Surgery Update

My bilateral mastectomy was on Tuesday afternoon – but before I say anything about that, I just want to thank all of the wonderful people who reached out to me and expressed support on my blog. Though I don’t know you personally, it is amazing to know so many people care about me, understand my situation and my decisions, and are sending thoughts, prayers, and positivity my way.

And now – I am recovering from surgery. One reason I ultimately chose to have my surgery in DC with the surgeons Dr. Teal and Dr. Lenert from GWU is because they could fit me in so quickly. I was diagnosed on March 21st, and today, on April 8th, I am already three days out from surgery. Wow.

I am feeling good, too, and so so happy with my surgeons and team and all of the nurses and techs who took such wonderful care of me at the hospital. I was definitely anxious leading up to the surgery, but things were happening so fast and I decided to continue to work, so my mind was distracted. On Tuesday morning, I was definitely filled with trepidation. In the morning I had an injection of radioactive material into my right breast to locate my lymph nodes, and it hurt pretty bad. There were three very small needles that the doctor inserted under my skin around my nipple, and what stung was the actual stuff that they injected. Not pleasant, but it was pretty cool when the tech showed me the picture of how my lymph nodes lit up.

From there I was taken up to the pre-op ward, where I had to undress, answer a lot of questions, and meet with my surgeons and the anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist asked if I wanted some “happy meds” to take my anxiety away, and boy did I! Once that started in my IV, I felt a bit lightheaded and then… blackout. I remember nothing until I woke up on my back and a guy next to me (a nurse? Surgeon? Who knows!) said, “You’re done!”

I hung out in post-op for a while with a wonderful nurse named Amelia, and my family came to visit. My brother, stepmom, dad, and boyfriend were there and it was great to be with all of them – and be on pain meds which allowed me to be happy about the whole situation.

The first thing I wanted to know out of surgery was the diagnosis on my lymph nodes. Luckily, the breast surgeon said the preliminary reports indicated they were clear of cancer. I was THRILLED to hear that, though we’re still waiting on a final pathology report. Also, I though “sentinel lymph node” meant only one, but apparently I had 8 sentinel lymph nodes and they took out all of them. Interesting.

I spent two nights in the hospital with very little sleep – a) I cannot sleep on my back and b) people are constantly coming in and out to check on me, administer antibiotics and anti-clotting medication, and give me pain meds.

And now I am in a hotel room with my parents continuing my recovery. I do feel a lot of tightness and soreness in my chest and I’m a little afraid to look at my boobs because they are so different and bruised, but other than that I feel very positive and good.

I hope that I will be able to blog throughout this situation, not just because it’s therapeutic for me, but because I want women to be able to hear what this is like.


Kathunk, Kathunk, Kathunk, BWEEEEE (or, My MRI Experience)

On Monday I headed into GWU hospital for my first MRI. I was totally nervous, not knowing what to expect, so I want to break down the experience here in case other people are reading this terrified of what lies ahead. I’m going to start the story at getting to the hospital, because I don’t want my blood pressure to rise recounting how difficult it was to make the appointment in the first place.

So I’m in the waiting room and they call me in and tell me to get undressed. Pretty standard – gown open in the front so there’s easy access to my boobs. Then they gave me an IV. This is the first time I’ve ever had an IV and I was not expecting it, so that kind of sucked but, whatever, it was happening. They led me into the room where the MRI machine was. It was not at ALL how I’d imagined. On shows like House and movies, MRI rooms are always pristine and bright and large, but this room was small and dingy.

The woman had my lie down on my stomach and positioned me so that my boobs hung down through two holes. It was freaking cold in the room, but she covered me with an extra sheet so that was nice. She also handed me ear plugs, and hooked up my IV to the contrast fluid pumper machine thingy (excuse my non-clinical verbiage).

You are now being inserted into Battlestar Galactica.

She made sure I was comfortable and positioned correctly, and she gave me a little ball to squeeze in case I had an emergency. Thanks. Then she left the room and it began. The platform I was lying on (I guess it was kind of like a stretcher) moved into the machine and it kind of reminded me of being in an airplane. But MUCH louder. Damn MRI machines are really loud. I felt like I was in the middle of an intergalactic battle at times, with lots of whirring and loud, long screeching noises. I’m glad she gave me the ear plugs but they didn’t do much. My stepmom said they gave her music for her MRI – I kind of wish I had had music too.

No matter. After what felt like 15 minutes of lying there blowing out my ear drums, I heard the woman’s voice come through on a speaker. “Ok, we’re going to start the contrast IV now.”

Wait… it wasn’t going the whole time? Damn. The IV started and I started to feel kind of tingly. My mouth filled with a weird taste – kind of like dentist’s gloves when they’re in your mouth. I half expected my body to turn purple and I was at the ready to squeeze my emergency ball, but after a minute or so I started to feel normal again and I realized I was fine.

Then another 15 minutes and it was over. It definitely was not a bad experience – just new. I think it felt like it went fast because I was so fascinated by it all, and probably because I’m really good at being still (if I do say so myself).

The worst part was today, when I got a call from the hospital saying they found tissue in both my boobs that they want to ultrasound.

SUCK. I know that MRIs have a lot of false positives and that this is probably nothing. My parents told me that. My oncologist said that, too. But I still had a little moment of panic at work today where I thought, “Oh god, this is it. This is when I find out I’m one of those rare women who get breast cancer at 25.” I took a deep breath and went back to work – and now that I’m home I feel better.

Because I’m 25, and that is the age recommended for all of these baseline mammogram and MRI studies, there have been a lot of new experiences for me this year. I have to admit that there have been several times this year, today included, when I thought to myself, “This screening process sucks. Maybe I should just cut my boobs off now and not worry about doing this every year until I’m 35 or they find a cure for cancer, whatever comes first.” I don’t like this waiting – struggling to make appointments, paying for expensive procedures, risking false positives and having what might be unecessary tests – it is all a hassle that I’ll now have to go through year after year.

But then I realize that cutting my boobs off is another hassle that I’m not ready for yet.