Posts Tagged ‘surgery


Brian’s Knee Update, More Photos

Brian’s surgery on Friday went fine, and although there was a significant enough amount of pain for Brian to actually resort to the prescription pain pills on Friday evening/Saturday morning, by Saturday evening he was down to just ibuprofen.

It just amazes me that they can fix knees with three little holes in an in-office procedure these days – when my first husband had knee surgery, he was in the hospital overnight (at least), and has a big scar running down from the top to the bottom of his knee – I think it’s around 6″ long or so.

Thanks again to cousin Jeanette for taking Brian over and waiting with him while he had surgery. I’d planned on going with them, but as the week wore on, it became obvious that the chemo was still hitting me pretty hard. So I waited at home for them.

And because I don’t really have the brains this morning to blog about anything else, here are some pictures for your delectation.

Robin's definition of foot rest

And April the cat gets in on some of the action:

April's definition of back rest

We’re going to the ballet today, and I have to remember to wear a mask, since I’m probably immune-compromised at this point. I’ll know for sure tomorrow, but around all the kids, probably best not to take any chances.


Catching Up

We’ve been doing a lot recently – some fun, some not so fun, but nothing bad ;-}

Most importantly, Brian had knee surgery yesterday, and everything went fine. He’s walking around no problem, and is ready to try dropping the prescription pain meds and going over to acetaminophen or ibuprofen. The surgeon came out to talk to me after he was done, and said that Brian’s torn cartilage was some of the worst he’s ever seen – he couldn’t believe that Brian had been able to go so long without having surgery. I said “Well, only since June . . .”, and the surgeon said “Oh, no, it’s been damaged for years – the torn edges were rounded from long-term rubbing together. There was some newer damage that must have been from June, but I was able to trim everything up so his knee should work better than it has for a long time.”

Brian vaguely remembers a backpacking trip back in his 20s where he twisted his knee, but kept walking on it (didn’t really have a choice). It was painful at the time, but not incapacitating. Either he’s completely impervious to the kind of pain that the surgeon expected him to have, or the damage was situated such that it was not interfering with the movement of the joint, and thus not causing a lot of pain.

In addition to the torn cartilage, there is a worn area, but the surgeon felt it wasn’t a problem; and the anterior cruciate ligament is partially torn. My understanding is that it will stay partially torn, but that it should continue to function just fine unless he does something that causes it to tear completely.

Brian doesn’t remember anything specific he did in June to cause further damage, although he was doing some planting in the backyard which involved kneeling, and it was shortly afterward that his knee started bugging him. He ignored it for a while, and it seemed to get better, but then it would get painful again and he would ignore it again until it seemed to get better, and so it went for two months. Finally, he realized that it was not just going to go away before our trip to Orlando; so he went to see our pcp, who sent him for x-rays and an MRI; then referred him to the surgeon. We were concerned that the surgeon would tell him he needed to be on crutches, or even cancel the trip – can you imagine doing Disney on crutches? Instead, the doctor just pulled an ounce or so of fluid off the knee (said it was about 1/3 of what was in there), and gave Brian a cortisone shot. With ibuprofen, Brian had almost no problems with the knee on the trip (about which I’ll write in another post).

So all’s well with Brian and his knee.


I’m being deported on Friday

I reminded Brian that my appointment with the surgeon to have my chemo port removed is on Friday afternoon, and he said, “Oh, you’re being deported.”

This time, perhaps because the port went into the same place and there was scar tissue built up, I haven’t noticed it too much. The first time, it was uncomfortable, and I couldn’t lie on my right side at all for most of the time I had it in.

Also, last time, after I was done with the chemo, I couldn’t just have the port taken out in the usual office procedure – I was on warfarin at the time, so the surgeon would only do it in an operating room. So I ended up having it removed when I had my reconstruction/ovary-removal surgery.

