Pathology Results, Photo Update (Graphic)

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I met with my surgical oncologist today.  The pathology results are in.  Benign.  While there were cysts, microcysts, fibroadenomas, columnar cell changes, etc., the results are still benign.  No more worries about current cancer, no indication of cancer starting.  No more mammograms, no more breast MRIs.  From now on, I am to monitor by feeling my skin for lumps, because most any new cancer that would or could possibly form, would be just under my skin, because not every single breast cell can be guaranteed to be removed during surgery.

The incisions and skin look great, according to the surgeon.  My chest and skin feel extremely tight and uncomfortable, but, this is normal.  Expanders are rigid, unforgiving and very uncomfortable.

Here is what the incisions, rather, scars, look like 24 days post-op.

24 days post-op prophylactic mastectomy and stage one of reconstruction.

24 days post-op prophylactic mastectomy and stage one of reconstruction.

The expanders are only partially full, and my first fill will be in 12 days, assuming the plastic surgeon approves on our next follow-up appointment.

Drains are out, I repeat, DRAINS ARE OUT!

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After a long 17 days of drain management, my drains were finally removed.

The useless pink gown I like to refer to.

Waiting in the useless pink gown, as I like to refer to them..

I had two Jackson-Pratt style drain bulbs attached to the two drain tubes extending from below my breasts.  Each tube was internally wrapped around the full outer edge of the expanders, and the tubes extended probably 18″ from my body, each with a 100ml capacity bulb to hold the lymph and blood that was being pulled from my body.  The drain tubes were sutured to my body to anchor them in place.

(Jackson-Pratt) drain bulbs with a small amount of fluid.

(Jackson-Pratt) drain bulbs with a small amount of fluid.

Each day I had to ‘milk the lines,’ by pressing the fluid down the tubes and into the bulb, then measure the total output of the fluid, close the bulb partly squished to create a bit of suction.

Measuring output from drains.

Measuring output from drains.  This is 12 hours of blood and lymph from the first half of day 17.

I was scheduled to have the drains removed at day 16.  I called to tell the nurses that my output seemed high to me, ranging from 50-90 mls per 24 hours, and they cancelled my appointment, stating that output needed to be below 35ml.  Three hours after cancelling my appointment, I received a panicked phone call that I needed to come in the next morning and have the tubes removed, citing the risk of infection being too high, so tubes needed to come out.  The nurse said they don’t like to go beyond 14 days.  I was only on antibiotics for 10 days.  Oops.

Pulled drain tube, showing channels of the portion which was just pulled from inside my breasts.

Pulled drain tube, showing channels of the portion which was just pulled from inside my breasts.

With the drain tubes out, not only do I not have to worry about the weight, the pulling, the hiding of these cumbersome tubes and bulbs, but a huge amount of pressure and discomfort in my chest was immediately released.

Just after drain removal.  I'd say this hole would fit a larger-sized drinking straw.

Just after drain removal. I’d say this hole would fit a larger-sized drinking straw.

Bandaged up and ready to go!

Bandaged up and ready to go!

Build-A-Bear Trip

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My loving coworkers put together a collection for a trip to Build-A-Bear so I could make a get well buddy.  For those of you that are adults without children, Build-A-Bear is an entire process of building a friend, generally a bear or some other stuffed creature.

My experience began with choosing the empty hide of my new friend.  I chose the T-Rex from the Build-A-Dino collection.

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The next step, which I skipped, is to choose a sound, music or record a message that will go inside your friend.

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Then, we waited in line for the stuffing portion.  At stuffing time, you can add a scent gland, I chose bubble gum scent.

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Prior to stuffing the animals, you are given a heart.  We chose to color our hearts black with a black sharpie, it’s the goth thing to do.  Here is our helpful associate preparing to help us begin the stuffing process. Just before stuffing, you go through the process of warming the heart, rubbing it on your elbow to give it a sense of humor, rubbing it on your ear to make it a good listener, making a wish and sealing it with a kiss.

