Sunday, April 3, 2011

Post Surgery Updates

I'm back on the blog!  Thanks to everyone who sent their prayers and thoughts our way.  It meant a lot whenever I get to read a message from all of you.  Each one of them kept me stronger everyday.

Thanks to my better half Jim, for keeping the blog going for awhile. Despite his very busy days, he found time and stayed up till 5am to write the entries.  And still have to wake up early at 8am to attend to Jcube and me for the rest of the day.  Thanks to my sister too who's been on top of everything I need help with, from waking up to going to bed, she was like an extension of me.  Seems like she never rests.

Its been 10 days since I got out of the hospital.  Nothing is better than being home with family.  The love is overflowing and I know they are there every minute to support me. I cant thank Jim and Mhae (my sister) enough. Also baby James for the entertainment all day long. Although I have a lot of rough days physically and emotionally, they still continue to help me in every way possible. 

I can barely remember anything while I was in the hospital.  My memory seems to be from the few seconds I was in the operating table while the anesthesiologist was counting down to make me sleep then it jumped to about 5 days after the surgery.  I was told that because of the long 12 hour surgery, the anesthesia was significant and the strong pain medications given, a lot of things were blurry.  I remember though I was having rough times while I was on morphine drip.  I was having hallucinations, nightmares and chills.  My appetite was also nonexistent while I was on I.V. pain medications.  
When i got home, I had drains in my chest to get fluids out of the surgery sites, to avoid seroma.  The body tends to fill up with fluids where tissues have been removed.  I had two drains in my abdomen too but the doctors had to remove it while I was still in the hospital, way earlier than it should be, because it was pressing on nerves which were causing a lot of pain.  The fluids had to be emptied frequently and monitored in terms of volume.  The goal was to remove the drains when the output was lower than 30cc.  I had my chest drains removed on Friday, March 25, two days after I was discharged.  It was a whole lot of relief because the tubes were between the skin and chest muscles that ran across my chest to the armpit.  Everytime I moved, it gets painful.  Even turning my head became painful on the chest.  I was so afraid of getting it removed because of the thought of having tubes sliding out of my chest, awake and sitting upright without anesthesia.  But I made it!  Thanks to Jim holding my hand the whole time.

I feel lucky to have it out in 10 days after surgery because some people have it for almost a month.  The longer you have it, the more prone to infections you are, plus the irritation to the muscles is tough.

On Tuesday, March 29, I had my first follow-up visit with my breast surgeon Dr. Helena Chang and plastic surgeon Dr. Jaco Festekjian, who are both the best doctors in their fields.  They both said my wounds are so far healing good!  I was so glad to hear it.  It will take 8 weeks though before I can return to normal daily activities. 

I was also given the reports of what was done in the surgery and the surgical pathology results:
- simple mastectomy was done on the left and it was clear of cancer
- modified radical mastectomy was done on the right and two cancerous lumps were removed, one was 5cm and one was 2cm.
- 20 lymph nodes were removed from the axilla (armpit)  and 6 were cancerous with the largest cancerous deposit measuring 2.6cm.
- The cancer cells have a histologic grade of Grade 3 (out of 3)
-  The tumor biomarker Ki-67 is 50% (anything more than 20% is high)
- The hormone receptors of the cancer cells are 90% Estrogen positive, 3% progesterone positive and HER2 negative

Given all these, the cancer stage is now Stage 3  and TNM staging T2N2aMx

These results will determine the cocktail of chemotherapy drugs and radiation that I will be receiving. I will be meeting with the Oncologist - Dr. Glaspy of UCLA on April 7 to discuss these with him. 

My surgeon also ordered to get physical therapy sessions to start four weeks after surgery and lymphedema massages for the right arm. 

From now on, I will be at risk for Lymphedema of the right arm because numerous lymph nodes were removed.  The lymph nodes filter the lymph fluid, removing bacteria, viruses, cancer cells and other substances that could cause harm to the body.  Without it, fluids can start to build up in the tissues and it causes swelling, pain, numbness or infection of the arm.  There are many things I should do to avoid this such as:  not having blood drawn, IV, vaccinations, blood pressure cuffs on the right arm for the rest of my life.   I should avoid cuts, wounds, scrapes or insect bites on this arm.  No heavy or repetitive lifting on this arm.  Avoiding sunburns or burns on this arm.  Avoiding sauna or hot baths.  Wearing gloves when doing household chores like dishes, gardening etc to avoid cuts and infections.  Wearing compression sleeve and gloves in high pressure cabins or high altitude.

I just need to be aware of how to take of care of my arm from now on. It will be a bit of adjustment in my daily activities but I know its manageable. 

I am still wearing a binder on my abdomen to hold the long incision that stretches from side-to-side, where they took the fats, skin, veins and little muscle to place on my chest for the reconstruction.  I have to stand slouching to avoid stretching the sutures. 

So far, my chest is numb and it will take a while before the nerves will rebuild itself to get normal sensation.  The nerves usually grow back about 1 inch per month.  

The pain and sensation on my right armpit, shoulder and back will go back to normal in about 18 months.  

It will be quite a road to recovery but I am glad I got one step done in the list of treatments we have lined up.  I can't wait till I am up and about to hug, play rough with James and bring him to the playground again. I can't wait till I can have date nights with my honey-bunny again.

Next up..chemotherapy.

If you can , please help in raising funds for Krissy's Breast Cancer treatment:

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