Today was an eventful day. Joe & I met with the plastic surgeon for quite a while and learned a lot about what the coming months will bring. There are still a few unknowns because they are based on how my initial surgery goes but I feel comfortable with the next steps. Some of the things that I have learned:
- The day prior to surgery, I will meet with the plastic surgeon again. He will “mark” me for where the incisions need to be made by my breast care specialist the following day. She will adhere to them the best she can, however may need to move slightly based on the tumor/lymph nodes. This same day, they will provide the specific instructions on post-surgery care and give me prescriptions for antibiotics and pain medicine. Prior to my appointment, I will shower and that will be the last time I can shower until the drains are removed (2 – 3 weeks).
- The morning of surgery, my breast care specialist will perform the actual mastectomy, including the removal of my left lymph nodes. This will take approximately 1 – 1 ½ hours. Once she is done, the plastic surgeon will then come and place tissue expanders in and stitch me up. This will also take 1 – 1 ½ hours. After surgery, I’ll be woken up and the plastic surgeon will be there to speak with me about how everything went. (Good thing Joe will be there to remember and understand everything!) Once they have determined that I am not having any bad reactions to the anesthesia, I will be discharged to recover at home.
- I was really nervous about this being an outpatient surgery and asked about the ability to stay overnight in the hospital. I learned that staying the night increases the risk of infection and that is something that needs to be avoided. Plus, I would be more comfortable at home (well, as comfortable as possible!).
- I will have 3 drains after surgery; two on my left and one on my right. They are used to catch the fluid that is draining from the surgery sight. Hopefully the first drain can be removed after a week but the other two are likely to stay for at least 2 weeks.
- The stitches will all be internal and the incisions will be taped on the outside. The tape will be removed during my 1 week follow up appointment.
- The tissue expanders are used to (literally) expand the tissue where my breasts were. They are initially filled with about 150 cc of saline and more saline will be added to them each week. Since I will require radiation, only the left tissue expander will be filled in the weeks prior to radiation. Once radiation is complete, then the right tissue expander will be filled and the two will be evened out in size. I will keep these expanders in until reconstruction surgery, which will occur approximately 6 months after I have completed radiation.
- I have read a lot about the tissue expanders and the recurring theme is that they are uncomfortable and tight. I have also heard that over time that feeling gets slightly easier so I am hopeful that it won’t be too uncomfortable since they will be in for so long.
- The reason that the tissue expanders need to stay in until after radiation is because the radiation will likely damage the implant.
- I learned a lot about the different options available for reconstruction. No decisions were made today regarding the reconstruction because it all depends on what happens during surgery. I learned where the incisions will likely be and that they will be different on each side, since my left includes lymph node removal.
- Recovery is pretty lengthy but I’ll be able to start radiation about 6 weeks after surgery.
I’m sure there’s more that I learned today but that’s all that I can recall right now. There’s a lot to process and it’s starting to sink in that I’ll be having surgery soon. I’m anxious for surgery and yet dreading it. It is going to be a challenging few weeks while I recover but it’s one more step in the process to being cancer free.
Time to start making a list of the things I should get done prior to surgery – it’ll be here in a flash!