Friday, April 16, 2010

Amateur post-surgical report...

My brain is fuzzy with fatigue, so let's hope this is coherent. I just came from the hospital, and my answer to your question, "how's your mom?" would be, "she's been better." Truthfully, she's quite miserable. Here are a few more details about the surgery yesterday...she and my dad got to the hospital around noon to check in and begin pre-op. Their long-time closest friends Paul and Linda Duncombe arrived shortly after, and I got there around 1. We joked with my mom a bit and waited for her pre-op procedures to be completed. The worst part was having radioactive dye injected into both breasts, 4 injections per side. You can ask her where they injected it, if she can remember. The dye is blue, and if it seeps out into the lymph nodes and remains blue, there is no cancer there. If it turns pink in the lymph nodes, it has spread. Apparently this was a VERY painful procedure, which led us to wonder, "couldn't that have been done under anesthesia at the start of the surgery?" Whatever. The first 2 1/2 to 3 hours were done by Dr. Kruper, a very capable breast surgeon that looked like she was 10. But apparently she's the best. She did the breast removal and lymph node removal. She was the one that came out and told us at 4:30 that the first part was done, and that they had indeed found cancer in the lymph nodes on the right side, which is the side that had more cancer anyway. That automatically would put her with at least Stage 2. They will do a CAT scan and bone scan this week to see if the cancer has gone beyond those lymph nodes. I think then they will be able to determine for sure her "stage." Dr. Kruper seemed very surprised that the pathology report was positive on those lymph nodes because they didn't feel cancerous in her hands (she said that sometimes they are very hard and it's obvious they have cancer) but my mom's weren't that way. Hopefully they caught it in the lymph nodes at the very early stage, but we'll know more this week. Overall, Dr. Kruper seemed very positive, and said that despite the lymph nodes, the prognosis is the same as before...good. What she did say was that the lymph node issue means that most likely she will have more chemo cycles--possibly 8 cycles instead of 4. We aren't sure what "cycle" means or how many sessions are in a cycle, as it's different for everyone. That part's a bummer.

Dr. Tan, the plastic surgeon, took over and put in tissue expanders, which will keep the tissue stretched out and maintain the space in there for the implants which will be put in eventually. Can't remember when...after chemo I think? The tissue expanders are painful, especially when they add fluid and expand them. They are under the muscle, which makes it hurt more. I've been told that sometimes the muscles twitch and it can be painful. But he took another 2 hours, and came out and said it all went all planned. The surgery took from 2-6:30 PM.

She has 5 drains coming out of her chest/armpit area, which are a big pain for her. She will probably have those for a week. As of this morning she had the automated leg compressors going still. An IV in her arm, and "help" with going to the bathroom. Needless to say, not too comfortable. The pain is significantly more on the left side, which confuses her because 4 lymph nodes were taken out on the right side. She has severe bouts of nauseousness and had already thrown up once this morning, and sent me running down the hall to beg for a bucket while I was there. Luckily nothing came up that time. She had a headache while I was there, and even had Michael and I quickly de-blanketing her late last night due to a hot flash! As of this morning, she's still very groggy, and time is passing slowly. She kept asking what time it was, and when I'd tell her, she was incredulous. She can push her pain med button, but unfortunately it drugs her and she's in a fog. How's that for not fun? She said repeatedly, "this sucks."

Despite all this, the word on the street is that she'll go home tomorrow. We have lots of help set up to be there with her...there will always be someone in the house for at least the next 3 weeks. She will be just fine, but has to make it through these difficult days. She's able to raise her right arm now, which is helpful for scratching itches and using chapstick--all things that required help last night. The left arm is too painful to move yet. I'm going back over about the middle of the afternoon, as are my dad, Pam and Deanne. So I might add some more information tonight, if I'm awake :).


  1. Thank you, Thank you, Shannon,for posting this information. This website is so great, I appreciate it. Please give your mother my love and I am keeping her and all the family in prayer. I will contact your mom in a few weeks. You are just the best daughter!
    Denise xoxoxoxoxoxo

  2. Shannon: This is great. I feel like we all have as up-to-date information as we can get. We love you all. Lynn and Nancy

  3. You're awesome, Shannon. Thanks for your devotion and update. Please give your mom (dad and all of you)our thoughts and love. We are relieved to hear that all is on track. All the boys express their love for "aunt Janet".

    Nancy and boys