Tag Archives: surgery

Looking forward, no more pity party . . .

5 Aug

I got a bit of a lecture today from a friend of mine – you know who you are . . . and, no, I am not outing you on here . . . I keep my promises 🙂

So, the lecture was about how I apparently do not ask for help and do not accept help well . . . hmmm.

It was complete with examples . . .

So . . . I couldn’t really weasel my way out of that one . . . examples, dang, she’s good. 🙂

And she is not the first person close to me who has commented on my apparent inability to ask for help. I almost try to talk friends and family out of helping me . . . what is up with that? 🙂 Well, I am going to do my best to get over that.

I am also OVER worrying about my next surgery.

I have been feeling really anxious about this surgery for some reason. I was a bit anxious about the last one too. But, this time I know what I am getting into, so to speak. And, I guess knowing with some certainty that I will be in pain for a bit and unable to do things for myself for a bit, has really made me nervous. But, the reality is that I do know what I am getting into and that is good. I kept a log of how long I needed pain meds for the last surgery, how long I needed someone staying with me full time, round the clock and how soon I was able to do things on my own. And, really, in the scheme of things, it just isn’t that bad. Yes, there was some pretty intense pain, but, it did go away. And, now I have a better idea of how long that might take . . . except that I am planning for a quicker recovery this time.

And when I say planning, I mean that I am planning on needed as much help as before (so it will be arranged for) but, planning on feeling better and recovering sooner than before. Why not? Part of what made the last surgery hard was that I didn’t have any idea when the pain was going to stop. This time, I know that not only will the pain stop, but, that it won’t take forever for it to stop. I think that makes it so much easier. I am healthier than I have been in a long time, stronger . . . and, so, I think it is reasonable to expect that I will recover more quickly . . . that is the plan anyway.

In the past few months I have finally begun to get back to my life and it has been really good. Especially this past month. I have experienced a lot of joy in the past couple of years, a lot of that since the cancer and even during treatment. As I look back to over a year ago when I was going through chemotherapy and was in the throws of treatment and all of the side effects, I was truly happy on most days . . . I remember feeling empowered and I remembered the sense that I was really doing battle.

Somehow, though, I think I have been seeing this next surgery as something that could potentially jeopardize that joy. But, I realize that this will only happen if I let it. I obviously can not control how others will react to my convalescence. But, I can choose, as I have in the past, to see this as just one more step towards regaining the rest of my life and getting back on track.

There has been so much progress. Yet, I have . . . I hate to admit . . . been feeling a bit sorry for myself lately and a little fearful . . . thinking about this upcoming surgery as yet another “cancer hijacking” . . . when really, it is instead a new beginning.

I have friends who are still battling this disease, are still fighting with every ounce of their being to hear the words that I have already heard . . . cured. And, I have friends who are fighting, battling to get back to a state of remission. I am fortunate. And, I am blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life who love and care for me. It is difficult to have to rely on so many for so much. And, as my friend pointed out, I guess I am not especially good at it 🙂 But, someone recently has helped me get a lot better at accepting help.

So . . . I am over it, over the fact that yes, I will suffer some more with this next surgery.  I am moving onto reconstruction junction with a smile on my face and the knowledge that it will all work out and that those who love and care for me will be there for me . . . and, yes, I will learn to be better at accepting help 🙂

Thank you all for your love and support . . . it has meant, and does mean, so much.

Love and peace,

Lisa

Saw my surgeon today . . .

15 Jul

Today I saw my reconstructive surgeon. She believes that there is no damage to my implant from the accident. Fortunately, I was far enough out from surgery, healed enough, that the accident didn’t have a bad impact (no pun intended). I am still pretty sore and it definitely caused soreness around the areas where muscle was taken from my back and moved to the front (places that had been painful after surgery, but, had since felt fine, now hurt again . . . but, the good news is that my surgeon is not concerned about that, she says that everything looks fine).

The meeting went well, she was pleased with how everything is healing (scar wise, etc.).

We discussed a possible surgery date of September 9th, although, she told me not to get attached to that date as she would have to see if it was available or not. I sure hope it is. I desperately need to get back to work and can only do so if I am healed up from this next surgery in time for the next bar round . . . I fully intend to work the next bar round. So, if I can not get the surgery date by the middle of September (or, maybe even a little further into September), then I will have to postpone surgery for March of 2011.

I really do not want to postpone. BUT, I am not going to sit out another busy season.

