Monday, January 28, 2008

January 28, 2008 Mope or hope: you decide

Today I've been a little bit down. I went to see Dr. Tsao Wu today, a week after surgery, and the news is not all good. I am healing, but there are complications. I've developed a seroma on my left side, which looks like a bunch of fluid under the skin. The skin on the left breast is red and I was worried that it was infected. Dr. Tsao Wu was afraid to drain the seroma because she might puncture the implant. She suggested Icould go to another surgeon's office and have it done guided by ultrasound. After thinking about it a bit, she had me lie down on the table and she manipulated it until she was able to get about 10 cc of fluid. She said it looked clear, not cloudy, so that was good. Still, I was very nervous. She put me back on antibiotics and told me to come back in a week.

I suppose she'll sign the paperwork to let me come back to work on Tuesday, January 29, part time, but I am not sure. I feel really tired and achy . . . must get rest . . ...I'm really dreading going back to work.

One piece of good news is that she revised the scar on my neck, the one that people said looked like a hickey, in the shape of Australia, that remained after the port was put in. The newly revised scar looks so much better. I'm so glad I asked her to do that for me.

I asked her about the surgery. She said she had to use AlloDerm to patch my left side because after she removed the extra cells on my pectoralis muscle, she could see the implant plainly, meaning the tissue was too thin to be much support. The AlloDerm is acellular dermal matrix tissue derived from donated human skin. She said my insurance wouldn't pay for it, so the vendor "comped" a piece of it for her to use. How about that! So she gave me two free procedures -- the neck scar revision and the AlloDerm. Her time was probably worth thousands of dollars, plus the cost of the tissue. The AlloDerm doesn't look exactly natural (it's under the skin and it's tighter than my muscle) but it might look better after a year or two if it stretches. Dr. Tsao Wu admitted that she doesn't really know what happens when you use AlloDerm after a couple of years. Does it stretch? Does it stay tight? After a bit of research on line, I realize this stuff has been used for about 10 years for breast reconstruction. The skin, blood cells and other tissue grows around the AlloDerm and it becomes a part of your body.

(Note to self: I think this is really interesting, but other people are probably grossing out)

The breast scars look good. They're nicer than the ones before. I can't complain. I can't expect too much because this wasn't a cosmetic procedure, just a reconstructive one. I try to compare myself to burn victims, and I think I should be pretty happy with what I have. It's not horrible, and I'm alive! My friends call and tell me that it's natural to feel down because my expectations were so high before this surgery. I wanted to finish, or race across the finish line, and it's just not over. I am still in the middle of the race.

I had hoped to take a little trip to Oahu (the actual island, not my street) in April for some R&R. Now I am rethinking that idea. I really want to go to a warm, sunny beach somewhere, but I am horribly self conscious and I kind of want to hide from everybody. The truth is that I'm pretty down, and I want to be happy, but it's hard for me to think about the next couple of weeks, months, and years. I only think about dying. What do I want to do before I die? is the most positive thing I've been able to think about. Where is my fighting spirit?

Now comes the hard part. I still need to lose about 15 pounds. I gained all that weight back after surgery, and my metabolism has slowed to a crawl. I have already lost about 5 pounds but it's so damn hard. I feel like munching all the time. I should probably just drink green tea and snack on nuts and fruit all day long. I started working out with a trainer at the gym (we shall call her the Nazi) and it was really helpful, but now I have to take it a little easy while I heal. I am continuing to walk every day, and when I feel better I will start running again. I have to be in the best shape of my life to keep the cancer away. This is something I can control. (OK, maybe the fighter is waking up)

I have been talking with some friends who've been very uplifting and helpful. One sent me this video to put the fight back in me. It's totally insane! Do you remember the 80s? I mean, do you? This was our anthem back then. It still rocks.

So, let's put our big girl panties on and ask ourselves: Mope or Hope?

I'll write more later. I need to brew some green tea and get ready to fight.

Hit me!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

January 23, 2008: The bright side of life

Finally, 2008 is here. And not a moment too soon. I had my final surgery this week. Dr. Tsao Wu took another "scraping" of pectoralis muscle to remove any cancer cells that would have remained in the deep margin after my mastectomy in July. Then she changed out my horrible, hard, huge, expander implants for some softer, nicer ones.

I just read an article about increased rates of infection with implants versus using your own tissues in reconstruction (TRAM flap). Still, I am happy with my choice. My doc has me on Keflex to reduce the likelihood of infection, and of course Percocet. I think I'll be OK. Someone named Winston was in the operating room with me. I think he was a vendor representative. When asked if that would be OK, I said, "As long as he doesn't have a cold and follows sterile procedures." Well, I had to say something!

Everything went well, I suppose, but I'll talk to Dr. Tsao Wu next Monday and I'll get the path report in about 2 weeks. They don't expect to see anything because that side was irradiated, but still, I want to know. I don't want to go through this again!

I think I'll be back at work next week (ugh) and have already spent a couple of hours on conference calls this week. It's a busy time at work and I sure like telecommuting! but now it's time for a nap . . . .

I'll write more later.

Hugs and kisses,