For some reason, I’m a little nervous about having it removed in office, and totally concious – but lots of people do, so I’m sure it’s not a big deal. It just seems as if, when you’re taking something out of one of the major veins, that it *should* be a big deal. Even knowing that they do angiograms and other procedures where a vein or artery is entered under non-operating-room conditions doesn’t really make me less nervous.

I faced major surgeries with less nervousness, so I’m not sure why this bugs me. On one hand, I’m looking forward to getting rid of it, because it is nearly the last thing related to having cancer that I still have to deal with – the other thing being the anti-hormonal pill that I have to take for the next five years (and the quarterly follow-ups with the oncologist, and the yearly bone-density scans, and the – oh, never mind). On the other hand, I think there’s a superstitious part of me that is afraid that shortly after it’s removed, I’ll find out I have cancer again. It was only three months between the port being removed and finding the lump this last time – but then, it was only three months between my reconstruction surgery and finding the lump; three months between having my ovaries removed and finding the lump; three months from starting the anti-hormonal treatment to finding the lump.

But I could also say: it was three months between flying down to visit my mother-in-law and finding the lump; three months between having my first bone density scan and finding the lump; three months from our eleventh anniversary to finding the lump.

Intellectually, I know all of these things are unrelated to getting cancer – that doesn’t stop me from having irrational fears.


December 9, 2008

All went well with the chemo port implantation – the surgeon was a little late because her 5-year-old had mislaid his library book and they had to search for it, but I was back in recovery by 9:00 a.m., and home by 10:30 a.m.

St. V’s has a new piece of equipment in the pre-op ward that is pretty cool (well, so to speak). They now have warming gowns. What are warming gowns, you might ask? Well, they are paper gowns, lined with paper air channels, and with hose ports. There is a separate blower unit that produces air, and has a hose that connects to the gown. The hose has an adjustable temperature control, so if the air blowing through the gown is too hot or too cool, you can adjust it to fit. I was able to finish blow-drying my hair, too ;-}

My feet got cold, though.

After I got home, I had a little bit to eat, then took another pain pill and lay down. Robin and the cats took shifts on keeping an eye on me – although at one point, all three were required to make sure that I was napping properly.

Normally I sleep on my left side, occasionally flipping over to the right; it will be interesting to see if I can sleep without rolling over. I’m heading to bed shortly, so will find out soon.


September 16, 2008

Today the surgeon called.  I saw her number on Caller ID, and almost didn’t answer, because it seems like doctors never call with good news – if it’s good, they wait to tell you when you have an appointment.

But I picked up the phone anyway, and it turns out it was actually great (although not unexpected) news – the path report shows that there was no outlying cancer – the first surgery got it all!

So the cynical Julie wants to know why I had to have the second surgery, then?

And of course, the calm, logical, reasonable Julie reminds me that we wouldn’t know for sure without having done the additional tissue excision.

The medical researchers really need to come up with a method for determining spread of cancer in situ (Brian misheard me, and said “Inside you?” – well, it all comes to the same thing).  They figured out how to make a monkey phosphorescent – there’s got to be a way to insert jellyfish DNA into a cancer tumor so surgeons can track its spread.

At any rate, I meet with her on Thursday, and at that point, she’ll give me the names of a couple radiation oncologists, and a date as to when she’ll clear me to start radiation based on how I’m healing.  I’m ready to go on this – I still have a dream of finishing by the end of the year.

Last night I couldn’t sleep at all – I’ve been using a guided imagery program to help with my insomnia, and for the most part it’s been helping, along with some melatonin; but last night I heard every word, and even tried taking another dose of melatonin in the middle of the night, but I just lay there flopping around, having hot flashes and listening to Brian and the dog snore.  I even checked my temperature just to make sure I wasn’t developing an infection.  So instead, I got up and worked on my latest quilt pattern, read, checked the news, and finally logged in and did a little bit of work.  I had some breakfast and went back to bed – funny, I get the best sleep during work hours ;-}  I ended up working from home in the afternoon, and I’m planning on going to bed shortly.  As tired as I am, I suspect I’ll sleep well tonight.


