Surgery and Beyond

This is it. The big enchilada. On Wednesday, I have my surgery.

If you will remember from my previous posts, all of this medical stuff is new for me. Until now, the biggest procedure I underwent was getting my port for treatment. That was a big, scary deal for me. This surgery is bigger. I will be anesthetized and wake up somewhere different from where I started. That’s what is freaking me out more than anything. Apart from that, I will be sleeping for main event and anything that happens will be far out of my control.

While I am anxious about surgery, I’m also kind of relieved that it’s finally time. Surgery has been looming over me for six months and now that it’s here, I am ready to get it done and move on.

Surgery Prep

Last week I had a small procedure where I had a Savi SCOUT implanted in my cancerous lymph node. Since my cancer has shrunk so much, this will help the surgeon find and remove the node. Because of the location of the lymph node, up in my armpit region, the nurses had trouble getting an image of both the SCOUT and the clip that they implanted earlier this year. Apparently my surgeon is very thorough – hooray! – so they also placed a pinprick-sized charcoal tattoo on the node. While this was not originally planned, I was happy to go along with an extra stick if it meant easier work for my surgeon.

On Wednesday, I will also be having a wire localization procedure which is very similar to the SCOUT but due to the placement of my tumors they couldn’t implant two SCOUTs, so I get this too. Again, this is needed because my cancer has shrunk so much that they need these aids to pinpoint the location of my tumors and be as precise about removal as possible.


For my surgery they will be doing two things: a sentinel node biopsy and a lumpectomy.

Since I had one lymph node that showed cancer early on, my surgeon will take out the cancerous node and they will evaluate it while I’m under. They will inject me with a blue dye that will highlight the path that fluid goes through my nodes. If there is cancer in the first (sentinel) node after examination, then they will keep going through the remaining lymph nodes looking for cancer. Hopefully it will just be the one, but we will not know until surgery.

The lumpectomy will be a bit more straightforward. My surgeon will hopefully be able to use the same incision for both the lumpectomy and lymph node removal. Then she will remove the cancerous cells. I don’t know a lot of details, nor do I want them. In my head I imagine a melon baller scooping out the cancer, but I’m pretty sure it’s a bit more precise than that.

My check in time for surgery is 7 am, so please think happy thoughts for me as I am not a morning person. On the plus side, an early appointment will lessen the amount of time I have to worry on the day of my surgery.

After Surgery

I have taken off the rest of the week after my surgery for recovery. It sounds like it won’t be too bad, though they have prescribed me some pain pills. I’m hoping to not need them much, but it’s nice to have them on hand just in case. I am planning on napping, watching movies and generally taking it easy in the days after my surgery.

I should be pretty much back to normal in about two weeks. For those two weeks I have limitations on lifting and exercising, but after that it’s back to business as usual. I meet with my surgeon and medical oncologist a week after my surgery to go over the results, as they only do a preliminary check during the surgery. The full pathology will take up to a week after surgery and that’s when I will find out how well the surgeon did.

About three weeks after my surgery, I will start radiation. I have already met with the radiologist at Valley. They will come up with a custom plan for me, we will do a trial run and then start regular treatments. I will have treatments 5-days a week for about 6 weeks. The appointments will be fast, less than half an hour, and the side effects sound minimal. I may be tired and have some localized skin issues – much easier than chemo. I’m not looking forward to another 30+ appointments, but the end is in sight.

Until next time my friends, please keep thinking happy thoughts for me and take care. I’ll see you on the other side of surgery.

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