” portion of the clinical trial and not the “health” portion.  It sounded like there were different groups.  I had to answer 11 PAGES of questions about how I feel about myself, my body and my breasts.  lol!  A lot of them were pretty funny.  I had to choose a number between 1 and 5 stating how I felt about my eyes, nose, hips, butt, feet, etc….#1 being I dislike them and 5 being I’m very happy with them.  lol!  I also had to indicate whether I was a depressed or happy person about 40 times, but the sentences differed slightly.  Kevan thinks that it is for them to tell whether the new implants helped my self-image and made me less depressed.  Since I’ve had a double mastectomy….I’m guessing that is going to be a YES.  lol!  It also asked me if I considered myself to be a healthy person.  Well….I just had cancer…so….not so much.

After all of the paperwork Miss L (my favorite nurse there) took my temperature and blood pressure.  Of course, I can’t have a blood pressure cuff on my arm anymore (due to my bilateral lymph node biopsy) so they had to take it from my leg.  It is pretty annoying.  Then, Miss L walked us through how to take care of my drains (again) and what to expect.  Ugh.  I hate drains!  Also, I will have to do my exercises again (hopefully, I will remember better than last time) and I will have lifting restrictions as well.  They want me to be able to lift my arms that day.  Thinking about it hurts.  Then, I got to pay a huge payment for my surgery since the doctor is out of network.  😦  Not so fun.  I’m glad we had the money in savings, but we were hoping to not have to pay so much since Kevan still doesn’t have a job.  Oh well.  God knows and he will provide what we need.  Luckily, the hospital is in network so all of that stuff will be paid for…just the doctor is out of network.

After all of the stuff at the doctor’s office we had to head to Centennial hospital and pre-register.  After registering we met with two nurses to go over surgery information.  They acted all excited for me.  lol!  They said they can’t wait for my surgery and that they think I will look great when I leave.  They will be in the surgery…so that was a little odd since they are going to see me without my clothes on.  lol!  I know….they see it all the time.  They told me this surgery should not be as bad as the one in May.  I should be able to lift myself up…unlike last time…I couldn’t do it for almost 3 weeks.  The downside is that I won’t be able to unwrap my chest wrap for 2 days after.  So, not only am I gonna be stinky….I won’t know what I look like either.  Bummer. 

Today I had to have an ultrasound of my ovaries.  I’m still having some major menopause symptoms so they wanted to check them out.  The doctor said everything looks good.  So, no worries there.  🙂

Leaving for the Hospital

8 May

I slept great last night.  I woke up about 4:45 and went ahead and got up.  It is hard to stay away from my Keurig this morning.  I WANT COFFEE, but I am not allowed to eat or drink anything.  I’m already starving and my surgery isn’t until 2:30pm.  Ugh!

Now that I was up so early I didn’t really know what to do with myself.  I can’t wear makeup or contacts so that was going to save me a lot of time this morning.  So, I washed and sliced some strawberries that I didn’t want to go bad while we were gone and then used the foodsaver to put them in freezer packs.  I know.  I’m strange.  lol!  Then, I washed my bathtub since I won’t be able to use for about 6 weeks and I’m the only one that uses it.  Also, I won’t be able to use my arms well and I didn’t want a dirty tub for several weeks.  :o)

I’m all showered and ready.  I had to use an anti-bacterial scrub on my body this morning that the hospital gave me.  It is to prevent infection.  It smells like a hospital.  Even Kevan noticed it.  I should’ve shopped for some new eye glasses.  Mine are about 11 years old and I hate wearing them because they are off kilter a bit and are full of scratches.  Normally, it isn’t an issue because I only wear them at night, but now that I can’t wear contacts I’ve realized how much they annoy me.  Oh well.

We will be leaving for the hospital in a few minutes.  I’m all ready to go…just waiting on everyone else.  It is about a 2 hour drive (with traffic) to the hospital.  I just have to apply my “numbing cream” before we leave.  This is so that when they inject the tracer material into both breasts, for my sentinel node biopsy, it doesn’t hurt.  My doctor said it can be pretty painful and unfortunately….I will be awake for it. [Update – the doctor was right.  It was VERY painful…even with the numbing cream.  The pain only lasts a few seconds so I just prayed through it and God helped me.  I did end up crying, but I think it was just all of my emotions of getting ready for surgery too.]