Our amazing associate preparing to assist with the filling of the animals.

Our amazing associate preparing to assist with the filling of the animals.

Fluff Machine

Fluff Machine

While stepping on a pedal, the associate makes sure fluff goes to all the right places, and in the right level of hugability.

While stepping on a pedal, the associate makes sure fluff goes to all the right places, and in the right level of hugability.

After the animals are filled, they are sewn shut and ready to go to the next station.

Rex Junior, ready for some scars.

Rex Junior, ready for some scars.

Before leaving, I asked the associate if she could put scars or sutures on my new friend and she said she had never been asked that before, but happily complied and pulled out a needle and thread from a drawer.  She sewed mastectomy scars onto my dinosaur.

Mastectomy scars on my build-a-bear T-Rex

Mastectomy scars on my build-a-bear T-Rex

The next step is to clean and fluff your friend at this station.

Washing Station

Washing Station

Nearly last, pick out some clothes.  They have myriad options.

Feminine Dinosaur options.

Feminine Dinosaur options.

So many options!

So many options!

Even a gi!

Even a gi!

I chose a RAWR hoodie, pastel tutu, stompy boots and some dinosaur printed boxers for those days when you just don’t want to wear a tutu.

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Last step.  Naming.

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Printing out our birth certificates.

Printing out our birth certificates.

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All done.  Very fun.  Very therapeutic.  I highly recommend this for children of all ages. What a great experience.

First Bath!

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I was told at my first post-op appointment that it was now okay to take a bath in water up to my waist.  The solution was to have my drains, bulbs and incisions covered in saran wrap, just in case.

Ridiculous saran wrap bath covering.

Ridiculous saran wrap bath covering.

Who knew how amazing a few inches of warm water could feel compared to a sponge bath.

First Bath!  10 days post-op.

First Bath! 10 days post-op.

The surgeon also said that I could wash my hair in the tub.  This did not actually work.  Despite leaning back in the tub, holding onto my boyfriend, so he could rinse my hair, water still poured down the back of my saran wrap and leaked around to the front.  Luckily, I came home with just two extra pads to replace the now soaked antimicrobial pads that are to be placed around the area where drains enter my body.  Phew.  No more hair washing attempts in the tub.

First Post-Op Appointment

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Ten days after surgery I had my first post-operative appointment with the reconstructive surgeon.  He examined his work, something where he can envision the end result and say how great it will look.  I cannot envision the end result, as with the swelling down, my boobs are now deflated, and misshapen, emphasizing the incisions, with buckling skin.  I’m still covered in surgical glue and tape that I cannot remove, and I still have been taking sponge baths up until now.

The surgeon said that everything looked great, but that we can’t begin to fill the expanders until the skin has had more time to heal.  So much for some boob-shaped boobs.  He and his associate cut out some of the sutures around the drains and replaced the antimicrobial pads.  The drains will stay for 7 more days.  I can now lift my arms up, but only to start stretches which involve placing my hands on my forehead and pushing my elbows backward.  That is what increased my pain later that night, and made me beg for assistance in getting back up out of my sleeping chair this morning.

The last part of the appointment, I was told I may now go into the bathtub with just a few inches of water.  I can’t get any of the surgical site of drains wet, but I can wash my butt!  Yay for real water that stays warm, yay for a warm sponge bath, yay for being able to wash my hair and have it rinsed over the tub!

Milestones During Week 1 Post-Op (GRAPHIC)

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It got really cold the other night.  Some might have described it as a tit bit nipply.  Strangely, it felt so to me.  Especially on my left boob.  *poke* *poke* *poke* Nope.  I did not spontaneously generate new nipples.  I now have phantom nipple feelings.  How goth.

In other news.  I ran out of marcaine in my pump, right on time, 5 days post-op.  Note my Buddha belly, not sure where that came from without eating very much actual food this week.

