"Don't spend time worrying about how you are going to die. Worry about how you are going to live today"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sentinel Node Biopsy and a Surprise Lumpectomy for Christmas

So when someone asks you "what did you ask Santa for for Christmas?" does anyone ever say "I would like a sentinel node biopsy and a lumpectomy, please"?  Well, that is what I got this year.  Lovely.

So it's two days before Christmas and I have a sentinel node biopsy test scheduled.  So they say this is not going to be a fun experience, in fact the nurse on the phone said "it is an unpleasant experience".  That is a nice way of saying "this is going to hurt and suck" right?  Merry Christmas to me.

My friend agreed to take me for my surgery this morning so I could spare my husband from missing more work.  She was already off for the day and volunteered so it made sense.  I was petrified.  I have had surgery before, but this was different. Everything was different now that I have cancer.  I feel so fragile.  It's like I am a huge glass wall with a crack in it and I am just waiting for something to make the crack grow and shatter me completely.  

I always thought of myself as a tough girl that could get through anything that life threw my way.  I got through a horrible divorce years ago, built a new life and career and found love in success in recent years - all of which I never thought would happen.  I even got the gift of becoming a mom which I never thought would happen.  At the time going through the divorce and aftermath seemed so incredibly hard and overwhelming.  I was filled with such hurt, sadness and fear of how to move on and live my life alone.  Now all of that seems so insignificant.  That was nothing. How the heck do I get through cancer? 

Yesterday I went to the hospital to prepare for today's surgery.  They injected radioactive material into my breast - yes, directly into my breast so they could find the first few lymph nodes my breast empties into.  Then the do special x-rays to identify where these nodes are so the surgeon can find them and remove them the next day.  So here is the "unpleasant" part.  They take a needle and do three injections into the nipple area.  Can I just say "ouch" and "$%$^&"!  So the person that did the injection was nice and patient with me.  She indicated she was doing a study on minimizing pain with these injections and she would inject one slow, one at a medium pace and one at a fast pace to determine if that helped with minimizing pain.  I agreed to participate.  OK all I can say is if you have this done, have them inject as fast as possible.  The slow injection should never be done on anyone again.  Good lord!  The fast injection was not that bad.  Yes this was "unpleasant" but it was bearable and did not hurt after it was done. 

On the morning of the surgery, my friend picked me up at 5:45am.  We had an hour to drive.  My husband hugged me and we cried before I left.  I was scared.  So was he.  My friend was supportive the whole way there as I cried.  She is a blessing in my life.  We arrived and they took me back right away.  It was time to really get ready.  The staff was very nurturing and nice as they prepped me for surgery.  The anesthesiologist met with me and discussed what would happen.  They hooked up the IV and started giving me something to take the edge off.  Now it was time for me to go.  My friend hugged me and kissed me on the forehead as they wheeled me away and tears fell down my cheeks.  I remember being wheeled into the OR and having them put an oxygen mask over my face. 

I woke up 2 hours later in the recovery room.  I was so tired, but I felt like I wanted to be awake.  I didn't hurt much that I can remember.  I was just out of it.  They brought my friend in and gave me some more pain medication in case.  Then the doctor came in and told me he took 2 nodes and upon appearance looked fine but test results would tell us everything.  He then told me he removed the lump while he was in there.  The lump was so close to the area where the nodes were, he just decided to take it out.  I was shocked. I had no more tumor and potentially no more cancer in my body.  It was more "good news" right?

I went home a while later with my "happy pills".  I took a nap and had lunch while my friend stayed with me until my husband came home from work.  I didn't hurt much and slept OK because of the pain medication every four hours.  I am glad so I could be more rested for Christmas Eve the next day.  I needed to appear "normal" as my family still does not know anything of my diagnosis or surgery.  I didn't want to rob them of the holiday with my "cancer bomb" so for now we agreed to keep it to ourselves until we had more information on everything.  Now we have more waiting.  No one tells you that when you get diagnosed with cancer you will be tortured not only by the diagnosis, but the unbearable waiting that goes with it.  Now on to tomorrow, acting normal for family and friends while keeping my cancer secret.

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