Today I was able to make progress on a book I am working on. So that was good. It is slow, but, at least I am beginning to be able to do something with this brain of mine . . . besides cutting fingers and crashing cars . . . ugh.

Last weekend I got to see my friend Janice. She was visiting her son in San Diego and made the trip North to Orange County so that we were able to have a visit. It was great to see her and her son. We grew up together and I always thought of her as a sister. I will post some pictures from our visit soon.

Oh, the other update from my doctor’s visit is that my surgeon will start the expansion process this coming Monday . . . of course I have no car to drive now, but, will figure that out somehow . . .

I will go in every week for an expansion (saline injected into my expander in my right side of my chest). I have not had this done on the radiated side . . . not since I was radiated. I was expanded before radiation, but, then had to be deflated. So, now we start all over again, but, with radiated skin. There is no way to know right now how I will do with that. It is a bit painful and gets uncomfortable . . . changes my mobility in my right arm . . . but, it should go fine. It better, as I have two gigs coming up in a couple of weeks . . . need my arm to be working that bass!

Well, enough on all of that.

Please continue to keep me in your prayers . . . I thought by now I would not need it anymore, but, I was wrong . . . 🙂

Much love to all,

Lisa

So tired . . . of all of this . . .

7 Jun

Hello All,

I am now three weeks out from surgery. Kind of hard to believe. I am so grateful to be three weeks out, and not the first week or the second (which were their own particular kind of hell). I am definitely getting better – the most marked difference is in the pain department. While I am not pain-free, it is a level I can tolerate.

Today I will see my surgeon for the first time in a few weeks (she was on vacation last week – so I saw her partner instead – I like him a lot, wish he could be my surgeon – appreciate that he gives out straight answers and doesn’t get defensive or feel the need to apologize for what he is about to say – he’s up front, direct – – what I would give to have that from my surgeon, oh well, I digress). So i see my surgeon today. I believe she will take out the one remaining drain (after surgeries sometimes drains are put in to help your body to drain blood, fluid and tissue away from the surgical site – I know, kind of gross, but, that is what it is). These drains help your body deal with that stuff so that your body doesn’t have to absorb it.

Anyway, I had just two drains with this surgery (I had expected more, since there were four incision sites. One drain was removed last week and the last drain may come out today. I should probably leave these details (and others I will spare you from now) for a “for cancer patients” blog. I would have really appreciated knowing more about all of this stuff, (how you have to maintain it as a patient, etc) before my first surgery. Instead, you get a one page handout that shows a line drawing of something called a “Jackson Pratt” drain. Not very helpful – doesn’t prepare you at all.

So, I am very tired. This weekend was a long one for me. My Mom, who is getting better, has had some kind of flu bug (she has promised me she is going to call her doctor today – she’s been quite stubborn about getting over this on her own). Anyway, as a result, I haven’t allowed my Mom or my Dad to come over for several days now. Mainly, i want my Mom to get rest (something she does not get here as she is always doing something for me). But, also, I should not risk being around anyone who is sick. And, even though my Dad is not sick, he has been around her, so he could potentially give me what my Mom has. I doubt it. But, I have to say, it is putting some pressure on my Mom to actually go into the doctor (since I keep telling her that she can not come see me). I am not trying to be mean, I am just concerned about her – I want her to get checked out by the doctor and I also do need to be pretty cautious myself.

But, since they have not been here for several days I got low on groceries (I can’t yet drive to the store, so my parents usually go for me or take me there). Anyway, a friend of mine took me last week and now I need to go again. I have a doctor’s appointment today and should be able to make a stop on the way home to pick up some groceries.

I am just so incredibly tired of having to rely on everyone for so much. I had no idea going into this thing (not to suggest that I had a choice of going into it or not :)) that it would be this long a period of time – needing to rely on people for so much. It is unimaginable. And, the thing is I’ll have a little stretch where I am pretty good and can fend for myself, then surgery and I am right back to being useless.

I am, however, getting better. I still can’t drive, probably at least a few weeks more of that – very frustrating. Although, I am so physically tired and my arms are still so limited I would not want to drive right now. But, you understand, I just wish that I could drive, and, I especially wish that I felt well enough to drive.

I am getting better, just really tired of this whole thing, so worn out from the past 15 months and really hoping to get a break from all of this sometime soon. I know I still have the next surgery (same one that I just had) ahead of me, which is fairly major. But, I really hope to feel well in between this surgery and the next. And, then, after the next surgery I just pray that this will all be behind me. No more cancer, no more surgeries, no more feeling like this. I want my life back so badly. And, I hate to admit it, but, I can understand why people stop treatment because at some point your quality of life is just not there anymore and you can’t do it anymore. So I pray that I will be one of the lucky ones and that I will be clear of cancer.