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Empty marcaine bag, lines still intact.

These lines are removed by myself.  I have to pull all of the sticky tape, ouch!

Tape all over the place.

Tape all over the place.

'soaker hose' lines that were distributing marcaine into my breast area.

‘soaker hose’ lines that were distributing marcaine into my breast area.

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Completely empty, deflated marcaine bag and handy-dandy fanny pack for hauling it around.

Pulling the lines would have been quick, but I could feel it inside moving through and that was a little gag worthy.  There was also a bit of tension every so often.  Without all the bulk of this, I can move a bit more freely, however, I still have the two drain lines coming down to contend with.  The size and shape of my temporary boobs continues to change every day too.  My dad tells me that the surgeon told them all that the expanders are filled about 2/3 full, I imagine about 500mL each then?  Either way, here’s how it’s starting to look, you can tell the swelling is subsiding.

5 Days Post-op, prophylactic bilateral mastectomies and stage 1 of reconstruction.

6 Days Post-op, prophylactic bilateral mastectomies and stage 1 of reconstruction.

Post-Op Day Two (GRAPHIC)

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This day started with a little bit more rest and lots of visits from doctors, interns, and whomever else felt the need to wander into my room.  The bitch nurse was still bound and determined to kick me out as soon as possible, though she couldn’t give me a time or any other information.  She told me I could put my pants on, but keep the gown on.  She asked me to take another walk, this time it was really fun because I was alone, and dizzy.  Nobody seemed at all concerned to see the girl with the ‘fall precautions’ bracelet shuffling down the hallway carrying her fanny-pack of marcaine.

Catheters for the marcaine infusion.

Catheters for the marcaine infusion.

Black bag filled with approximately 5 days of marcaine anesthetic to bathe the inside of my chest, two  (Jackson-Pratt) drain bulbs with a small amount of fluid.

Black bag filled with approximately 5 days of marcaine anesthetic to bathe the inside of my chest, two
(Jackson-Pratt) drain bulbs with a small amount of fluid.

After returning from the walk, I decided to empty my drains.  This consists of stripping the blood and clots from the tube into the bulb and then dumping out the bulb and measuring and recording the output.

I slowly gathered my belongings in anticipation of leaving, and I’m glad I did.  The nurse arranged for someone to transport me to the pharmacy in a wheel chair, and then to the entrance to be picked up.  Meanwhile, the surgeons each came to take one last look.  Both were very proud of their work.  Um.  I would hate to see the work they aren’t proud of, because all I see is crooked, lumpy frankenstein boobs.

Results, approximately 24 hours post-op for prophylactic bilateral mastectomies with stage one reconstruction with expanders.

Results, approximately 24 hours post-op for prophylactic bilateral mastectomies with stage one of reconstruction, expanders placed.

Pointing to the ridge of the edge of the expander.

Pointing to the ridge of the edge of the expander.

So according to the surgeons, this looks great, the skin looks good, incisions look good, everything is draining properly and there are no signs of infection.  Time to go home.

I sat in a wheel chair and a woman helped carry my bags while wheeling me down first to the pharmacy, then to the entrance.  Each bump, threshold, rug, concrete floor junction shot a sharp pain through my body.  It’s okay, because before I knew it, I was being helped into a warm car, nestled in with a pillow,ready for the short ride home.  I was looking forward to my new recliner,my own food and drinks, my own schedule.  That was quickly overshadowed by the excruciatingly painful experience of feeling every single bump, patch of snow or ice, every pot hole.  Every muscle in my chest was being jostled and tensed up and all I could do was bury my face in my pillow and hope that I got home soon.  The whole way to the house I was sobbing in pain, and I could barely get out of the car.  I think this is a sign that perhaps I was not adequately controlling my pain and perhaps another day in the hospital to work out the proper regimen would have been appropriate.  It was too late.  No way in hell was I going anywhere in that state, with that amount of pain. Time to take some drugs and try out the new recliner.