The house is 90% clean; the truck is mostly cleaned out – though not *clean* yet; the first cake’s out of the oven; the gathering coming together – most everything’s well on it’s way for early Wednesday morning.
And early it will be – I’ve agreed to participate in a study that may help determine tumor placement in women who *don’t* have palpable or visible breast tumors*, which means getting to the hospital at 7:30 am. Yoicks.
All for the greater good.
The actual surgery is scheduled to begin at 12:55 pm (let’s say 1:00) and should take about 2.5 hours, plus my recovery from anesthesia.
I went in today to see Dr. Harlow, the oncology surgeon who will be operating on me, with Jim & Mom as entourage and taxi service (thanks, you!) , to get some questions answered, so I’d have a better idea of what to expect, both going in and coming out. I had also had him mark where he thought the incision on the breast was likely to be and the extent of the tissue below the skin that he thought he’d be removing – so I had a better concept of what to expect when I came out of anesthesia.
It’ll be a fairly straight, radial oriented, incision, about an inch long; with an oval chunk of flesh about 2 inches by 1.5 inches below it taken. There will also be an incision in my armpit, where they’ll take the sentinel lymph nodes – if all goes well, that’s all they’ll take (the tumor is injected with a radioactive dye; the lymph nodes that take the dye up are the sentinel lymph nodes for that tumor).
During the surgery, they’ll remove the sentinel lymph nodes and inspect them for signs of cancerous changes. If those lymph nodes are clean (as far as they can tell), they close up that incision. If they’re *not* clean , as happens about 20% of the time, then they’ll remove the entire array.
This would be bad for a number of reasons:
a) it would mean the cancer has advanced further than I hoped, and it would require more aggressive treatment.
b) the recovery time from surgery would be longer.
c) removing the entire lymph array is likely to cause problems after recovery – those buggers are there for a reason, after all.
So, let’s all keep our fingers crossed for clear nodes, eh?
Assuming all goes well (touch wood), I should be out the same day, and back home – with moderate recovery in a week or so, just in time to get the full pathology reports back from both the tumor itself and the lymph nodes.
These will help determine the staging of my cancer and the chemotherapy regime likely to be used. Right now, I’m most likely Stage 2a, due to probable tumor size. If the lymph nodes are involved, that’ll go up.
A “moderate” amount of pain is expected. Translation – it’s going to hurt.
*currently, women with tumors that cannot be seen or easily palpated have a wire inserted into the tumor under X-ray guidance. The surgeon then follows this wire to find the tumor for excision. What this means in the real world is the woman is moved throughout the hospital with a wire sticking out from her breast, a wire that can easily shift. It’s not a pretty sight.