Thanks again everyone for your prayers.  I am so calm this morning and I slept so good last night that I know that God is answering them.  I love you all.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

Psalm 27:4-5 – One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

Plastic Surgeon Visit – Misconceptions

12 Apr
This post is for those that want to have a better understanding of what this part of the journey is like.  I tried to be as discreet as possible because this is a personal subject, but in order for others to understand what a woman goes through at this point I had to dig in a little in order to describe it.  It is very hard for me to even type the word “implant” because it is embarrassing to me….I even tried to figure out a different word to use, but couldn’t come up with anything.  So, here goes.  If you are a man and your wife is going through breast reconstruction you need to read my post before you go to your appointment. If you are just reading this because you are curious I ask that you stop reading when it gets to the more detailed section (below the picture of the flower) as this was hard for me to write and I only wrote it to help others who are going through this.
Yesterday Kevan and I had our visit with the Plastic Surgeon.  She is only a little older than me so it did seem a little strange, but I realize I’m getting older and doctors will start getting younger.  :o)  Before the visit, I thought we would go to her office, feel the different implant options and then choose the “size” we want.  I thought it would be an easy visit because isn’t it every women’s dream to be able to choose her chest size?  NOT!  That is not at all how it was.   I don’t know if it is just me or if this would be the case for any woman that is having reconstruction surgery.  It was a hard visit.
I was already exhausted by the time we arrived there so I know that didn’t help.  It took us about 2 hours to drive to Nashville due to the traffic, we only had time to eat a little snack before we arrived and I have not been able to sleep past about 4am lately.  So, I’m sure all of this contributed to my emotions.  
It was a VERY nice office.  They gave me a plush robe to wear instead of the paper or hospital gowns the doctor’s offices normally give me.  The atmosphere was totally different than a doctor’s office.  It seemed more like a spa.  I’m sure it is because they have high paying clientele having various plastic surgeries and they need to cater to them.  I was happy about that aspect of it.
During our 1 hour visit we probably spoke about the size and implant type for about 5 minutes.  This actually won’t be discussed again until several weeks/months after my mastectomy/reconstruction surgery.  I am not going to go into detail here about our discussion.  This is very personal to me, but if you are a woman that is going through this and you would like to discuss I would be happy to talk to you about it.  Just comment or send me a text and I will contact you to go into more detail with you one-on-one. 
Yesterday, I had to keep reminding myself of the verses below….

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11: 28

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” – Psalm 56:8

He knows my pain and is with me through it.  I can cast all my sorrow and burdens on Him who gives me strength.  He will give me what I need to endure this.

This next paragraph was pretty hard for me to write because everyone will know my “business”, but I’m trying to be helpful for anyone that may have to go through this or to give a husband an idea of what his wife is about to go through. I want you to be able to prepare yourself before your visit since I didn’t realize what it was going to be about.

DSC_0253

During the reconstruction there will not be much left for the surgeon to work with.  It isn’t like a normal augmentation.  Because so much is lost during the mastectomy she will be doing a tissue expander technique that requires her to use human skin graphs (from donors – ewww!), temporary spacers (the actual expander) and will need to use the pectoral muscle since there will be no tissue left to hold the spacer (or implant) in place.  Here is a good page to read about it that is not too graphic.  Most sites have real pictures so I tried to find one that was less graphic.

She gave us a little background on how the surgery would go. My oncological surgeon will start the surgery by doing the mastectomy and sentinel node biopsy (they remove the main lymph node to see if it reveals cancer).  The biopsy will give immediate results that will let him know if anything else will need to be done during the surgery (i.e. other nodes will need to be removed due to the cancer spreading).  I did learn that the scar will need to be a lot larger than if it was an augmentation so this was sad to me.  Once he is finished it will be my plastic surgeon’s job to try to reconstruct what was there.  I am very thankful that this is an option and even though this is hard for me I know it is a blessing to even have this as an available option.  I know women many years ago did not have this option nor did they have the skin grafting options available that they do now.

Once this surgery is finished I will be in the hospital for 2 days.  I will be put on pain medication to help manage the pain from surgery and I will start arm exercises the following day to help with arm mobility and lessen scar tissue.  I told her that I do not like taking medication (I know….I am an odd one) and she said she understood but I would have to take it for at least the first few days or I would be in too much pain to do the exercises and I MUST do the exercises.  I will have 2 drains in on each side that I will have to measure and empty throughout the day.  I believe I remember her saying I will have these for about 2 weeks following the surgery.  I will have to see her weekly to be “expanded”.  Once I am healed from the initial surgery I will start my treatment (chemo, etc).  This will be about 6 weeks post-op.  This was really hard for me to accept because I want the cancer gone NOW, but I know I need to be patient.  I will not even meet with an oncologist until several weeks after my surgery which is understandable since they will know a lot more after the various biopsies of tissue and lymph nodes.  Only after my treatment will they be able to finish my reconstruction.  So, I will have to go back at some point to have it completed.  She said it will be an outpatient procedure and will only take about 2 hours.
A few more things.  After the surgery I will not be able to lift more than 2-3 pounds.  Which is good and bad.  I won’t have to do any vacuuming, laundry or kitty litter (my favorite restriction.  lol), but I also won’t be able to lift my kitties and hold them either which will be hard to do since they are so sweet.
Below are a few more links that might be helpful if you are going to be going through this:
I am a candidate for this and you may be too.  This is a good site with a good explanation of the procedure.