Respite before surgery and update

SusanG Member Posts: 8
edited March 2014 in Breast Cancer #1
Afternoon Friends:

Well, this was a tough week and I thank all of you for you messages and prayers. I got back last night from NYC, from my brother's house. They sent me home to be with Jack and to get some details taken care of before surgery on the 24th.

Here is what happened and it seemed like I wasn't even really there, stress for sure. Thankfully my sis went with me and she is so calm, intelligent, gentle and guided me so carefully. She took the notes, had the tape recorder and asked most of the questions as I turned stupid and confused. She has even scheduled my flights and the surgery etc. She has coordinated when the rest of the family is coming to NYC and when I will fly back up. That will be on Monday the 20th to give me Tuesday to just be before the onslaught.

OK, met with wonderful Dr. Hiram S. Cody, the pioneer of sentinal node bx. Very organized, very kind and yet didn't sugar coat a thing. His staff was beyond professional and kind as well.

Here is what he said. Still recommends a lumpectomy. Agrees with the surgeon from this little southern town that my underarm nodes feel clinically negative and I figure he's felt thousands of them, right? So he looks at the path and my old films and asks why the surgeon down here did not tell me to get a mammo right away. Beats me, so he walks himself right over to the head radiologist and gets me in immediately. You see the tumor is in the right breast but the mammo from 2002 showed some calcifications in the left breast (which nobody said boo about and that makes me angry). He also said that cancer has been in there for probably 5 years and that floored me completely! I guess that is the norm. Anyway, the mammo deal was where I began to lose it in a big way. Normally, I'd go in and be out and that was it. Oh no, not at Sloan. I thought they were torturing me by bringing me back in I think 4 or 5 times for more and different views. That's when my anger kicked in and believe me I'm not an angry or violent person at all. But I wanted to either beat my head against the wall or kick the heck out of somebody or something. I was in the mammo area for 3 hours. Now, I did meet three of his other patients and they all sang his praises, telling me I was so lucky to have him and that he was one of the very best in the world. That still did not get rid of my anger. Mammo's have always hurt me terribly since I am so cystic.

Finally we get to go back and see the doc. After I spoke with the radiologist. Some good news and some bad news. Cody wants to do the lump but also bx the calcifications in the left breast at the same time. As well there are some calcifications above and below the tumor in the right. He also wants to do chemo, he thinks. He looked at my veins and they are tiny so he will put in a port in my chest. That will be better for chemo but still scary. He will also recommend radiation after the chemo. This was all becoming too much for me but my sis kept her cool and kept me from falling over.

So at Sloan it's like a three day affair. On Wednesday I will go and have a physical and the usual preop work, chest xray, bloodwork and ekg. Let us pray all of that is ok. The we go back on Thursday and have the "lympatic marking"? Whatever that is as I haven't had the nerve to read about it yet. They Friday is surgery but first I have to go back to mammo for them to place three WIRES, ick. No lidocaine and this is what is worrying me. He wants on wire in the left to get to the calcifications and two in the right above and below the tumor. I understand why but I will have just ovulated and my breasts will be so sore at that time. Too bad they can't just knock you out for that part too.

So I'm sure some of you have had that and can you tell me what it is like? I really need to know.

Then I will be taken to surgery. I have to call my jaw surgeon about intubation and Dr. Cody is so interested in my jaw situation and all of those surgeries that he actually wrote down the web site of the titanium joint people and is going to research it.

Oh yes, I will also meet with the anesth. on Wednesday as well. They have a new way to intubate via the mouth that does not go all the way down into your lungs so that is why I have to call my jaw surgeon to see if he thinks that is a viable option.

We got home from that appt and it was all just too much info. I went from just angry to numb to crying but I got it out.

Dr. Cody is going to be away so that is why we are waiting until the 24th. I could have had it sooner with one of his partners but chose him.

Jack will be flying up late the night before surgery. Thank God! My parents are coming in on Tuesday. It will be a houseful of love and worry and support.

They really leave no stone unturned and one of the women I met told me that chemo was good, to zap it all.

I wonder a lot of things. If this has been in there for 5 years well many things make sense. Like when my marriage fell apart I lost about 15 pounds and never put it back on. I admit a lot of that had to do with three jaw surgeries in less than two years. As well as the amount of stress I have been under for what seems like forever. Oh well, I can't try to figure it all out.

He did say the surgery would be for about an hour and I may get to go home that night. Pretty cool.

