Big day – chemo #8, plastic surgeon & support group

Today was a big day any way you look at it. I’ll start from the beginning.

Last night my sister came in town for a visit which is awesome. The kids are super pumped and I get to rub her baby belly 🙂

My chemo was set for 8:30 this morning so we had to get up earlier than normal, but she went with me so she got the full experience. We got there a bit early and it was emptier than I’ve ever seen it which was kind of nice. We sat in the front section which was a change – I’ve been all the way in the back the past three weeks so I had gotten kind of used to that. But it really makes no difference. Accessing the port hurt more than usual, both going in and on the way out, so I’m guessing she got a nerve. But she got blood right away without having to lay me down which was good. I got fluid again today because that helped me so much last week. The nurse said my file has it written from the doctor that I’m approved to get it whenever I want so I just need to let them know. I love my doctor! This was #8 of 16 so I’m halfway through the treatments.

I have a lot to say today so I’m going to be brief on my weekly status. Here are the high points: My CBC came back looking good yet again. My WBC are the highest they’ve been at 6.9, I’m hoping that isn’t a sign that my body is fighting something and just means that my bone marrow has been busy producing them. My platelets are also the highest they’ve been at 283. So I can really fight some infections right now I think. My RBC count continues to go down, but it’s slow. I’m not far under the “normal” levels so I’m still borderline anemic but it is the lowest that it’s been so far. So I am a tired puppy, but I think the hydration is really helping overall. The biggest changes this week have been that the hot flashes are coming fast and furious, I can’t even keep a count on how many I get a day. My tumor has been hurting a lot more – I notice it if I hug someone or if the kids lay back on my chest when they’re on my lap. The nurse said that can happen when it’s really getting hammered so hopefully that’s the case. Also those few little spots that I had on my skin are starting to rapidly multiply. They are now not only on my chest, but I have more on my ears and they are popping up on my back. That is a bummer. I’ve also had more overall muscle soreness this week – it just seems to be everywhere. Must be time for another massage. I still get headaches but overall they are better and I am working to drink A LOT of water. This week wasn’t horrible. I feel like the good-week-bad-week has gone away and now I’m just kind of in a static reaction mode. Thus the feeling of being stuck in Groundhog Day.

After chemo, I got dropped of and went to bed as usual. Then Eric came to pick me up and we went to my first plastic surgeon visit. Since we have the luxury of a little time, I am going to see both of the plastic surgeons that my general surgeon recommended. The second plastic surgeon appointment is on November 2nd.

The doctor was super nice, very personable and had a good sense of humor. We went in pretty relaxed and had a good discussion. I gave her a brief background, she did have my pathology and notes from the surgeon so she had some idea of the situation. I told her that I felt like I was going with the bilateral mastectomy and we discussed that for a little while. As much as I really don’t want that much surgery, I am more afraid of the cancer coming back and I really feel that I have to do this in order to live the rest of my life freely. She was very understanding and agreeable and laid out her plan.

She recommended silicone implants. She had many reasons from it being an easier surgery with much less recovery time to dealing with the kids, less complications, the best results for the many years I have ahead, etc. The plan would be to have my surgeon do the mastectomies, then she would come in to do the reconstruction. She would place spacers under the chest muscle with some saline inside, place the drains and close me up. The drains would come out after a week, stitches would come out after the second week. Three weeks out I would start going in for weekly injections into the implant port (much like I’m getting for chemo now) and they would inflate the spacers and stretch the skin/muscle more each week until we reach the desired level. This includes numbing the breast and then inserting a needle into a port on the spacer (under the muscle) which they use ultrasound to find. Then injecting the saline. Then she would over inflate them a bit to have room to work with the surgery. At this point we would wait for 3 months while the scar tissue formed completely around the spacers creating a pocket. After three months, there would be another surgery to change out the spacer for the silicone implant. Then I would heal for another two months. Then we would have another procedure for “fat grafting”. This is basically free liposuction. They would take the fat from my belly, hips and I asked for inner thighs out via lipo and then inject it into my breasts to form up to three centimeters of fat around the implant which would make it look much more natural, I would have movement like a natural breast, etc. That was actually my favorite part of the description. Then, if you elect to have nipples, that is another surgery a few months later with an additional tattoo session if you want color with those nipples. Oh, the decisions I have awaiting me.

So then I asked questions – my mind had this amazing body picture when I was done doing a flap from my belly which gets you a free tummy tuck. She said with a single she could do that, but not with a double. There just isn’t enough tissue and it’s a much longer recovery time than she thought was necessary. But she said she never does that for a double. If I really wanted a flap she could use muscles out of my back to do that but I’m thinking I want the muscles in my back to stay where they are, call me crazy.

Then there are the scars. They are not pretty. She showed me a photo book and I’ve got to say I think she could have done a better job with the pictures she chose. She said that she was going to redo the book, but it would have been nice if she had done that before I came. None of the people in the pictures had done the fat grafting and most of them were a lot older than me. Several were with old implants that she fixed so it was a different situation. And honestly, it was just hard to look at. When I think of boob jobs I think of girls like Pamela Anderson. They’ve clearly had surgery, but they have relatively normal looking (if not very round-y) boobs. After a mastectomy, you do not have normal looking boobs. You have a large scar that goes from under your arm pit in a semi circular line across where the nipple was almost to the middle of your chest. They can give you the shape of breasts again, but these are not boobs that are ever going to be bared in public. You are not going to see them in a strip club or flashed in a movie. They will look fine when they are dressed though and I guess that’s what counts. Or at least I keep telling myself that.

After the appointment I just felt like crying. There was nothing happy about those pictures. My general surgeon told me I would be overwhelmed at the first appointment and she hit the nail on the head. After thinking about it for several hours, I think the real crux of the issue is just that it makes me deal with the cancer again. I’ve gotten into a pretty comfortable routine of dealing with the chemo and not “thinking” about what is really coming after that day or that week. This blew that out of the water because things are coming and they aren’t going to be easy and they aren’t going to be pretty. Because I have cancer. I’m not going in to get a cute little boob job where they just slip that sucker in there and close you up. This is why they call you a survivor when you’re done. I’m seeing just how much you earn that ranking. Because this shit right here sucks.

After my appointment I came home and bitched and pondered for a while. Then mom came to pick me up and took me to the support group at the hospital. I was really glad I went. I think it was really good for mom too. I was definitely the youngest person there, but all of the ladies were really open and funny and wonderful. I think it’s going to help a lot.

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3 Responses to Big day – chemo #8, plastic surgeon & support group

  1. dietriotgirl says:

    I dont know you in real life, but you sound like an amazing resilient fighter. You can count on my faith in your fight, i’ll definitely be rooting in your corner! I felt overwhelmed reading this, I can’t imagine how hard this time is for you. But it sounds like you have amazing family, and amazing doctors. I was happy to read you found a support group. I dragged my hubby to talk privately to a clinical social worker since he refused to go to a support group ( he was the youngest one as well and he felt he couldn’t relate to other people). I was present during their sessions mostly for morale support and to make sure he actually participated….but lo and behold the social worker turned the tables on me and I found out i NEEDED to be there too. I dont know how we would of gotten by if not for our counseling sessions.

  2. Christina Cullinane says:

    Hugs to you!

  3. Sue Joyce says:

    Let’s hope plastic surgeon number two has their shit a little more together.

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