I posted on New Year’s Eve that they found a lump in my chest, and my worries associated with it. Well I did end up having surgery last week – another surgery, I am sincerely sick of being cut- and I’m relieved to share that it was benign. It was just fibrous tissue growing. They didn’t think it was cancer going in but had to check. I was relieved, but only slightly. I am resigning myself to the fact that this is my life now. I am now in the elite group that gets to say things like ‘oh this is just a little surgery’. That’s what my oncologist said the week before when I expressed anxiety over it. I suppose compared to the double mastectomy and hysterectomy I had, yes, it was just a little surgery. I thought I would be happier when the surgeon called to tell me the good news, that it was not cancer brewing its ugly head again. I was happy, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was just lucky to get a pass. I couldn’t help but feel like, I’m Ok – for now. I promise I’m not negative about my situation at all, I do feel very lucky most of the time. I guess I’m only sharing my fears, how I really feel about it. My 1 year diagnosis anniversary is in April, maybe as time goes on I will not feel as on guard as I do. But – for now- I appear to be cancer free, and that is indeed something to celebrate.
I have been welcomed to the world of lymphedema. After I was diagnosed and had surgery my surgeon briefly talked to me about it but said that none of her patients got lymphedema. I thought I was safe, thinking I would not have a problem with it. I was wrong, I have been suffering from it for some months now and did not realize it. I am suffering from mostly truncal lymphedema. Like Stella my symptoms are mostly pain with a bit of swelling. I have made lots of trips to my oncologist complaining about my pain and was worried that my cancer had come back. Little did I know that lymphedema is very painful. Something I was not told before. I have been to a therapist 4 times now and it seems to be working for me. I am educating my self on how to move my lymphatic fluid that builds up under my arm and in my back. I have been fitted for a sleeve and a vest as well. I will be interested to see how the vest works, I will be wearing it at night and am hoping that I will sleep more comfortably.
The signs of lymphedema may include:
- swelling in the breast, chest, shoulder, arm, or hand
- area feels full or heavy
- skin changes texture, feels tight or hard, or looks red
- new aching or discomfort in the area
- less movement or flexibility in nearby joints, such as your shoulder, hand, or wrist
- trouble fitting your arm into jacket or shirt sleeves
- bra doesn’t fit the same
- ring, watch, and/or bracelet feels tight but you have not gained weight
Early on, the lymphedema may be relieved by raising the affected limb and the skin usually stays soft. But over time, the swollen area may become hot and red and the skin hard and stiff.
Here is a link with more information that is very helpful. My advise is to educate yourself, know the signs of lymphedema and know your body. Talk to your doctor and be persistent. My doctor told me I did not have a problem but the lymphedema doctor saw my problem right away.
Message, the right kind of message is the key, I was not educated and was not doing my message correctly. If you do have signs of lymphedema get to a good certified lymphedema therapist right away. Your doctor should have a list of good therapists in your area. I feel more relaxed now and know why I have this pain. The pain isn’t fun but I am comforted by the fact that I know what is causing it and am getting the tools to deal with it.
I have more day to day info at my personal blog, but I wanted to post here that I’m home from the hospital after surgery and give an update. I had a modified radical on my left breast, a bi-lateral on my right breast, and a full hysterectomy all at the same time on Oct. 2nd. I wish I could say it went smoothly, and is going smoothly at home recovering, but it was tougher than we expected. The hyster surgeon ended up spending an extra hour operating on me due to scar tissue from my c-sections that had somehow glued my uterus and bladder to each other or my insides, or something. My bladder took the blunt force of that part of the surgery and had to leave the catheter in for 4 days to let it rest. I was supposed to go home after 2. Then I ended up getting a nasty bowel infection while in the hospital. I was released on Weds. the 7th, and in the ER on Friday the 9th due to the infection getting worse. Then Friday night my bladder started leaking (this was just this weekend) so here I am trying not to move my arms too much yet unable to use my tummy because of the bowel infection, and now my bladder LOL. I was a sight!!! At one point Saturday I was laughing so hysterically at how pathetic the situation was. But lo and behold, Sunday brought some relief and I did feel a little better yesterday from all of it. My infection is still not gone, but it is improving and I just called the doc about my bladder and he sees me tomorrow. He told me at the appointment in a little joking matter ‘if I break it I fix it’, so I fully intend for him to fix it! I get my right drain out this afternoon, my left is still not ready and will probably be at my appt. this Friday. I don’t have alot to say on the emotional aspect of what I’m feeling about not having my breasts, I’ve been so consumed with all the unexpected pains to think on it much. I’ll get there I’m sure. I’m still in alot of pain, I heard that the mastectomy doesn’t hurt that much because they cut alot of nerves with it, but my left side does hurt the most out of all of it. When the pain ebbs, the infections are gone and my bladder is fixed, maybe I’ll be able to say it was worth having it all done together but for now I’m undecided. My advice to anyone contemplating having such a radical surgery is this: don’t do it the week after you finish 5 months of chemotherapy. Give yourself a few weeks to recover from chemo first. I’m convinced that my compromised immune system is what has made this so much harder.