Once I have the second surgery I will be able to have a brain MRI (something my oncologist wanted me to have last month – but, I couldn’t because there is metal in the expanders in my chest). So, after I have the second surgery (one expander was taken out in the surgery I had three weeks ago and replaced with an implant) I will no longer have any metal in my chest and so i can proceed with the brain MRI. That is when I will know with more certainty about whether I am cancer free. So there is some pressure to have that second surgery as soon as possible in order to get the brain MRI done. But, I think I have to wait at least 3 months between the surgery I just had and the next one. I will find out more about that when I meet with my surgeon today.

Well, what a ramble this has been.

Please continue to keep me in your prayers, I need it and I greatly appreciate it.

Much love,

Lisa

Dance, baby, dance . . .

12 May

It is now almost 3:30 in the morning, haven’t slept yet . . . unfortunately, sleepless nights have been a pretty standard occurrence for the past year and few months. I am tired of being tired.

But, perhaps the most tiresome is the constant dance that this disease makes you do . . . cancer is that cruel cowboy that fires a gun at your feet and says, “Dance”!

I have clear scans, something I am so grateful for, so grateful. And now I am supposed to have reconstructive surgery next Monday. However, I am not cleared for surgery yet – my pre-admission screening included an EKG, chest X-ray and bloodwork. The chest X-ray and bloodwork came back fine. The EKG did not. Scary. I also had an echocardiogram. I do not know the results of that test yet. Hopefully the echocardiogram is fine.

I am very worried about the abnormal EKG because herceptin has the potential to damage the heart. I recall not feeling well the day of the EKG. I was definitely feeling some distress. But, I did not expect what I felt to show up on an EKG. And, I don’t know if that has anything to do with it anyway.

I am just worried. Anyone who has to undergo chemotherapy worries about simply surviving the treatment. I am hoping, of course, that all is well. I have just never had an abnormal EKG before.

Tomorrow I will see my cardiologist’s nurse practitioner. She will conduct another EKG and she should be able to tell me the results of the echocardiogram. I just hope that the results are good. My appointment is at 4:00 pm. So, I guess I will know more soon.

Please say some prayers, I greatly appreciate it.

Love and Peace,

Lisa

Surgery scheduled . . . abnormal EKG . . .

11 May

I have a new surgery date – May 17th. I haven’t written because I have been trying to get everything done in time for the new date – take care of pending things, arrange for caretakers post surgery (I will need to have a person stay with me for a week after surgery), dog care, cleaning, and soon – some cooking (probably this weekend – I eat organic food as much as possible – so I plan on preparing some meals ahead and freezing these so as to make everything easier post-op).

Yesterday was taken up with phone calls – literally 6 hours of my day yesterday was spent on the phone with medical providers. At one time, in an effort to speed things up – I was on two phones – on hold with UCLA Oncology and on hold with Hoag. It proved to save me a few minutes, I guess. Although, I am not sure that the in-stereo-hold-music was worth it.

So now I have new surgery date, but, it may not go . . . my pre-op EKG came back abnormal. So, now it is off to see a cardiologist – only my cardiologist is not available until . . . yep, you guessed it . . . May 17th. Charming.

Instead, I have an appointment with a nurse practitioner who is board certified to do pre-op clearances in cardiology. I am not too keen on this option. But, it is what it is.

The drug herceptin has cardiopathic potential – meaning that it can cause damage to the heart. I was on herceptin infusions for over a year. It was something I was worried about before I embarked on my treatment plan last year. But, while there is a risk that herceptin will damage the heart – the risk of not taking herceptin is certain – without herceptin the cancer would go unchecked, unstopped by even the most drastic of chemotherapy protocols. So, really, there was no choice.

While on herceptin a patient is monitored by a cardiologist. I have echocardiograms about every three months. So far these have all come back normal. I am waiting on the results from the most recent echo (I had this test last week). So, hopefully everything will turn out fine.

When I had the EKG last week, it was on the same day the I got lost trying to park, ugh. I was very distressed by the time I found my way to the pre-admission screening at Hoag, so maybe that is why the EKG was abnormal? I don’t know much about this stuff. And, I am hoping that I do not have to learn much about it either! 🙂

So, maybe I will have surgery on the 17th and maybe it will be postponed.