So here is another question. When do you get all of the results? How long does it take? I know he will do the sentinal node while I am out in order to see if it spread and if he has to do an axillary dissection. One can only pray.

I figure it this way. In my head one is simply going to get it or not. I feel strongly that stress can bring it on and I also feel and always have that one can have cancer cells floating around in your body from time to time but your immune system takes care of it. That's just me.

Dr. Cody told me he will see me about 10 days postop before I can go home and then the chemo etc will be coordinated from Sloan to this place. At least everything here is close to home. Also there are two types of chemo and one I will lose my hair and one I may not. I guess I just have to cross that bridge and if.

Anyway, I am finally calming down. It was a very long trip back down here but I am home with Jack and this weekend is not about cancer. It is about us. I get about 9 or 10 days to be here.

Oh and I admit to being a smoker and have been for a very long time. Always wanting to quit but after the last three years of stress the docs actually told me it wasn't time. Dr. Cody feels it is time so I am trying with the patches. I mean sure I could go out and buy a bunch knowing full well there is no way I can or would smoke while going through chemo and radiation. So at the worst stress time in my life I am quitting. I find that ironic somehow. Also, I was never a drinker, ever but after my husband had his little affair and I kicked him out and filed I learned that I like JD here and there. I don't think it's a good idea to drink either. That won't be a problem at all to stop as I can do without and have. Oh and I found out it helped with the chronic jaw pain but oh well. Time to get healthy as I can before the real work begins.

Has anybody gone to Sloan? If so what did you think? Has anybody had this kind of surgery and if so can you tell me how you felt after? I figure if I can get through 10 jaw surgeries that lasted up to 10 hours long certainly I can do this. Maybe it'll be a cakewalk in recovery as opposed to having a heck of a time waking up before.

Also, is it normal to now feel that every ache and pain is cancer? I guess that is being paranoid.

I went to bed late last night and actually slept in until about 1pm today! Wow, must have been very tired.

I will end this now as that was my adventure but for one more thing and this was weird, like an angel. I was sitting at the Atlanta airport waiting endlessly for the plane to come home. There were so many business men on their way home too. I begin to talk to one of them who had just come back from Pgh (my hometown). He was there for a medical conference. Turns out he is a pathologist right here in this southern town where I now reside. We talked a bit and his partner did my initial path! He also gave me some names of good chemo and radiation people right here and also told me I was in very good hands and the docs down here will follow Sloan's recommedations to the "T". Wow, I will never forget him. Oh and he also said that if Dr. Cody is still saying he thinks it's a stage one still then that is very very good and try not to worry so much and don't be so hard on myself.... What a nice man.

Little angels all around.

Thanks for reading as I continue to read your stories.



  • DeeNY711
    DeeNY711 Member Posts: 476 Member
    Thank you for taking the time to let us all know that you are home again, and how everything went. If you sit down with a pencil and paper, I think you'll see that there is a lot more good news there than bad. It's just that the bad part is such a kick in the pants. Meeting the pathologist in the airport is one of those moments when you know in your heart that someone is watching over you. Enjoy your respite... every single minute. You will make it through all this just fine. Love, Denise
  • jeancmici
    jeancmici Member Posts: 665 Member

    Don't worry at all about the wires in the breasts. I worried a lot because of something I had read - very painful etc. - but it seemed like nothing when it actually happened. You can stand aneedle stick for blood work - seemed just like that - I was so relieved!

    Good Luck with all of this. You are lucky to have family with you and that dear sister coordinating all of it.
    hugs, jean
  • inkblot
    inkblot Member Posts: 698 Member
    Hi Susan:

    You've certainly been in a whirlwind! It has to be a relief to back with your Jack and it's great that you had such a nice sleep when you got home.

    The whole thing is a process and it can be draining, physically and emotionally. Some of your questiions cannot be answered until you receive the final path. report, post op. I had the Sentinel procedure and the method for me was this: During surgery, the 3 mapped nodes taken were sent to path.dept. The standard histochemistry was done and showed them all to be clear. The "cytokeratin" analysis, used with sentinel node dissection, is involved and requires more time. Those results were not available right away. I believe that if one has this procedure, and if cancer is found to have spread, then another surgery is required to remove additional nodes, if it is the surgeon's opinion that it's necessary. Someone else here may know more about the particulars of that. In my case, no further nodes needed to be taken.

