As You Read This (The Surgery)…

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Monday is sort of a blur. I remember some things, and not others. I want to share what I do remember for those of you who may being going through the same thing. Also, for those of you who have already gone through it, and for those who may go through this is the future.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you may want to read these posts before moving on with this one:

  1. As You Read This…
  2. As You Read This (Continued)…
  3. As You Read This (Revisited)…
  4. Confession: I’m Scared
  5. As You Read This (The Calm Before The Storm)…
  6. Update From Jeff

If this recap seems disoriented, it’s because that’s how I remember it. Also, it’s easier for me to remember the situation when I write in present tense.

There are approximately 10 hospital employees who know my birth date. Probably more. I lost count of how many times I was asked.

It is 10 a.m. and Jeff and I have been sitting in the lobby of Albany Med’s South Clinical Campus for less than five minutes when a woman with big, blond hair calls my name, and leads us to admitting. Her office is decorated with pink ribbons, and I wonder if she knows why I’m there.

She asks me a bunch of easy questions. Questions that on any other day, I’d be able to answer with no problem.

She asks for my parents’ cell phone number– a number I usually know by heart. I start to answer, and then can’t remember. I fumble for my cell phone, and can’t remember who to look for in my contacts. She probably thinks I’m crazy.

When she’s done asking questions, she straps a bracelet around my wrist, and walks us to another waiting room. She smiles, and says, “good luck to you,” before turning and heading back to her office.

I do a newspaper word search while I wait. The theme is ‘things you’d find in cereal.’ My name is called, and Jeff and I follow a nurse to Pre-op.

The nurse introduces herself, and says she needs a urine sample. I think, how can I possibly give you a urine sample? I haven’t had anything to drink since midnight. But, I manage somehow.

The nurse tells me to undress from the waist up, and hands me a hospital gown. I put my clothes in a plastic bag with my name on it, and Jeff comments that the gown looks nicer than ones he’s seen at other hospitals. I lay down on the bed, and wait.

I am freezing and have goose bumps when the nurse comes over to put the IV well in my arm. I hold Jeff’s hand, and close my eyes as she inserts the well into my left arm. When she is done, she disappears for a few seconds, and returns with a cloth robe, and a heated blanket.

A physician comes over and listens to my breathing with a stethoscope.

A anesthesiologist comes over and explains how he’s going to knock me out. 

A few minutes later, the nurse says it’s time to go down to X-rays. On the walk down, the nurse explains that I am going for a needle localization, and that a doctor is going to insert a hollow needle into my breast to find the area where the surgeon will have to go later to remove the lump. She says that it is usually done by mammogram. When I tell her that I had a bad experience with a mammogram in February, she arranges for me to have an ultrasound instead.

The nurse walks me through the radiation waiting room, where around 10 people are sitting waiting for appointments. I am wrapped in a robe and blankets, and I can feel everyone’s eyes on me.

I follow the nurse into the same room I was in when I went for my follow-up ultrasound in August. I’m used to ultrasounds by now.

I lay staring at the ceiling, as the technician locates the lump on the screen. A nurse comes into the room and stands on the left side of me. She tells me her name and puts her hand over mine. Finally, a doctor with short, blond, curly hair walks into the room. I tell her I like her hair. She smiles and thanks me.

The doctor explains that she is going to give me a shot of medicine similar to Novocain to numb my breast. She inserts the needle, and it hurts for a few seconds, and then fades away. She explains that she’s going to give me more skin numbing, and then will insert a hollow needle into my breast to find the lump. After a while, I can’t feel the numbing needle at all.

All of a sudden, I feel a sharpness in my breast where the lump is. The doctor sees that I’m uncomfortable and asks if I can feel it. She gives me more numbing, and then continues. When she has reached the lump with the needle, she says that she’s going to insert a wire into my breast, so the doctor can find where to go during the surgery. She writes her initials on my breast, and tells me I’m done.

A nurse walks me out to Jeff, who is sitting in a small waiting room. My head is pounding from dehydration and hunger. I am uncomfortable from the procedure. A different nurse enters the room with a wheel chair, and pushes me back to pre-op.

I am told to undress all the way, except for my underwear, and handed hospital socks.

When I’m done, a nurse inserts the IV into my arm, and says it’s for hydration. I feel a little better.

I’m supposed to go into surgery at 12:10. It’s 12:45. My head is still pounding.

1:00 comes. The breast surgeon walks by, and smiles at me.

I watch him look at my films from the ultrasound. He walks over, and shakes Jeff’s hand. He turns to me and asks me my birth date.

The RN nurse, and the anesthesiologist come over. The nurse says, “this usually works pretty quickly, you probably won’t remember going into the operating room.”

I say bye to Jeff, and the nurse pushes me on a stretcher through a freezing cold hallway. I enter the operating room. A bunch of doctors and nurses are sitting around. I am moved onto an operating table. I stare up at the ceiling and wonder if the anesthesia is working…

I open my eyes and the nurse is taking the oxygen mask off of me. A blanket is over my head.

