I know this is SUPER over due…however, after surgery I wasn’t up to posting and then once I was, I was busy enjoying the beautiful sunshine!
On July 13, 2012 I woke up at 5:30AM to shower with my “special soap” which completely dries out your skin- it’s awful, and then my Mom, Dad, Kyle, and myself set out on our way up 95 North to Boston for my surgery around 7:15AM. I was told to be at registration/admitting by 9:15 and it only takes an hour to get there but with traffic, you never know. The morning of surgery I was actually surprisingly calm, and it was my parents and Kyle who were nervous wrecks. I think I was so calm because I knew that this was something that I really wanted to do and knew this was the best options/decision for me.
After being admitted, we were escorted over to the OR holding area, where they called just me back at first to get me changed and the IV started with just fluids and once I was settled in bed they brought my parents and Kyle back to stay with me. My surgery was schedule for 10:45AM but the surgery before mine in that particular OR ran over and we didn’t start my surgery until 11:30 (or so they tell me..I have no memory of this 🙂 thankfully!) I was put into LaLa land somewhere around 11:20 or so? My breast surgeon, Dr. Duggan, had a colleague come in, so they each did one side to cut down my anesthesia time and ultimately shorten my surgery time. The 2 breast surgeons took about an hour and half to completely scrap and remove all breast tissue from each side. Once they were finished, my AMAZING plastic surgeon, Dr. Caterson came in and inserted my tissue expanders to start the immediate reconstruction. It took Dr. Caterson about an hour and fifteen minutes to reconstruct each side and they were able to fill each expander with 100CC’s at the time of surgery. 100cc’s sounds like a lot, but in reality, when you have such a big expander and it’s perfectly round, 100cc’s doesn’t go too far LOL
My total surgery time was about 4 hours instead of the 5-6 they were anticipating until Dr. Duggan was able to get her colleague. I didn’t mind the length, however, my parents and Ky I’m sure beg to differ! hehe I don’t remember too much after surgery, I briefly remember waking up in recovery straight across from the nurses station and literally, as soon as I opened my eyes, my nurse came right by my side. My nurse then escorted my parents and Kyle into recovery to see me, which I just briefly remember. I remember my Dad being super upset and I remember feeling throbbing through my chest, but then I fell back to sleep and when I woke back up, I was in my room connected to my BFF the Dilaudid pump. That night I can only remember fading in and out and not much else. My Dad and Kyle went home for the night and my Mom spent Friday night with me. My Dad, Kyle, and Allie returned on Saturday to spend the day with me. I was good up until the afternoon. I threw up around 4pm and we thought it was just from the anesthesia, so they gave me Zofran and I was good. My parents took me for walks up and down the hallway on my floor and then I would nap and watch TV as Kyle sat beside me (he’s the greatest!). The next day during the middle of the night at 2:30AM Sunday morning I was sick again, so they gave me more Zofran and fluids. They gave me a light breakfast Sunday morning and decided that I could be discharged early afternoon since I was able to keep breakfast down. I had bought waterless shampoo caps because I knew I couldn’t shower after surgery with the drains, however, I don’t suggest them LOL My mom was trying to wash my hair with this waterless shampoo cap and my hair is too long and too thick and half of it wasn’t even wet. It was funny though. So anyways, they pumped me up with Zofran for the car ride home, but wouldn’t give me a prescription for it because if I continue to be sick, Zofran would mask it and they wouldn’t know what the real problem was. So my Mom packed up my belongings (I don’t travel light hehe) and they gave me a bucket to take with me just in case and a big fluffy pillow to put across my chest and then put the seatbelt over that. Any little bump was certainly unpleasant. Once we arrived home, I was SO HAPPY to be in my own house with Lucy and Teddy and was so glad this ordeal was over.
The Dr’s had sent me home with Clindamycin 300mg every 6 hours and 4mg of Dilaudid every 3 hours…yeah well when you are my size, this doesn’t sit well!! I had a few visitors Monday, until the afternoon when everything set in and I threw up continuously several times. Throwing up after having major surgery on your chest is totally NOT fun. This vomiting continued until Tuesday morning when the Dr. switched the antibiotics to Levaquin 600mg once a day and cut the Dilaudid in half to 2mg. At that point, I just took myself off my pain meds completely. I’d rather be a little uncomfortable than throwing up which was 1000x worse!!!! I only took the pain meds for 4 days, I really didn’t have any pain because my chest is numb, they take everything out so all the nerve endings were gone. The drains were what hurt more than anything!!!! I had 2 drains, one on each side sewn into the middle of each armpit (so not pleasant) and they would tug and pull and they just hurt and were so super annoying!!!
My first day home my drain output was 70 cc’s in 1 and 77 cc’s in 2 and on Tuesday dropped to 37 in 1 and 32 in 2 and from there on out it continued to decrease. I was so happy because I had an appointment with my plastic surgeon Friday the 20th and the drain paper said if they were under 30cc’s they would be removed, and I was under 30!! WOOHOO! Yeah, not so much…I arrive at the office and Abbie the PA said they gave me an old paper, it is 20cc’s for 2 days before they could be removed…I was SO UPSET I thought I was going to cry LOL – No one knows how uncomfortable drains are unless you’ve had them!! Abbie was optimistic that it would probably be Monday or Tuesday that they would be able to be removed.
