Posts Tagged ‘Lymph node’

I finished chemo nearly two weeks ago so I’m slowly getting back to health and moving on to the next stage of my treatment. It feels great to be finished chemo and be free of my Picc Line, however the next stage is full of it’s own little joys as I discovered on Monday morning, when I had my first appointment with the plastic surgeon.

After sizing up my breasts & my backside & drawing a rather comical sketch of my breasts, the surgeon gave me the low-down on surgery. I was given two options. The first is an implant combined with tissue/muscle flap from my back (Lattisimus Dorsi Flap). Option two is using tissue from elsewhere on my body. There wasn’t much fat on me before I started treatment, however the chemo induced nausea, combined with the 5:2 diet means that there’s now very little to spare. Apparently you can be too thin.

After ruling out my stomach as a donor site, he said he’d struggle to harvest enough tissue from my bottom, or at least not enough to make my breasts symmetrical. Unfortunately an implant isn’t a viable option, because the radiotherapy I’ll be having post-surgery will damage it. This leaves me with one not very satisfactory solution to the problem that is the cancer in my right breast.

I asked the surgeon what he thought was the best solution and he said he can’t make that decision, it’s up to me. I was left to go away and think about my one option and come back the following week to discuss it further with the specialist-nurse.

Mother and I were fairly traumatised after leaving the hospital on Monday morning, but luckily Maggie’s came to the rescue. I had a massage booked and I left mum in the care of the lovely folk at Maggie’s. After my massage, mum introduced me to a woman who’d recently had her operation and she was more than happy to show us her scars. All I can say is they weren’t all that bad. She had one massive scar across the crease line of her right buttock, but there wasn’t a big gaping dent as I’d imagined there’d be. Her breast was nipple-less (they do this later) but actually looked ok. The only scar was around the nipple. This was another of those serendipitous meetings I seem to keep having and it went a little way towards relieving the worries I have about surgery.

We went back on Friday and spent an hour chatting to the nurse about what will happen. The nurse talked us through everything from morphine to the moon-boots I’ll be wearing to stop DVT. It’s a long operation. I’ll be in theatre for 9-10 hours and for the first 48 hours, my breast will be continually monitored to check the new breast tissue is functioning. It could go wrong, although this is unlikely. They have a failure rate of 1.6%, so I hope I’ll be in the other 98.4%. It’s hard not to worry, but what choice do I have.

I’m going for the bum transplant because the only other option is to delay reconstruction, which I don’t want to do. Depending on the result of this operation, it’s likely that I’ll need further surgery at a later date. If they can’t harvest enough tissue from my buttock, they’ll either increase my new breast or reduce my healthy breast to match. I’m told that plastic surgeons are perfectionists so although it won’t be immediate, I will have an even pair eventually.

Mentally I’m not sure how you prepare for a big operation like this. I’ve been told my stay in hospital will be an emotional one. I’m losing a breast so I expect there will be tears. I’m happy with my body just the way it is, but it’s never going to look the same again and that’s hard to accept.

I’m having a minor operation next week to remove my sentinel lymph node. I’ve never been under the knife so I think this will be good preparation for the big op. This is likely to happen mid-November and I’m just waiting for the date to be confirmed.

At this point it’s hard to see the end of the road. I was hoping to have all my treatment finished by xmas but it looks like it will carry on into the New Year. I’ll be having radiotherapy after xmas then possibly more surgery after that.

I have roughly 3 weeks of freedom before my big operation so I want to squeeze in some fun before that. I also have hair growth to look forward to. I need to stop looking at my head but there’s definitely been a bit of growth. For the first time in my life I’m rather excited about having a five o’clock shadow on my head. I’m curious to know what colour it will be as I’m told it could come back a completely different colour and texture. Let’s hope I get poker straight blonde highlights. I haven’t had to shave my legs for 4 months, a small blessing, so I also have that to look forward to. Bring on the stubble.

Gravy Blue

Posted: September 22, 2012 in The Big C
Tags: , , , ,

True Blood

A week has passed since my penultimate chemo and I’m just starting to feel human again. I was already running on empty before I went in last Friday, so this one has hit me really hard. I found out that this is due to the accumulative effects of anaemia. I thought I could top myself up with steak & spinach but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

I’m really bad at being ill and no good at loafing around feeling sorry for myself, however this week I’ve been forced to submit. I have never felt so zapped, exhausted & annihilated and I’ve had to take it easy, a first for me.

