2nd Follow-up Appointment with My Surgeon **WARNING: GRAPHIC SURGERY PHOTOS**

Mood: Good πŸ™‚

On Monday I had my second follow-up appointment with my surgeon to remove the two drains and to take a look at the steri-strips that are still in place from my surgery two weeks ago.

It didn’t really hurt when he pulled the tubing out of my chest from the drains, it was more of a strange sensation than pain. I felt tugging, not a sharp pain at all, but it was uncomfortable even though he told me as he was doing each step to remove them.

Each time I winced he apologized, which was comforting as it reminds me of why I like my surgeon so much, his compassion and caring is undeniable. He put some ointment on the wounds, covered them with gauze, taped them down and told me that I could take the guaze off the following evening. Unlike previous surgeries, there would be no need to continue to bandage those areas which was a relief.

I can shower normally now and as I do the steri-strips will start to lift and fall off. He said to let them peel off on their own and that he would see me again in two weeks to take a look at how I have healed.

With this being my 4th surgery within a little over a year I have learned that every surgery is different. I have learned that there are surgeons, doctors and nurses that really care about their patients and that you can lean on them and trust them. Cancer is scary enough on its own but if you can trust your medical team with your life that is a huge part of facing the journey and coming out on the other side as a survivor.

Follow-up Appointment with My Surgeon

Mood: Uncomfortable πŸ˜•

I have been doing OK since my surgery. I have had more pain than I was expecting and most of it has been from the drains. In my previous post I had a few pictures showing the drains and where they are placed. The drains are actually stitched into my skin because if they weren’t they would fall out due to gravity. The collection bulbs have some weight to them so I constantly have the sensation of them pulling on my skin. Not fun!!

On Monday I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon to get my bandages and the two drains removed. While I was getting ready to go to my appointment I must have moved in just the wrong way because suddenly I was flooded with intense pain. It felt like the area where I was cut during surgery was ripped open on the left side, it hurt that bad. I ran to a mirror and looked under my breast expecting to see blood but I didn’t see anything.

As soon as my surgeon walked into the exam room he said, “OK, let’s remove the bandages and drains!” I told him what happened while I was getting ready for my appointment and he said that it could have been an internal suture as he didn’t see any blood on my bandages either. Once he removed my bandages he said that my skin was dry under them so that was good. The steri-strips were all still in place and he actually added a few more to the left side to insure that everything stayed in place.

Next he took a look at the two drains and decided that he wanted to keep them in place for one more week. The right drain was pulling more fluid out than the left but it was darker in color and not clear enough for his liking. Drains are not a pleasant thing to deal with so having them in for another week was not what I wanted to hear, especially considering where they are located. He reminded me again of why I have the drains and that it is important that the donor tissue does it’s job and attaches to my breast wall and the implants so that I will not have any complications from the implants or having had radiationpreviously. It is totally worth it to me to have another week of discomfort to make sure that I have the best outcome from this surgery.

I have another appointment with him to finally remove the drains next Monday, May 11th so I will be looking forward to that.

My Final Reconstruction Surgery: Part II **WARNING: GRAPHIC SURGERY PHOTOS**

Mood: Excited πŸ˜„

Soon after my anesthesiologist left me I was greeted by two nurses who were there to take me to the OR. One of them warned me that the OR was going to be cold and she said that she wanted to make sure to let me know because a lot of people are shocked by the temperature. I told her that I was expecting it since this was my 4th surgery in a little over a year. When we got into the OR I immediately saw more signs of the virus affecting the process of surgery. In my past 3 surgeries there were usually around 7 people in the room…my surgeon and the med student shadowing him, the anesthesiologist and sometimes a student shadowing them plus an assistant, and generally two nurses. This time I only saw 4 people before I went to sleep…my surgeon, the anesthesiologist and his assistant, and one nurse. The nurses were chatting with me about things I don’t remember now…🀣 and the next thing I know, I was getting oxygen and then I woke up in the recovery area.

When I woke up I was not doing well. I had a terrible sore throat, I was moaning in pain and I was crying. My recovery nurse was right by my side, but I was very much out of it and I told her that my pain was coming from the area under my breasts, that it was “stinging.” She checked my blood sugar and gave me some more meds for the pain. I kept trying to go to sleep and as soon as that would happen an alarm would go off. The nurse kept telling me to take deep breaths as my oxygen level kept dropping. She asked me what I wanted to drink and eat and she gave me several options for both. It felt amazing to drink some water but trying to eat the crackers was torture, my mouth was so dry that I could barely chew them. She left me for a moment and when she came back she said, “I asked your surgeon what he did to you, because when you woke up you were crying, and he said that he had to put one of the stitches deep into your tissue.” She and I were giggling when she told me about it because it was in a lighthearted way. I didn’t really say anything but I know that he did whatever he needed to do. I trust him with my life without question. Soon after that, I did see my anesthesiologist walk by a few times but he didn’t personally come in to check on me. At first I was surprised to see him but I wasn’t very conscious of the time, so when I didn’t see him again I realized that he was in the last surgery of the day. Another nurse came by a bit later to update the recovery nurse that my surgeon was half way through the last surgery, so I didn’t see my surgeon before I left to go home, but that was OK as I knew I could call or text him any time if I needed to and that I would see him on the following Monday.