Since I was super bummed and over tired since I couldn’t sleep well with the drains and my back was killing me, my mom took me to Panera in Garden City for lunch and then we hed over to Ann Taylor Loft where we got 5 or 6 tops with like the winged sleeve so I would be able to go out on the weekend. The weekend was going to be beautiful and Abbie told me I could really do anything I wanted except lift and swim and shower with the drains. We picked 5 or 6 shirts but I had NO strength to try them on in the store..yet again, the drains make everything complicated!! I went home and napped and spent the night with Kyle at my house.
On Saturday we tried a few shirts and they worked!! I rigged up the drains to my bra just under my armpits and taped the drain tubes and safety pinned the crap out of it and IT WORKED!!! No one would have ever known I had drains under there, or even better, no one would ever know I had a mastectomy just 1 week ago! Kyle and I relaxed on the boat and had drinks and ordered food to be delivered – I was SO happy to be out!!!
Over the weekend each drain was under 20cc’s for more than 2 days and they drains could have come out Sunday, but it was Sunday so I had to wait until Monday. I was afraid of passing out from the drain removal, but it wasn’t so bad…you can actually feel the drain moving under your skin when they pull it out, yes it’s gross and it’s a long stinkin’ tube! UGH! all this technology and you would think they could come up with something better than Jackson Pratt Drains. 10 days after surgery and my drains were OUT!!! WOOHOO! I could shower 24 hours after drain removal and could shave and use deodorant again 48 hours after drain removal. I couldn’t wait to shower!!! My hair was fine because my cousin Lee who owns a salon a few miles away from my house washed and straightened my hair every other day so I always had good hair. You don’t know how amazing a shower is after 10 days of showering from the belly button down and just washing your upper body with a face cloth because you can’t get the drains and incisions wet! UGH! Needless to say, on Tuesday the 24th I showered for about 35 minutes. It was awesome!!!!
Get this…Yesterday I went down to the marina in my BIKINI and laid out in the sun. The Dr.’s cleared me for sun bathing (just have to put high SPF over my chest), I can go on the boats!!!! just not the jet ski until August 14th! I was pumped! But I wore a freaking BIKINI yesterday and no one would have known I had a double mastectomy 12 days ago. I don’t mean to “toot my own horn” but I looked damn good for just having this major surgery less than 2 weeks ago. I feel great, I have no pain, I only take Motrin in the morning because my chest feels tight when I wake up from the way I sleep but I really have no pain. The drains are far worse than the actual mastectomy incisions. I can’t feel my chest so it’s all good!
I’m just SO proud of myself. As I drove myself to the marina yesterday…I had a few moments were I sort of started to cry in the car because I just couldn’t believe myself. I couldn’t believe it was over and its only been 12 days and I am back to my old self again. When this surgery talk started, I said I was NOT going to let this ruin my summer, and it’s not! I am in charge of my life, BRCA genes no longer are, I am writing my own story, not my genetic make up, I’m the boss! 🙂
My breast surgeon had called me with the pathology report and she said “Kate, you made the best decision, you would have had breast cancer at some point…those spots that were lighting up faintly were atypical cells.” I just replied with “OK, so what do I do now?” I was afraid if she was going to suggest some sort of treatment, but she said that I did the best thing, and the most effective, and I don’t have to do any treatments because nothing was cancerous yet. I hung up with her, and just sat for a moment, trying to collect my thoughts and compose myself and it was just so surreal. I felt so much relief and now after that report, I certainly made the right choice. When it is my time to go it won’t be because of breast cancer. I immediately went to share this important info with my parents who were so happy they cried, and then to my sisters, and extended family and friends. This was such a relief..I’m so happy and I really feel so lucky and so blessed. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my Mom, my family, friends, and especially Kyle.
A lot of marriages fall apart when something like this occurs. I was nervous at first because we have such a great relationship but something like this can really put a strain on things. Kyle is amazing..I couldn’t ask for a better guy in my life. He never left me and was there every step of the way. He always supports me whatever my decision may be and he is always there when I need him. He is my saving grace. Everything in our lives is all downhill from here and it’s gonna be a good life!
My first fill is next Wednesday and I can’t wait!! My exchange surgery is anticipated to be somewhere from mid to the end of October. My plastic surgeon will be on maternity leave starting in October so I could have one of her partners do my exchange surgery or wait until January until she returns. I haven’t decided yet, I am going to see once I am filled a little more and healed if I want to wait until January or not depending on how comfortable I am with the expanders. I am excited for the fills…it is sort of like playing dress up, I can add some, take some out, wherever I want to be, I can be.
Advice to anyone who has a history of breast/ovarian cancer in your family…GET TESTED!!!! If you don’t want to get tested, make sure your Dr’s know ALL of your history and you are screened extremely well and closely every 3 months! If any of you find out you are BRCA 1 or 2 positive..I highly suggest the prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. The surgery and recovery is not bad at all with minimal pain, it really is just the drains. This could save your life…I believe it saved mine!!
Wear Your Loubs Proud,