September 14, 2008

Well, I’ve been negligent (yet again!) in keeping up on posting – between vacation, work, and medical-related appointments, I will claim lack of time as the culprit.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we had a lovely relaxing vacation down at the cabin, and arrived home late in the afternoon on Labor Day.

I jumped right back into the fray on Tuesday, when Brian and I met with the oncologist.  He told us that nobody really has a “normal” treatment plan for a recurrence like mine, basically because a recurrence like mine is anything but normal.  However, pending the results from pathology on the tumor, his plan would be to treat as follows: less than 0.5cm mass, no chemo; 0.5 – 1.0cm mass, we’d talk about whether chemo would be beneficial or not; greater than 1.0cm mass, definitely chemo.  As the words are leaving his lips, his assistant knocks, and passes the path report in.  The doctor looks at it, and says “Oh. 1.3cm.  That’s bigger than one of the original masses, isn’t it?”  The end result is that I will be having chemo; the only decision was whether or not I would do chemo or radiation first.  He knew I would be meeting with the surgeon later that week, and said that she would discuss the rest of the path report with me.

The next two days started very early, because I had dental appointments both mornings at 8 – I’m in the process of getting my braces into the “retainer” stage, with a little additional work on one of the front teeth.  I will be *so* glad when I’m done with them!

The meeting with the surgeon started out with her coming into the exam room, commenting that I had been “the hot topic of conversation at the breast conference” that morning – in case you’re wondering, that isn’t a good thing.  Basically, a lot of surgeons, oncologists, radiological oncologists, and related medical personnel get together and discuss each case they have.  The consensus was that this recurrence needs to be treated very aggressively, since it is very aggressive itself.  So I said, “So I will be having radiation *and* chemo, then, right?”  She said “Yes,” but then went on to ruin my day by telling me that because the margins were so narrow on the lumpectomy, that she wanted to go back in and take some more tissue.  The big problem was that she felt like that meant removing the implant because there wasn’t enough skin/muscle to take out enough otherwise.  While I was there, she called my plastic surgeon, who is in the same office complex, and he had her send me down so he could take a look.

He sounded much more hopeful that it could be done without removing the implant (which would actually be a remove/reinstall, using a somewhat smaller implant) – basically he gave me a 50% chance that it could be done that way.

So the end result was that we scheduled the surgery for the 12th with both of them there, with a couple smaller implants just in case.  I went into it not knowing how I would come out.  7:30 Friday morning came way too early, but the surgery schedule was on time, so they took me in right at 9:30.  I spoke to the surgeons and the anesthesiologist beforehand, and asked if they could start me out with the twilight sedation, since that’s all the surgeon would need if she was able to do the excision without removing the implant; with the caveat that if the implant did need removal, *then* I would be given the general.  Everyone agreed, and I was pleased to wake up in the operating room at 10:30 with the final dressing being applied to the incision – it gave me a bit of a start to see the plastic surgeon working on me, but it turned out that the surgeon asked him to deal with the closure because there was some concern about the blood supply in the area being interrupted from all the scar tissue, and she felt that he was more experienced with that kind of situation.

An hour in recovery, and a short ride home (via DQ for a Heath Bar Blizzard and some french fries!), and I spent the rest of the day relaxing in our backyard under the elm, lying in one of our new zero-gravity chaise lounges – what a lovely day, sunny, warm, and firmly C-cupped still ;-}

I’ve spent the weekend taking it easy, including a lot of naps (some short, some long), and doing some reading, a little bit of knitting, and a lot of talking on the phone.  I’m going back to work tomorrow, although I don’t know if I’ll be up for a full day or not.  There’s not a good place to lie down at work if I need to, although I could try lying under my table – I should take one of our camping air-mattresses in…

I’ll meet with the surgeon again on Thursday, and expect to find out then if there was any additional cancer found in the excised tissue; and what the next step is.  If they did find any cancer, I don’t know what will happen next – otherwise, it is going to be radiation starting in two or three weeks; that usually runs 5-1/2 or 6 weeks; then I’ll have chemo for somewhere between 4 and 8 sessions.  The radiation is first because all the doctors are sure it hasn’t spread, but it was very aggressive locally; thus they want to do the local attack first.