Once I was stable I heard my nurse call my husband and tell him that he could come over and see me in recovery. We live close by so it didn’t take him long to get there and even though I was still feeling bad, it was good to have him there with me. I don’t know how long I was in the recovery area but I do remember looking at the clock and noticing that it was 4:30pm at one point. Eventually I was able to get up, go to the restroom and get dressed. I was still feeling a bit queasy and I was still somewhat out of it when my nurse wheeled me downstairs to meet my husband at the front of the building. On the drive home every bump in the road made my stomach upset but we needed to go get my prescriptions filled as I needed to take a pain pill later that night and start my antibiotics the next morning. By the time we got home I was feeling worse and out of nowhere my mouth started to water. I ran to the kitchen sink and got sick, luckily it wasn’t much as I had only consumed a glass of water and two crackers at the surgery center. I went and laid down and a few hours later my husband was starving and wanted dinner. I wasn’t hungry at all but I needed to eat so we had a small dinner and I fell asleep as soon as I laid down on the couch. For the next two days I slept almost constantly, just getting up enough to eat a little something and take my medicine.

Bandages & Drains

My 4th & Final Surgery

Mood: Relived 😌

**Please note, if you are going to judge me for my choices, just go ahead and stop following my blog. It is unfortunate that I have to even mention this here in my blog that has been a huge comfort to me while on this terrible journey. Until you have spent even just one day of my cancer journey in my shoes, you have no right to judge me!**

I decided last Thursday to call my surgeons office to see if it was possible to come in and see him before my August appointment. When I wasn’t able to get a call back in a timely manner, time was not on my side so I needed to speak with someone quickly, I remembered that my surgeon had told me to never hesitate to text him if I needed him for any reason. So I decided to text him knowing that he was most likely going to be in surgery all day so it might be a while before he could respond back to me, but I was shocked when he responded back about 5 minutes later. I explained my situation to him, he answered “probably yes” when I asked him if we could move my surgery up to now and he said to call his office and schedule an appointment for Monday morning. If they said there were no openings, I was to let them know that I had already spoken to him and that he needed to see me on Monday. I was thrilled that he wanted to see me and talk since I was not supposed to see him until a few days after my mammogram in August.

So on Monday I went in to see him and talk with him again about my final surgery. We had previously talked about the surgery back in February at my 3 month check up for my first reconstruction surgery that was back in mid-November. I asked him a lot of questions in February so when I saw him on Monday I had all of the information I needed to make a decision. He examined me again and we talked about the details of the surgery. He wanted to make sure that my husband and I were on the same page with him as far as the results I would get from the surgery and that we didn’t have any unrealistic expectations. We let him know that we understand what the results will be and I told him that I wanted to go ahead and get the surgery done. His surgery schedule has changed quite a bit due to the virus but he was thinking that he could get me in next week because the surgery will only take 45 minutes to an hour. So on Tuesday, April 28th I will have my 4th and final surgery, and it is classified as a second reconstruction surgery due to having breast cancer.

So here is the big question…..what am I asking my surgeon to do and why?

Going through breast cancer was a terrifying and life changing event in my life. No matter how well you appear to be fighting the battle, it forever changes you inside and out. There were many stages that my body went through during the last year…..losing my hair all over my body, losing both of my big toenails, having burns on my chest from my collarbone to underneath my breast, losing feeling from under my arm to half way across my breast from having 18 lymph nodes removed {I am still numb a year later}….the list goes on and on. I will probably never get used to seeing the scars on my chest and yes, the scars will fade eventually, it has helped a lot to use Bio Oil on them, but the scars are big and long in some places and even though they were put there by an amazing, talented and experienced surgeon, they are more than just scars on the surface, they are much deeper than that, they are a constant reminder of the hell I have been through in the last 16 months.

When I had reconstruction surgery in November my surgeon left the side that the cancer was on a little bit bigger because the radiation treatments can shrink the area that is treated. To make me as symmetrical as possible he had to take more tissue out of the right side of my chest than we expected, so it ended up being a pretty big reduction. Once I had healed from the reconstruction surgery it was obvious, to me anyway, that the left side was still bigger than the right as it didn’t shrink as much as expected and I felt out of proportion, plus I had lost a lot of volume, at least a cup size if not a little more. At first it was nice to have a smaller chest, something I have never had before; but as I healed and my chest settled into a natural position, it really began to bother me that after going through two surgeries, I am not happy with how my chest looks. I asked my husband what he thinks but he loves me no matter how I look, so this was not any pressure or comments from him at all, it is all about me and what I see when I am looking in the mirror. I need to feel whole again, feminine, beautiful….and I don’t feel those things at all so I am doing this for me.

So after much thought, research and more than one extensive conversation with my surgeon, I am getting breast implants. There are only a few options to add volume back into the breasts, flap surgery where fat is taken from the stomach and put into the breasts, or implants. My surgeon recommended implants as it is a much simpler surgery for me to heal from, where the flap surgery is very involved and painful. I trust my surgeon without a doubt and I know that he would not do this surgery unless he was absolutely sure that it is safe and my best option. Yes, he wants me to be happy, but he is a very responsible surgeon who actually cares about his patients and not making more money.

Getting breast implants is something that had never, ever, crossed my mind before breast cancer, but I do not think the same way now about myself or the world as I did before cancer….as I said before, fighting cancer forever changes you inside and out.

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