From midnight on, the night before the lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy, I was told to not eat or drink anything.
At 8:30 am I arrived at the Women’s Center, where the needle localization would be done. This is a wire placed, with the help of ultrasound, at the tumor area, so the surgeon has a guide on where to begin. Compared to the previous day, the procedure went well. The technician used a local anesthetic, so that, while I was able to identify the object “That feels like it’s been inserted” there was no pain at all. I was warned to not raise my arm above my head, “as the wire inserted has an end a lot like a fish hook, so you don’t want to disturb it.” I was then brought over to the mammogram room. I waited for the developed pictures, so that I could bring them with me to the hospital.
The drive over to the hospital was uneventful. We arrived in good time, and once I was checked in, we were brought by a volunteer up to the second floor Day Surgery area. I was sent to a bed, given a nightie, and my height and weight was taken. An IV was started. I half dozed until the orderly arrived to take me into a room where I met the surgeon again, as well as the anesthesiologist. Soon, a nurse arrived, and I was wheeled to just outside the operating room. I was handed two warmed blankets, and led into the room on foot. I climbed onto the narrow table/bed and another staff inserted something into the IV.
I woke in Recovery, feeling good. A short while after, I was wheeled back to Day Surgery, and soon given water and juice to drink. The IV was removed, blood pressure checked a few times, and late in the afternoon sent home.
I remembered that the nurse navigator and the surgeon’s nurse had both told me to “be sure and ‘take your medication, even if you are not feeling any pain. Don’t let the painkillers wear off.” I took the Percocet I’d been given at the hospital, for three days, then switched to my Tylenol 3 which had been prescribed by my family doctor much earlier for something else. That worked well, although I was not able to sleep on my right side – even today, May 3, I cannot rest completely comfortably yet on that side, but it is getting better. I did move on to 500 mg Tylenol for a few days, after the pain lessened, then to no meds.
The tapes covering the three inch wide incision on the side of my right breast, and the one inch incision under my arm, where the two lymph nodes were removed, were soaked and taken off in 10 days.
At 14 days, I had an appointment with the surgeon. He said the incisions looked good. He told me that the tumor had not spread, that the edges looked good. The lymph nodes were also negative for cancer.
That afternoon, my nurse navigator called, to say that I would soon hear from the oncologist’s office for my next appointment, this one for treatment plans. She told me that because I have HER2 I will probably have to have chemotherapy, radiation and Tamoxifen. Since I’d originally been told ‘surgery and radiation’ I was devastated by this news. I have done some reading on HER2 and it is described as very aggressive.
The next day, the oncologist’s office receptionist called to say my appointment is for May 6 at 8:45 am. Hopefully, I will learn a lot on that day, about treatment and prognosis.
In the meantime, I have attended a (free) class on post-surgery, and learned that I must massage the incision 2 or 3 times per day, for the next six months, to prevent adhesions. That means, to avoid having the scar tissue adhere through the fat, to the muscle, the skin must be lightly and gently moved towards the scar, on both sides, for about 5 minutes each session. So far, I have been able to avoid looking at the scars, as my husband has been caregiver and helper through all of this. I know that soon I will have to steel myself to have a look.
I am learning far more than I ever cared to about having surgery and about having cancer.
If you are facing surgery etc I hope that what I am writing will help you as you move forward on your journey.