Saturday, March 18, 2006

Home from the Hospital

As Julie reported on the FDMB and Steve copied here, we had FABULOUS news from the mastectomy procedure--3 sentinel lymph nodes were taken and the OR-based frozen sections showed them clear of breast cancer and thus no other axillary lumphy nodes had to be taken. (See the glossary of terms and acronyms for definitions of sentinel and axillary nodes.

What does that mean for Venita? The chance that her breast cancer has spread (metasticized) elsewhere in her body, while not impossible, is unlikely. Something like 10% of breast cancers can get by the sentinel nodes without "setting them off." Therefore, Dr. Chemo still will likely want to be cautious and perform some additional testing, like bone and liver scans, but it also is possible (although perhaps just Venita's wishful thinking) that the previously discussed course of chemotheraphy may be cut back by half.

Despite the absolutely excellent news that had Venita and Jim on cloud 9, Venita did have some trouble in recovery last night. Her one drain was pouring massive amounts of fluid out but still not keeping up. She developed a large and very tender hematoma (bruise) at the top of her right breast tissue, near her collarbone. The surgical resident called our ever-helpful Dr. Cutter at midnight, and she didn't want to come in. Dr. Cutter recommended compression wrapping Venita so tight she "couldn't breath," checking her fluid output every 15 minutes, and unwrapping and checking the hematoma in one hour. (Venita had not been compression wrapped at all.)

Resident also called Dr. Boob, who agreed with that course, but who also said he would come in should Venita need to return to surgery and perhaps afterwards admitted to the hospital for another overnight. Dr. Boob got there at 2 AM, and felt that the compression wrapping had helped reduce the swelling, pain, and fluid output, so he signed the discharge papers for this morning. No discharge papers from Ms. Congeniality Dr. Cutter; this morning she was winging her way to Mexico for vacation. Dr. Boob leaves tomorrow morning for his week-long vacation. Seems there are alot of doctors who have privileges in this hospital taking spring break vacations with their high-school/college aged children.

Venita got very little sleep last night.

Jim brought Venita home around 9 am local time. The neighbor nurse practitioner Mary came over and redid the compression wrapping because the ice bag had melted, broken open, and soaked the dressing. What an ugly mess the wound is with the loose skin, big incision, blue sentinel node dye, and black/blue/purple hematoma(big bruise in the armpit too)! Mary read Venita and Jim the riot act about Venita lifting anything heavier than her lap throw. Venita is to ask for help for all things physical and Jim is to provide that help. This is to go on for at least several days. Venita may feel up to doing more physically strenuous activity, but she IS NOT to do it because it will set back her recovery. She is not presently aware of the pain because she has a "medicine ball" that is slowly feeding lidocaine into her incision, and as soon as that is finished in a couple of days, she will be simply amazed at the pain she will be having.

BTW, big hospital screw-up the morning of the surgery. Venita and Jim were to be at the hospital at 10 am for 12 noon surgery. They got a call at 5:45 am asking where they were for their 5:30 am check-in for the 7:30 am sentinel node dye injection. Venita screamed through a bath (no shower given the biopsy two days before) and hauled ass down to the hospital in her own car; Jim to follow later after he had taken care of the cats and house. The surgery staff checked Venita in and she sat there in check-in holding until 8:30 and finally asked when she was going down to nuclear for the dye injection. She was told that the schedule had been messed up, there was no 7:30 appointment, and that Dr. Cutter would inject the dye in the OR at the 12 noon surgery. Venita went back home. Thank God for Paxil and Xanax or someone besides Venita and Jim, who were trying to sleep in in advance of a very long and tiring day, would have been pretty bummed out that morning after Venita chewed hir up and spit hir back out.

Another BTW, Venita's still trying to figure out what to do with not smoking cigarettes. Dr. Boob wanted 2 weeks pre-surgery without smoking to improve circulation and the surgical outcome. Venita gave him one week. Now, she's trying to decide what to do given that surgery is over and she still wants to smoke. She is thinking about "giving" Dr. Boob 2 weeks of smoke-free post-surgical healing time, even though he has not specifically asked for it.

Venita doesn't really want to quit smoking (sorry Martha and Robin, her two designated smoking woman-handlers), but does believe that setting a series of short term goals like one week pre-surgery and two weeks post-surgery might get her smoke free, whereas a long-term goal like no more cigarettes ever for the rest of her very long life isn't going to give her an attainable goal.


Martha and Alley Cat said...

OK, I agree with the "one day at a time" attitude about not smoking. Just decide for today, whether you will or will not smoke and don't jump ahead to tomorrow. Don't psyche yourself out, in other words, cause that will set you up for failure. Don't worry about one week, just stick to today.

Having said that, as I think of what chemo therapy is.... lots of poison to kill the cancer left overs, then I think of what cigarettes are... lots of poison that effect every organ in the body adversely, it's no longer just about heart and lungs as per the study that came out 6 months ago.

Hmmmmmmm, and I smoked for 25 years so I do know the impact. Just stick to "today" and see where it takes you.

xoxo,m and ac

Alice said...

The Real Alice: You have a chance at a long and happy life don't fuc* it up by getting lung cancer.
Ok, now the politicly correct Alice: Do what you need to do to get through this safely and then take one day at a time.The Real me again: Feel better soon, I miss hearing from you.

cindy said...

Venita - I am just reading your updates this morning. What great news!

About the smoking. At the risk of sounding preachy: you aren't giving the smoke free time to Dr. Boob, you are giving it to yourself. Why would you want to give Dr. Boob anything? I would think, to achieve maximum healing, you would want to be putting minimum toxins into your body.

End of Sermon.

Terri said...

Excellent news Venita. I know how uncomfortable those drains are and what a *pain* it is to not be able to lift anything, but it's kind of like learning to hometest. Once it's past, you won't remember the discomfort.

As another ex-smoker, I will just say that I understand how hard it must be to quit under all the stress of this situation. But.......

Alice said...

Just wanted to let you know I'am thinking of you and sending good wishes your way.