I reach up to touch my breast, and another nurse pushes my hand away and says, “don’t touch that.” They move me over to the stretcher. I don’t remember getting to post-op.

Another nurse is there, and I ask if my boyfriend can come in. She tells me I have to sleep for a half hour.

I open my eyes and she asks who is waiting for me in the waiting room. I ask her if it’s been a half hour, and she says yes. She asks if I want anything to eat or drink, and I say, “water.”

“You don’t want tea or juice or anything?” she asks.

No. Water.

She walks me over to a big blanket-covered chair, and then goes to get Jeff. I don’t remember the time between when she walks away and when Jeff is there.

Jeff says that the doctor talked to him while I was sleeping after surgery. Turns out the doctor who did the needle localization didn’t reach the lump all the way with the hollow needle, and they had to do another x-ray  while I was sleeping. But the doctor managed to get everything out. He told Jeff that he’d call in four days with the results of the biopsy. We are OK’d to leave, and a nurse pushes me out of the hospital in a wheel chair.

We stop at Uncommon Grounds on the way home (where else?), and I eat three heart thrive cookies.

And that’s the story of my surgery. If you got this far, congratulations, and thanks for reading.

Jeff told me that I could have anything I wanted for dinner that night. All I wanted was cheesy pasta for some reason. Enter Buca Di Beppo take out:

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(Jeff took pictures for me)

Pasta

I also really wanted a chocolate shake from Friendly’s

DSCF4461Don’t judge.

Jeff made me a fabulous breakfast yesterday and today:

bfast

My sisters-in-law sent me an Edible Arrangement yesterday:

edible arrangement

And Jeff took this crazy picture of me eating dinner last night:

dinner

I’m wearing his huge button down shirt, and eating the butternut squash soup my mom brought me on Saturday. This is not a flattering picture,but it makes me laugh.

The end.

PS: my mom is coming to visit tomorrow!!!

PPS: Going to Uncommon Grounds today!! 

Also, feel free to ask me any questions at all. I’m happy to share my experience with you.

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As You Read This (Continued)…

Confession: I’ve been trying to write this post for over an hour.

I am touched. All of your comments, tweets, and e-mails on my ‘As You Read This…’ post have completely blown me away.

I’m usually pretty good at putting my thoughts into words. Not tonight.

I don’t know where to start. So, maybe I’ll just start from the beginning…

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…I enter the exam room. The door closes. I wait…

The room is dark. My gaze is immediately drawn to the decorative fluorescent light covers that makes the ceiling look like there is a beach on it.

The door opens. The technician walks in and tells me to lay down on the bed.

She asks, “what side is it on?”

Nervous and embarrassed, I point to my right breast. She is a few years older than me. I wonder what she’s thinking.

As I lay down, she asks me to pull my right arm out of my medical gown. She pumps her foot down up and down on a pedal several times and the bed rises. Then, she rubs a cold gel over the spot I just pointed to.

I try not to feel awkward. This is her job. She does it every day.

Suddenly, I feel the pressure from the transducer press onto my breast. It hurts a little but I try not to think about it.

I stare at the ceiling. I stare at the beach…

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I turn my head to look at the monitor. I see the black mass that is inside my right breast. I watch as the technician draws circles on it on the computer screen. I can’t help but feel like a test object.

She works in silence. It feels like forever.

Finally, she seems to have what she needs, and says she’ll be right back with the doctor.

She leaves. I lay. I wait. I stare at the ceiling. I stare at the beach…

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The technician returns with the doctor. I feel even more insecure because the doctor is a man and I was expecting a woman.

He jokes briefly with the technician about the way she mispronounces his name. Then, he turns to me and gives me a serious look.

“Your tumor seems to be about the same as it was six months ago,” he tells me. He says that a biopsy doesn’t seem necessary and that he’s pretty sure it’s a fibroadenoma.

“You’ll have to keep coming back for follow-ups so we can track its growth,” he says. “In another six months, and then once every year.”

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And that’s it. I’m free to go.

I take one last look at the beach on the ceiling before I breath a sigh of relief, and head out of the exam room.

It’s over. At least for now.  (Note: I have an appointment with a breast surgeon in two weeks to confirm the results)

******

I think one e-mail I received said it best:

“Even knowing something is non-cancerous doesn’t make it any less scary”

I cried three times this morning.

  • The first time was while hugging Jeff before we left for my appointment.
  • The second was when I overheard the receptionist say that I might need a mammogram (If you read my last post, you know that I don’t do too well with mammograms)
  • The third was while I was waiting for the technician and doctor to come back in the room, just for the pure incredulity of the situation.

I chose to finally talk about my experience on my blog because I know I can’t be the only one who has ever gone through or who will ever go through something like this.

This is a very real thing that can happen to anybody.

I am only 23. I was 20 when I first found the lump.

It’s better to detect these sorts of things early on.

  • Please, PLEASE go to yearly check-ups at your gynecologist.
  • If you find any type of abnormality on your body, don’t ignore it! Get checked out!
  • If you are a man reading this, please make sure the women in your life are taking care of themselves.

Thank you for reading, and please spread the word!

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