    I didn't have the wires placed but most women I know who did, said that it was not very painful.

    As far as your doc saying that your cancer has been there for 5 years: That's a very common thing. Some women have been told that their's had been growing for even longer before it was discovered, so I wouldn't worry about that aspect of it. It's academic at this point anyway. Just focus on the fact that it's been found and is coming OUT. There's a good plan so just take it one step at a time. That you trust your doctor's is key and a big plus right now.

    I had a consult at Sloan, after my dx. I live in NJ, so it wasn't a big leap to get there. I too found them to be very professional. They listened to and responded to all my questions and concerns. I also had a consult with Fox Chase, in Philadelphia. The atmosphere there was different from here in Jersey and at Sloan. They're a "clinic"...albeit a huge one and so things are done a bit differently there. They too were very professional and I met with the whole team in one day, one visit, which saves a lot of time. Ultimately I decided to have my chemo and rads closer to home. My surgeon here was phenomenal...talented and also a very good communicator.

    We're all different in how our bodies respond but I healed amazingly fast and well following lumpectomy w/Sentinel. I had almost no pain in the breast and only a little discomfort in the axilla, post op. Within 3 to 4 weeks, my range of motion was almost back to normal. (I give Yoga a lot of credit on that front) I felt great by the time I began chemo. My surgery was a "same day" procedure and all I wanted, as soon as I was awake, was to go HOME! I was out of there within about 2 hours post op and on my way.

    I have to share with you what a ninny I was! I didn't really cry through all the initial hooplah...was stressed and tense but got busy researching, etc. and when they wheeled me into the op waiting area, I started crying. Why then? Who knows? No family/friends were in there of course, which was probably a good thing. If so, by the time they all got involved, we'd have been there all day. The nurse there went and got my surgeon and he came out and talked to me and was concerned, etc.. I told him that I just needed a good cry at the moment and that was pretty much that. He sat there with me while I sniffled and boo hooed for a few minutes, after which we carried on. That was my big "cry" during the whole process. We all do what we need to do and have to deal with the emotions whenever they come up...get a grip and then get on with it.

    As for thinking every ache and pain is cancer: I guess we're all different in that regard. Some feel this way more than others and it's all normal, me thinks. But try not to think that way. We're still the people we were before our dx and the ways we had of coping with major stress, still least to some degree.
    If we were trooper personalities, we troop. The great news though, at least I think so, is that we all grow and learn a great deal through our bc experiences and can emerge even better than before.

    It's great that you're quitting smoking and drinking at the outset. May as well get onto a healthier path all at once, right?

    Try to relax and enjoy your time while awaiting surgery because you CAN do this. So many of us have and we're still kicking round here.

    Your sister sounds absolutely wonderful and I know you really appreciate having her in your corner! She sounds intelligent and very well prepared. Tape recorder AND notebook! I love it!
    You've a good support system within your family and I know you'll come through just fine.

    Please keep us posted here and am sending a warm hug with best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    Love, light and laughter,
  • epgnyc
    epgnyc Member Posts: 137
    Hi, Susan. I had my surgeries and treatment at Sloan-Kettering and I can't sing their praises enough. I didn't need wires (no microcalcifications) but I have two friends who did and both (one is a huge wimp!) said they weren't painful a bit. I also had the sentinel node biopsy and they took 2 nodes, which thankfully were clear of cancer. They looked at them in pathology while I was on the table and so when I woke up my surgeon was able to tell me she thought they were clear. They do further testing that takes longer, but thankfully mine still showed no trace of cancer. I think that was my biggest moment of relief throughout the entire breast cancer experience - when I woke up in post-op and my surgeon told me the lymph nodes looked good. That made my cancer Stage 1 and I knew that my odds were very good! Because it was Stage I, I was also able to choose the less toxic chemo (CMF rather than AC) so I didn't lose my hair. My sentinel node procedure was all done the day of my surgery (dye injected and pix taken around 12 noon and my surgery was around 5:30 p.m.). I woke up around 8 p.m. and was home by 9:30 that night. Excellent! Dr. Cody sounds great and I can assure you you're in great hands there. Also, your improptu meeting with the pathologist who read your slides was absolutely one of those strange and great life experiences. I believe too it was meant to happen. I had very little pain after my lumpectomy - more soreness which was quickly gone. I wish you the very best of luck. Hang in've already proved your a real survivor. This is just another bump in the road and you have all your future happiness to look forward to. Ellen