Anyway, even after the 3-1/2 hour nap I took this afternoon, I’m ready for bed already.  I’ll post the results from the surgeon’s meeting later this week.


March 4, 2007

Hi y’all –

Thank you, everyone, for the cards, calls, flowers, and visits! I am doing pretty well, for the most part. I had a lot of pain on Saturday while I was still at the hospital, but Sunday and Monday I had cut way down on the pain pills because I wasn’t having a lot of problems.

Sunday evening the waited-for event, some indication that my bowels were coming back online, made itself known, and I celebrated by reducing the pain pills even further. It all started to seem pretty normal, but then Monday evening, I hit a snag. Rather than constipation relieved by the stool softeners, I started having diarrhea, which I suspected was being exacerbated by the stool softeners because I’d reduced the amount of oxycodone, but not the colace. Suddenly, there wasn’t as much need to soften things, but it was still working on it. I also developed a mild fever of 100.4 degrees, which is verboten after surgery. Since it was midnight by the time I took my temperature, I didn’t call the doctor, and planned to call them this morning at 8:00, after having taken my temperature again so I could give them an accurate update. I also bumped the oxycodone dose back up, both because I was starting to feel a lot more pain, but also because I thought it had acetaminophen in it to help control the fever. Apparently I was wrong about that, but it certainly helped with the pain.

By this morning, my temp was back down to normal (which for me is typically right around 98 degrees).  The surgeon’s advice nurse said to call if my temp went back up, but otherwise I could just take some immodium for the diarrhea.

So far I haven’t had any indications that I’ve entered menopause, and have even been chilled, rather than too warm. Finally, last night while I was snatching cat-naps between cramps, I started sleeping hot again for the first time since my surgery (something I’ve done for many, many years). I had to strip the blankets off, take off my hat, remove my sweater, and pull my neck scarf off – all items I’d been too cold to go without since I got home from the hospital. Even though I started out by putting everything back on, I just kept having to remove it all again, so I ended up wrapping the scarf around my shoulders and pulling up one blanket.

I haven’t been focusing on eating all my points for Weight Watchers, mostly because it has been a bit of a struggle to eat much of anything.  I do get hungry, but it doesn’t take much to satisfy the hunger, and so I haven’t been worried that I’m overeating.  I probably am undereating, which is just as bad, but I had planned on taking one to two weeks break, and am hoping that at the least I will maintain my previous weight loss, and if I’m lucky lose some more, rather than putting on anything.  As of this morning, I’m at about the same weight I was at my last official weigh in.

The laparoscopic scars are small, and although I’m sure there are stitches inside, the outside was only sealed with glue.  As I’ve had to clean spots to give myself my Lovanox injections, I clean off the iodine – there are gleaming white patches amidst the jaundice-yellow overall tone of my skin currently.  I haven’t seen the scars for the reconstruction yet – my first post-surgery follow-up appointment is Thursday, and I can’t change the dressing or shower until then.  Fortunately my hair is so short that I don’t have to worry about trying to keep it clean – also, I still haven’t gone back to my excessively oily skin and hair that I had prior to chemo.  I’m hoping that part is a permanent change.

I’m about due for my next dose of pain pills, and am going to have a mug of boullion then lay down again.  I haven’t had a lot of focus so far, yet it’s so much better than the previous surgery – I can read, and although I don’t read much at a time, I *remember* what I’ve read so I can be right back into it when I pick up the book again.

Poor Robin is resigned to my being boring again – he follows me everywhere (I am still getting up and pacing around the house periodically), and collapses at the foot of my chair if I don’t get the foot elevated right away.  Sigh.


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