Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday Update

Cancer tries real hard to be an optimism killer. Unbelievably hard.

Since I haven't blogged for almost two weeks, here is the medical/clinical/nuts and bolts update. I had a left side lumpectomy on Wednesday. It was a really long day, twelve hours, that was further prolonged by some post-op complications that were probably due to dehydration and the fact that I was coming cold turkey off of a four-cup-a-day coffee habit.

Check-in at St. Vincent's was at 6AM, but I was informed upon arrival that I wasn't scheduled for surgery until noon. I spent the morning in a XXL lavender surgery mu-mu (apparently these things are sized for the lowest common denominator patient, who happens to be at least 100 pounds heavier than I am) being shuffled around the hospital to have various needles poked into some of the more sensitive parts of my body. Like my nipple. Twice. Without a numbing agent. Then it took five tries to get my IV in.

Fuck that needle shit. And that is all I have to say about that.

I watched the same episode of Sports Center three times, took naps snuggled up to Ricardo (the great thing about having a tiny boyfriend is that he fits into the hospital bed with you) and asked everyone that came in if I could have a cappuccino. I'm sure that schtick got old after a bit, but I can't say that I cared. It amused me, and amusements were hard to come by that morning.

Then it was noon. Then it was dark.

I woke up with a migraine headache like nothing I had ever experienced. Adding insult to injury was waking up in the recovery room one curtain over from an old woman who was clearing her throat and hawking up snot at full volume every forty-five seconds.

Thursday and Friday were a Vicodin induced blur-a-thon. I kept time in small increments. Ten minute naps. Thirty minutes per ice pack. Top Model episodes last an hour. Two hours until the next pain pill. Six hours between antibiotic doses. Clean drainage tube three times daily.

I can almost handle the pain and the waiting. Its the setbacks and speed bumps that are killing me right now.

Friday afternoon the surgeon called and informed me the lymph nodes were negative, but that one of the margins on the chest-wall side of the tumor are not completely clear of DCIS. So back into surgery on Wednesday.

This morning I met with my first oncologist. He was the first doctor that I'd met with post-op and he had the distinct pleasure of informing me that I did, upon closer examination, have one positive lymph node. Microscopically positive (.4 of a millimeter), but positive nonetheless. And the tumor was larger than the imaging had originally indicated.

I've been upgraded to Stage IIB. Not exactly the upgrade I was looking forward to this spring.

Then we talked about treatment. There were lots of big words and numbers, but it boils down to this. My odds of avoiding a recurrence of the cancer in any part of my body increase dramatically if my treatment plan includes 4-6 months of chemotherapy.

He says this, and, of course, I start crying. I hate being nauseous. I don't want to lose my hair. And the math is simple. Four to six months is really pushing up against the light I had set at the end of this tunnel: Cycle Oregon.

When the oncologist is done, the care consultant comes in and this is the first thing that comes out of her mouth:

Congratulations, you're a survivor.

And, of course, I start crying again.


But just it has been the little things that have got me down, there are big things to be positive about. First, the surgeon did a great job. My boob looks pretty much normal. I'd say 85% normal, moving up to 90% once the swelling goes down and the incision heals.

I also got my drainage tube removed this afternoon, a day early. That goddamn thing was the biggest thorn in my side (pun intended) over the weekend. It hurt like hell, changed the way I had to sleep, sit, and walk and left me with a full-on stinky hippie hairy ass armpit. (The tube came out of the incision where the nodes were removed in my armpit and I was under strict instructions to keep the area dry and not to raise my arm above elbow level.)

It's too bad the stupid tube has to go back in on Wednesday. Wednesday's surgery will have three components: (1) Removing additional lymph nodes to make sure that the invasion was limited that single node, (2) Taking out additional tissue around the surgery site in my boob to get completely clear margins and (3) Installing a catheter in my chest in anticipation of chemotherapy. The third component isn't necessary at this time, but after my experience last week, I want to limit my run-ins with anesthesia to the extent possible.

So that's it. The nuts and bolts. There are so many other things swirling around in my head, but those will have to wait for tomorrow. I have a pedicure in fifteen minutes and a date tonight with a hot bath and a long overdue armpit shave. Ahhhhhh.......


Uma said...

Lindsay, your frankness is full of grace, your indomitable spirit evident. I don't think grace means being all dewey-eyed and soft spoken. Sometimes it requires rage, sometimes bluntness or weariness. Really I think it's just a state of being the most real you can be. You have that in spades. Small consolation--perhaps no consolation--but I appreciate your willingness to bare your emotional state with us and your thoughts. And your dry-as-ever-humor... perhaps the strongest grace there is under pressure for strong women everywhere. Be well soon.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing. An example for all to follow. An inspiration to many... Heal quickly, kick that shit out and be back to the world the way we know you: strong, witty, beautiful and courageous! A big thank you for who you are.

Heidi said...

Hi. I love you. And, you know, I'm sitting here with a big-assed lump in my throat and stuff but I know you will be ok. Hopefully I'll get to see you Friday. Good luck, be well, stay angry, keep crying. I love it all. And you, but I said that already.