On a brighter note, my pathology reports came in. 4 lymph nodes positive out of 15 and only trace ‘miniscule’ is the word the surgeon used of cancer left in the breast itself. I have Inflammatory Breast Cancer, so it’s a little different in that it was spread all over the place as opposed to being 1 tumor. She said there was no live cancer visible to the eye, and only under the microscope did they find the little bit they did. It was all dead cancer/scar tissue. She was very confident that she got it all (one plus side to having chemo the week before) and had definite clear margins. She was thrilled as was my oncologist, and said that now I can consider myself cancer free. Hmm… that sounds too weird yet. Maybe after radiation and my next scan…
I will start radiation in about 3 weeks, and instead of the 6 weeks of once a day daily rads originally planned, my oncologist is suggesting a regime of twice a day rads for 3 and a half weeks. Apparently studies are showing that it has excellent results with IBC patients. I haven’t met with a plastic surgeon yet, nor the radiologist, I’m just trying to get through the next 2 weeks without any further setbacks. Wish me luck.
I was standing in the check-out line at a clothing store this morning buying a new shirt and it hit me that this could possibly be the last time I get to shop for this body as I know it, in this size and shape. My surgery of radical mastectomy/bi-lateral mastectomy/hysterectomy has been scheduled for October 2nd, 2009 which is less than a month away and I think I am just beginning to realize what this means. Since my diagnosis in April ’09 I have been consumed with staying positive in the midst of all the IBC negativity, having chemotherapy and a mirage of new drugs along with it, trying to be a normal mom to my 2 year old and now 4 year old and a decently normal wife to my husband. I thought I was doing a good job of it all, including truly facing what I’m dealing with, except I don’t think I really knew what the surgery meant. I think most women on this site have had a mastectomy, so I know it is fairly common and that’s what I focused on. But the new reality of not having my breasts anymore is surreal and terrifying. My body is going to change. I don’t know that I am mentally or emotionally prepared for that change yet. I admit it. I know that I need to focus on the purpose of the surgery- to make me cancer free- and I will do that but I can’t help but be saddened at the forced changes. I do take comfort in knowing I will have reconstruction at some point, for IBCers it isn’t right away usually and I am expecting it to be about a year out from what my doctors tell me. I have read most of the stories on here about ‘foobs’ and the different choices everyone has made with fascination, but I realize also with distance. I didn’t relate to it so it was easy to read. I am blessed to have ‘met’ amazingly strong women on this site and in person who have done it before me, and it’s your stories that give me strength to at least try not to focus on my fears and instead think about the future. I want other newbies to know that it’s OK to acknowledge our fears-and this surgery is just as scary as IBC istelf to me- but we have to try not to let them take over. I keep picturing this time next year when reconstruction is done, when I will hopefully be finished with Herceptin every 3 weeks, and my son will be starting kindergarten. My daughter will be 3 and a half and it will be just us at home for the first time- now that’s exciting stuff I want to be around for, and thinking of these things makes the surgery worth it. I have 3 more chemos to go, I was supposed to have it this week but the kids got me sick and I was unable to. Then I consider myself halfway done with treatment, which sounds pretty awesome when taking it one day at a time.
(ps I don’t know if this post makes any sense, my brain is so weird from the new drug doc put me on last week to help with the hysterectomy hormone issues but I tried:)
Today I had my four month oncology check up. The weeks leading up to my appointments is a very high anxiety time for me. There always is a nagging feeling in the back of a cancer survivors mind that someday their cancer will come back. So those few weeks are very stressful for me.
When I walked through the doors today I expected to sit for 10 minuets or so and get called into the exam room. After I was sitting for sometime, the nurse came out and said there had been a patient emergency and the doctor was running an hour late. Let me tell you it is hard enough sitting in the cancer center for 15 to 20 minutes much less an hour and 20 minutes! Luckily I had use of my handy dandy blackberry and had access to the internet. I also visited with a friend who is the cancer center’s new nurse navigator. She is a really great lady and she kept my mind off my wait for a while.
The time I spent waiting by myself I was surrounded by cancer patients. Suffering from all types of cancer. Woman in wigs, men in wheelchairs, people needing oxygen to breath. I always get some interesting looks in the waiting room, sometimes I can even hear people wispering “She is so young!” to the person sitting next to them with sympathy in their eyes. People do not often thing about young people having cancer.
My check up went very well. I am healthy and my doctor is encouraged at my progress. I have been fighting through some pain lately but it seems to be my nerves reconnecting. It is pain but it means that my body is still healing from my mastectomy and reconstruction and lymph node removal. I am looking forward to the time when I have no pain at all!
Cross posted on Spruce Hill