Sunday, February 24, 2013

Preparing for the Surgery Day

Last week I had my pre-op appointments with both surgeons.  The appointments went very well, and now I know what to expect both during the procedures, as well as after.  My breast surgeon will be performing the left mastectomy and sentinal node dissection first.  She told me that she will be generous with the axillary lymph node removal, since we know many of these were once cancerous as indicated by my first PET scan.  In these mastectomies, both breasts will have breast tissue, as well as the nipples, removed. But, she will try to preserve as much skin as possible for future reconstruction.  Her incision will be around the nipple.  The right mastectomy will be much more simple since I am only have the breast tissue (and nipple) removed--there will be no lymph node dissection.  The right breast is being removed prophylactically, however, the pathologist will still review both breasts' tissue under the microscope.  We are praying for a complete pathological response to chemo, which means we are praying they find no cancer.   My breast surgeon indicated that this part of the surgery will take close to 3 hours. 

Next, the plastic surgeon will place the expanders, drains tubes, and the pain pump catheter.  I will have four total drains placed.  Here is a very short video on the basics of the second part of the procedure:

If you would like to see a real surgery that is similar to mine, click here.   Click here for part two and here for part three of the video series.

The first video, which I embedded above, indicates the expansions are done over several months.  However, my expansions will be "rapid expansion" (over a period of a few weeks), since I will need to have radiation soon.  I am hoping to be able to begin radiation in about 7-8 weeks.  My plastic surgeon indicated that he will fill the expanders only slightly during the operation.  He will give me about 3 weeks for my incisions to heal, and then will begin the expansion process.  I should be able to have the drains removed within 1-2 weeks following the procedure.  Then, I will be expanded weekly for 2-3 weeks. 

I will be staying overnight in the surgical hospital for 1-2 nights.   I love that the plastic surgeon's office is in the floor above where I will be having my procedures.  If I have any issues, he can just go down the stairs and see me.

We are busy planning for me not being able to move my arms up and down and around much.  I had to go purchase some "button up" pajama tops, as well as some "button up" casual shirts and a specific front clasp soft bra.  There are so many instructions to follow both before and after the procedure, so we have been purchasing items so we can comply.  I want to be a good patient and have a speedy recovery.  The nurse who gave me pre-op instructions last week said that if I want to heal quickly and get the drain tubes out as soon as possible, I need to do as little as possible.  She said, "in other words, you have to go to the bathroom and you have to eat.  But, that is about all you need to be doing."  This is going to be so tough for me!  I am one who always likes to be on the go.

Then, following the surgery, I have to be extremely careful with my left arm in order to prevent lymphedema.  Because I will be having many lymph nodes removed, I am at higher risk for getting lymphedema.  Lymphedema causes swelling of the arm, due to the lymph not draining well.  If you google search images of lymphedema, you can see what I am referring to.  The swelling is often very significant.  My doctor told me I need to always make sure I wear sunscreen on that arm, make sure I never scrape it or get cuts on it, I need to wear gloves if I grill to make sure it doesn't get burned, etc.  Basically, I want to be careful to not introduce infection to my left arm or hand.  Radiation therapy further increases the risk of lymphedema.  In fact, my radiation oncologist told me to make sure I do not lift any more than 5 lbs with my left arm during radiation and for some time following radiation.

So, as you can see, my life is about to change on Wednesday, 2/27.  My surgery begins at 10am.  Until then, we are really enjoying our family time and our current "normal".  God has grown me so much throughout this process, and I know I will be thankful during the next steps of this journey as well.  He is in control of everything.

Here are some photos of our recent "normal" family time.

Here is Miss Abbey practicing some yoga moves in our backyard.
This is her "downward dog".

Abbey's favorite toy right now is any ball.  Usually, to play with and not to eat.

Precious little girl!
Lately, it has been very difficult to capture a photo of Luke.  The dude is FAST!  He loves showing us how high and far he can jump, as in this photo.
A rare photo of Luke--still and in deep thought.

I am going to end this post with our current prayer requests.  We are so thankful for the prayer warriors who consistently pray for us.  You encourage us more than you know.  Just knowing that you are praying has helped me through this battle.  Here are our current prayer requests:

  1. Our entire family is sick.  Drew and Luke began battling a cold virus on Wednesday.  Then, on Friday I felt it coming on.  So, I mentioned it to my oncologist's nurse.  Therefore, I am on a z-pack in hopes of this virus not turning into an upper respiratory infection.  If I have an upper respiratory infection on Wednesday, my surgery will be cancelled.  This is a big deal since so many schedules are involved.  Please pray that I am completely healed prior to Wednesday.  Abbey became ill on Saturday, but her illness is accompanied by a high fever.   Please pray for healing of our entire family.
  2. Please pray for safe travels for our family members who are coming to take care of me (and the kids during surgery).  Also, please pray for Susan (my sister's mother-in-law), who is traveling from Iowa to watch my nieces while my sis watches my parents' embroidery business. 
  3. Please pray that the surgery goes extremely well.  Also, we continue to pray for complete healing!  Let's pray that the doctors are "wow-ed" when they find out there is no cancer in my body!
  4. Please pray that I have a speedy recovery with no complications!
Thank you everyone!  We love you!

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