Thursday Hubby and I had to go to Dallas for follow-up appointments with my surgical oncologist and my plastic surgeon. It was six days post-surgery and I was feeling pretty good. I still move very gingerly and can't use my arms, but my energy is increasing by the day and the three hour drive each way plus two doctor visits didn't wear me out as much as I expected.
First we saw my plastic surgeon. Would you believe we arrived nearly 45 minutes early for our appointment and they actually called us back pretty much right away?? In fact, we were in and out of there before my actual appointment time. Anyway, he said things looked pretty good and he thinks we'll be very pleased with the final result (which we won't have for a long, long time). I also had two out of my four drains removed which was good. If you know anything about drains and surgery, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, I will say no more and spare you the gory details. We have to go back next Thursday for an appointment with his nurse so she can check my healing progress, and then see Dr T again the week after that.
The appointment with my surgical oncologist wasn't quite as cut and dry. First of all, they never call us back quickly, and once they do call us back, we wait forever and a day for Dr L to come into the room. This doesn't go over well with Hubby, especially when it is 78 degrees in the exam room. Not kidding. Dr Leitch finally came in and examined me and seemed pleased. She explained what went on during my surgery and why certain things looked or felt the way they do. She also had to re-stitch one of my drain tubes because apparently that stitch got cut when they removed my other drain. Oh right, I promised not to talk about that anymore. Onward.....Dr L really took her time with me, making sure everything was clean and sterile and securely bandaged up tight before she let me off the table. She's very thorough, I might have mentioned that... which also explains why we wait so long to see her. I did get a little light-headed and started seeing stars shooting around while I was lying there waiting. Hubby said it was probably a combination of being flat on my back for the first time in almost a week as well as knowing what she was about to do.
After the exam, she talked to us about the pathology report from surgery. It was mostly good news. There was no cancer on the "good" side at all, and no need to worry about the lymph nodes on that side. Yay! From what she removed on the cancer side, the margins were all negative. In case you don't understand cancer-speak, that means the skin and tissue remaining that was connected to what she removed shows no evidence of cancer and the "margin" or distance between where the cancer was and what is left is acceptable so we don't worry about anything lurking behind. Some doctors will say there were "clean margins". Either way, it's a good thing. That means whatever cancer remained in my breast and lymph nodes after chemo was removed during surgery. So Dr L did some cancer ass-kicking herself!
There was some not so happy news. During surgery Dr L removed 24 lymph nodes, and 9 of those showed evidence of tumor cells. That doesn't mean they all had cancer and chemo didn't kill it. It means that my lymph system did it's job and caught these tumor cells trying to leave my breast. It also means that I need radiation. I wasn't shocked, because before I even started chemo, Dr L said I most likely would. After my great response to chemo, though, the possibility of avoiding radiation was mentioned. So be it. I've cleared two big hurdles with chemo and surgery... I say bring it on. Radiation will just be another weapon in my arsenal against cancer.
I am feeling stronger every day and am able to use my arms a little more, although I'm still very sore and both doctors warned me against lifting them above my head or lifting anything heavier than a carton of milk. I'm doing my best to rest, rest, rest so my body can heal, but never having had major surgery before, I don't exactly know how much is doing too much.
Obviously my journey is far from over. Once I heal from this surgery, I will have weeks of radiation and then most likely several reconstruction surgeries. I won't know the timeline for radiation until I meet with the radiation oncologist and my reconstruction timeline will depend on how long it takes me to heal from the radiation. Talk about a chain reaction. Please keep me and my family in your prayers as I continue to kick cancer's ass day by day.