Thursday, July 31, 2014

Post Surgery

Surgery went well yesterday! Two boxes checked, only radiation left to go, probably starting in September.

poster on my door early Wed AM
It was a long day. It started out very well with a good row on a beautiful morning on the Charles, and the fantastic poster (left) taped to my front door before that. I didn't have enough time to make it over the HOCR course twice, but still managed to get in 10k - no complaints. I was a little dry (dehydrated) since I wasn't supposed to drink or eat after 10pm the day before, and was only allowed 8 ounces of a clear beverage up to 4 hours before my procedure. Banking on them meaning the surgery (noon) but not sure if the wire insertion counted (10:30), I drank those 8 ounces during the beginning of the row which still kept me good for either deadline.

The row was followed by a thorough cleansing with Hibiclens Antimicrobial Soap. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I was instructed to wash my "body gently for five (5) minutes," which helps with the "prevention of surgical wound infection." It was pink and not unpleasant smelling, but it didn't lather up very well. I had to laugh because the washing instructions also included a line about not shaving the area of my body "where surgery will be performed." These must be generic instructions and not geared toward someone with essentially a total loss of hair. That was followed by patting dry with a clean towel and donning comfortable clothing - a pair of DHA sweatpants and an old, white button down (no pullovers or t-shrts was the recommendation, go with buttons).

2 gowns, 2 socks, glasses - that's it
After arriving at MGH just before 8am, I checked in and waited about 40' to check in with a nurse - when had I last eaten or had anything to drink, when had I bathed with the soap, when had I used the bathroom, what pills was I taking and when, etc. I passed that test, fortunately, and then got to change into two gowns - one opening in back, one opening in front. And my vital signs were ok - BP, temperature, HR. These questions were asked almost every step of the way. The one question that really made sense was their asking me what the procedure would be - they knew, and I knew, but it is a way to make sure everyone REALLY knows what's going on. As part of the checking in process, an IV line is inserted. Usually, I am a what they call a good stick. But, I was dehydrated which means my veins were not as veiny as usual. The first attempt into the back of my hand went in and then came out, but was still under the skin - not the ideal location to receive IV fluids. Attempt two went well and into the vein in the crook of my elbow. Pro tip - any time you're going for a blood draw or to make a donation, make sure to be super hydrated - it makes the needle going in so much easier.

Next step was having the wire localization (not much thicker than a human hair) set up to mark the

nuclear radiation warning card
tumor so my surgeon would know where to make the incision. I got wheel-chaired to imaging in another wing on another floor for this procedure They weren't as forthcoming about this procedure as I had anticipated, or maybe I just underestimated it. The wire is inserted during a mammogram with a little lidocaine. I was going to be under compression for so long (5' each direction), that they provide a chair to use. After the first compression, they switch the orientation by 90 degrees. But that wasn't all of the prep. A doctor from nuclear medicine showed up with a radioactive trace that indicates where the sentinel lode is located under my arm, again, so my surgeon could tell where to make the incision. That was injected after the wire was in place. Let's just say it stings a lot and it is nearly a dead-center, frontal assault. Ouch. Do the math. They gave me a little business card as verification that I will be radioactive until August 2 in case I get stopped in one of the tunnels, by a police officer, or at the airport. Then, I was ready for surgery, and got wheeled back to the waiting area back upstairs where I watched tv for about 45 minutes (old rerun of the Gilmore Girls - nearly all daytime tv is pretty bad and CNN was going to be too much).

After taking away my glasses so they wouldn't get lost during the operation, they wheeled my gurney to just outside of my OR (41), the Induction Room. The waiting area is the hallway, literally. If you've seen the Fugitive with Harrison Ford, picture the area where he looks over the little boy with the chest films. A hallway. That's it. And they call it the Induction Room. Lame. At this point, they covered my head with a shower cap style hairnet. Seriously? What did they think was going to fall out and contaminate the incision? At least, I had as many warm (135F) blankets as I wanted. Then, the same list of questions from the Anesthesiologist plus a few more about past surgeries. I was able to name drop (it couldn't hurt) and made sure to let him know that my HR would be about 40-45 while I was under and that that is normal for me (so that I wouldn't be over medicated trying to get my HR and BP up to the sedentary level). It was then that I found out I would have a tube inserted into my trachea - ugh - standard operating procedure, as they say.

Finally, it was noon. Right as I was being wheeled into the operating room (very bright lighting, especially compared to the hallway), they started me on some relaxant and after moving from the gurney to the operating table under my own power, that was all I can remember till I came to in the Recovery room. As I understand it, my surgeon inserted some blue dye that wouldn't filter out of the sentinel lymph node so that when she made the incision at the radioactive site she could also see the first node which would be blue. That node and the second one were removed and sent to pathology while she continued and made the incision at the end of the wire. The tumor was then removed (with clean margins, they check for that), and then the bulk of the surgery is putting everything back nicely (cosmetic) and making nice seams. I am peeing a pale blue, and that could last for a few days. The nodes are clear of cancer, but it will be 7-10 business days before the full pathology report is back.

After coming to in the recovery room, where I finally got something to drink (ice water) and to eat (saltines and graham crackers), I was home around 5pm.

My throat is still sore today when I swallow, slightly more noticeable than the soreness from the surgery which is easily managed with some ice and tylenol or ibuprofen. And, I'm convinced that some of the soreness is from being in the contortionist positions required by that mammogram yesterday. Walking around is allowed for now, more brisk walking approaching a week out, and then I can ride a stationary bike one week out, and rowing can commence two weeks out.

1 comment:

  1. All excellent, but the last sentence is the best! Xoxo