After checking my bloods on Monday, they asked me to come in for a re-fuel on Tuesday and I’ve been slowly coming back to life since then. I’ve never had a blood transfusion before and all I can say is that it’s really weird: those Jehovah‘s might be on to something. I’m rather squeamish and I’ve never quite got used to needles, so I find the best tactic in these situations is to turn your head 90 degrees & look in completely the opposite direction. Admittedly this is quite difficult to maintain for a whole four hours, however years of bad dates have served me well and I have mastered the requisite ‘turn the other cheek’ head manoeuvre.

Thoughts of vampires and demons did cross my mind when they hooked me up on Tuesday. The parallels were all too clear: I felt like death before the transfusion and consuming the blood of another gave me life. Whilst lying there on Tuesday I pondered whether the first vampires were, like me, just severely anaemic. Steak Tartare anyone?

My mum came in with my niece Lottie towards the end of my top-up and I wondered if Lottie, who’s only 3, would be freaked out by all the wires and bags of fluid connected to me, but she wasn’t phased at all. She chatted away happily with the nurses and proudly showed them a spot on her arm. I was exchanging fashion tips with Lottie when she came out with a blinder:

“I like your skirt Lottie…”

” it’s not a skirt it’s a dress, because you can wear it with leggings!”

” really and what colour are your leggings?”

“they’re GRAVY-BLUE!”

This caused much hilarity in the ward as did her assertion that her exotically named bunny rabbit Zhou- Zhou Lapin is: “just a little bit 2”.

Smart girl. In Lottie-world that makes me a little bit 38 and GRAVY BLUE THE NEW BLACK: you heard it here first.

Tits n Arse

This has been a very busy week medically, as I’ve been in hospital nearly every day for one reason or another. Yesterday I had my second appointment with the breast surgeon. This was a follow-up after my MRI scan, to move things forward to the next stage of treatment. My initial consultation with the surgeon back in July was rushed and I’d left feeling anxious and upset. This appointment was both punctual & positive: the chemo is working; the cancer cells are dying and there’s no sign of cancer in my lymph nodes – RESULT!!

I will be having two operations. The first is a minor operation to dissect the sentinel lymph node. This operation is really just a precautionary measure to confirm that my lymph nodes are all-clear before the big operation. The sentinel is the security guard/pimp of lymph nodes. If he’s clean, the chances are the other nodes have not been affected.

The big operation will happen sometime in November and I’ll be meeting with the plastic surgeon in the next few weeks to discuss my options. From what I can gather these are either a chicken fillet (implant) or I get part of my backside removed and inserted where my boob once was. I seriously thought they just sucked some fat out of your bottom and injected it into your breast, however there’s slightly more to it than that. The operation is a breast/buttock transplant which involves micro-surgery so it’s a massive operation. I’ll be on the table for 10+ hours & will be in hospital for around a week. If it all goes to plan I should hopefully end up with a discreet scar on my backside and a vaguely symmetrical but temporarily nipple-less new breast. I have to remind myself what my consultant keeps telling me: the ultimate priority is for me to be cancer free, everything else is a bonus.

I’m almost at the end of the chemotherapy journey and in the perpetual waiting room of my mind, I’m already moving on to the next set of worries. I’m contemplating everything I’ve lost and that which I’ve yet to lose: my hair, my breasts, my bottom & my fertility. I’m also pondering the future. How exactly do I pick my life up and start again once this episode is over?  My hair will grow back, this I know, but everything else will be different and I’m not quite sure how to get my head around that, if I ever will.

The Dream of Horses

After a difficult week I spent a lovely afternoon at Maggie’s where I’ve joined a creative writing group. It’s really interesting and as well as meeting new people I’ve gleaned a few tasty writing tips. Progress is imminent.

In the writing group today I had, what only be described as, a serendipitous encounter. One of the brainstorming exercises involved making a list of things that had touched us during the week. My list was mostly medical, but oddly involved a horse. I’ve recently had an urge to take up horse-riding, something which I always wanted to do as a child, so this was on the list of things that I want to experience.

Bizarrely another woman in the writing group had a hoofed-one on her wish list.  Julia has a horse but hasn’t been able to ride since she’s had surgery. Julia is one of the few breast cancer patients I’ve met, of a similar age to myself, so we had lots to share including the slightly odd desire for some equine therapy. I’ve not met many women who’ve actually had reconstruction, strangely many just don’t bother, so it was really great to chat to someone who’s had the operation. More importantly she’s invited me to meet her horse so I might yet get to live out some of those unfulfilled childhood dreams. All I want for Christmas is a Gravy Blue horse. It’s not a lot to ask.