There’s lots of words and terminologies that come with every new situation and in the last few weeks there have been a whole host of new words to learn, or sometimes even old words with new meanings. I thought I would list a few now and probably add to this list as the…(not going to say journey)…continues.
I always pretended that I knew what lymph nodes were and what they did whenever someone talked about them. I ‘ooohed’ and ‘aaahed’ at all the right moments but truthfully I had no clue. Turns out lymph nodes are kind of like a team of janitors in your body. They are little, look kind of like jellybeans and have an important job. All of our cells produce waste and that waste travels up the lymph system to the janitors who clean it all up. Each armpit has about 25-30 lymph nodes and when you remove some in surgery you end up with fewer janitors doing the same amount of work. So the garbage kind of backs up and your arm can swell and cause lymphedema.
These little pillows are put in by the plastic surgeon if you choose to have reconstruction (which I did). Surgeon #1 removes all the breast tissue and then surgeon #2 lifts up the pectoral muscles and puts the tissue expanders underneath. Every 1-2 weeks I will go into the plastic surgeon’s office and he will inject saline into each tissue expander. The idea is that they stretch the skin and tissue over time to the point where they look somewhat the same size as the originals. Once the plastic surgeon is satisfied, he schedules another surgery to pull the tissue expanders out and put the proper implants in.
Skin Sparing Mastectomy
I thought there was just 1 kind of mastectomy – the kind where they chop your breasts off. But who knew there was more than one choice on the mastectomy menu?! The skin sparing option is for when you are getting reconstruction and need to have your breast skin intact to make a new breast. Makes sense. What I didn’t know is you don’t get to keep your nipples. I mean, I get that they have to get rid of stuff when they do the mastectomy and now that I have no milk ducts or breast tissue the nipples are just an ornament. But they’re my ornaments. For some reason I thought that maybe they cut them off and kept them in a freezer somewhere with my name on them waiting for my reconstruction. Maybe in the hospital basement there’s a special nipple freezer with thousands of different pairs of nipples labeled for when their owner comes to claim them. This is apparently not the case and is also apparently hilarious when you bring it up to the plastic surgeon. Got it.
So the moral of the story is, no, I don’t get my nipples. In fact, I might not get nipples at all. Apparently someone can tattoo nipples on at a later point, so I was going to see if I could trade in my nipple tattoo for a jaguar tattoo on my chest instead. We’ll see. Fingers crossed.
As the story is told, Everybody Poops. Until they don’t. T3’s have an amazing ability to equally control pain and bung up the plumbing. In efforts to get things moving, over the last 3 days I have:
- eaten more prunes than anyone in the history of prune eating,
- drank an ocean’s worth of water,
- eaten lots of veggies,
- drank a smoothie that looked like pond scum
- took Senokot
Nothing but bowels of sadness.
Everyone knows what a drain is, but in my world at the moment drains are a pair of plastic grenades at the end of long tubes that go into either side of my chest near my armpits. They drain fluid (blood and other gross stuff) out of my chest and we have to empty them twice a day and measure how much is coming out. They are a bit annoying, they get tangled up and this morning when I was not pooping, one drain grenade popped open and spilled on my leg, highlight of my day.
Invasive Ductal Adenocarcinoma
80% of breast cancers are Invasive Ductal Adenocarcinoma which is the type of cancer that I have. It starts in the milk ducts and as it is invasive, it typically moves to other parts of the body if not caught in time. This is the one time that I am super grateful to be average…have the most common, regular old, run of the mill breast cancer.
Staging for breast cancer happens after the lump and/or lymph nodes have been removed. It’s entirely based on the size of the lump, the degree that the lymph nodes are affected and whether the cancer is moved anywhere else in the body. For the record, I have stage 2.
Cancer doctor. Super smart person that went to school for a really long time who specializes in cancer treatment
A bone scan is done to take a closer look at all of the bones in your body and assess their health. Prior to a bone scan you go and get a nuclear medicine injection and then wait for it to absorb into your bones. During the scan they are able to see how quickly the nuclear medicine is absorbing and if there are any issues, deficiencies or broken bones. The bone scan itself takes 30-45 minutes and you lay on a table throughout the scan while the table and camera move from your head to your feet taking the images needed. The technician said that lots of runners come to get bone scans because they have pain in their foot and with the many small bones in your feet, an X-Ray can’t read the smallest break in those little bones.
InterDry is a moisture wicking fabric that is used to keep skin dry, bacteria free and prevent infection. It is woven with silver (fancy!) and you can use the same dressing for up to 5 days before throwing it away. The routine right now is to do a saline soak, apply lotion, wait for lotion to absorb and then apply the inter dry fabric using a camisole type of tank top to keep it in place.