Hopefully everything will be fine.

Please say some prayers, I really appreciate it.

Love and peace,

Lisa

home from hospital

8 Sep

Hi all,

I ended up having to go to the emergency room this past Saturday, had a temp of 102.8, which is dangerous for me. I was admitted to the sub icu floor (something between a regular hospital situation and the intensive care unit, they are able to keep a closer watch on you I guess). My blood pressure ranged from 79 over 35 to 190 over 90 . . . crazy. Anyway, they ran a bunch of tests (THAT was fun) and are still waiting back on blood cultures to see what kind of infection I had or if maybe I had a virus. My fever went down in the hospital and they kept me around for a couple of days to watch my blood pressure and to see if they could figure out the source of the infection. So far we don’t know. But. there are still cultures that we are waiting on (some take just 24 to 48 hours and some take up to 5 days). If the cultures are all negative, then the presumption is that I had a virus. Anyway, I am on antibiotics either way.

My immune system is pretty taxed after the chemo, so I am prone to getting pretty much any cold or flu or whatever, but because I have a weakened immune system it’s tough for me to fight it off.

Anyway, I am home . . . so grateful for that!

I have three doctors appointments this week (it is like a full time job this cancer thing). But, today at least I don’t have any, so I can rest. I have one on Thursday am and one on Thursday afternoon and then on Friday. I am very much looking forward to the appointment on Friday because it is with the specialist up at UCLA. She is great – please pray for me that she has some good news for me, because I could really use that right now.

Marv – words can not express how much I appreciate your taking care of my pup Molly. I know it can’t be easy. But, your caring for her has made it so much easier for me. Thank you so much!

okay, I am going back to bed, please feel free to send me a message here, or to email me. I miss everyone so much. This dang cancer thing can be so isolating.

Please continue keeping me in your prayers.

Love,Lisa

back on pain meds

3 Sep

Well, I don’t know if it was skipping the pain meds for the day on Tuesday (which my surgeon approved me to do) or what, but, I was in so much pain on ‘Tuesday night I thought that I would not make it through it. Thank God for my dear friend who came to the rescue and got me back on my pain meds and kept me on them throughout the night and day (waking me up at 2 am to take a pill etc.)

Once there is that much pain I really can not think straight or take care of myself. I don’t know. I was told that the surgery and recovery from surgery would be so much easier than chemo. But, that has not been my experience. I presume it has something to do with the weakened state you are in post chemo and that having surgry right after chemo makes it a bit slower recovery time. But, all I know is that I thought I would be a lot further along by now. It’s a struggle right now to stay awake to write this post and you can be sure that I will be going rt back to bed as soon as I am done.

I have an appointment with my reconstruction surgeon today (I see her every week right now). She plans on “expanding” me today (please see prior posts for what this is, I am way too tired to explain it right now). Basically she will be adding saline to the expanders that were put in under my pectoral muscles during surgery. After she has expanded me to a size that I like then she will be able to exchange the expanders for silicon implants. It is a process. But, the very exciting part about it is that I will have a chest (even already have one, but just not a whole lot until she does more expansion – the first of which is today). It is so amazing really. There is – so far no detectable scarring the way everything is healing. Unbelievable.

But, all of that stuff above is really kind of not important to me. I mean, sure on some level it is, of course – to be able to come out of this with natural looking and actually beautiful breasts (so my reconstruction surgeon brags to me every time I see her . . .  ” You have great skin, I am so excited to be doing your reconstruction”.  Yeah, raw, boo . . . it’s all great, but I am just soooo tired and really all I care about is surviving. You know what I would like to have one of my doctors bragging to me about – is how I am going to survive this no problem – – how when all of this surgery crap is over with and treatment, that I am going to be 100% fine. That is what I want an oncologist to brag to me about! I have to say that the pain has definitely affected my overall mood – – the pain has been depressing me quite a bit. So hopefully the pain will get under control pretty soon so I can start getting back into things a bit more.

Well, I am going to take a nap and gear up for my appointment with my surgeon – hopefully she will still think that everything looks good and hopefully the expansion won’t hurt too much.

Oh wait a minute, I left out the most important thing! I have an appointment with Dr. Hurvitz, the breast cancer surgical oncologist specialist up at UCLA on September 11. I am a bit nervous, but I am mostly thrilled to be able to see her as she is so good.

Okay, nap time.

Please continue to keep me in your prayers.

Love,

Lisa