The surgery to remove THING #1 was Thursday (April 23rd) and how it went is best summed up by Jay:
@SpacyTracie wow, quite the interesting turn of events there for you … who knew surgery could be such a rollercoaster ride?
I arrived at the hospital right on time, filled out the paperwork, and was called back fairly promptly. I had to go in alone initially while the nurse, who coincidentally shared my first and last name, checked my vital signs, asked questions, etc. I told her about my experience with the tape they used on the biopsy last week on THING #2 (I still had a bit of a rash from it), so she put an allergy band on my wrist indicating I was allergic. (Paper tape is OK.) The IV was started (ouch!) then Jack was allowed to come in and sit with me.
A few minutes later my hand where the IV was inserted started to burn and feel itchy. I asked my namesake nurse if that was normal. She kinda shrugged then I started itching my hand around the IV. She told me not to do that as I wouldn’t want the IV to come out and I said I couldn’t help it. It itched BAD. We both realized at the same time it was the tape she used to secure the IV. We were so busy chatting about having the same names when she inserted the IV that we forgot about the tape allergy thing. She quickly took off the tape and secured the IV with one of those ace bandage type things that sticks to itself. Whew.
I was scheduled for “Wire and Dye” at 8:45 AM. The wire is basically a marker to where the lump or growth is to be removed. The wire has a hook on the end of it to keep it in place. They use ultrasound to get the wire placed exactly where it needs to be, then inject a dye in the area around the wire where they want the tissue to be removed. The wire is removed during the surgery.
They came and got me for this procedure around 8:30 AM. Jack and my mother followed as I was wheeled over in a wheelchair to the Breast Care Center. They were instructed to stay in the waiting room while I was taken inside. When we got to the nurses station, they said we were early and they weren’t ready for me. The nurse who wheeled me over explained she was filling in for someone and that’s why she brought me early. They had no rooms available so they parked me in a hallway out of the way and left me there alone.
There I sat in my wheelchair, wearing nothing but a hospital gown, a blanket, an IV, and my iPhone. I twittered about it saying I felt conspicuous sitting there all alone. People would come and go from the doors in that hallway and when they’d see me they seemed surprised I was there. It was awkward.
A doctor-type woman who appeared to have just arrived to the facility carrying her coat and some files walked by, then stopped, and asked if I was comfortable. I replied that I was physically fine but felt a little out of place. She gave me a knowing nod and a smile and asked if I had family or friends in the waiting room. I explained I did and she said she’d go get them and some chairs and they could sit with me. A minute later she returned with my mom and Jack and a couple nurses carrying chairs. What a sweet lady! I still have no idea who she was but that was awesome. Unfortunately it was a little late because only a few minutes later a nurse showed up to get me. At least Jack and my mom were allowed to stay with me during the procedure.
Soon I was on the table and the procedure to insert the wire and dye was about to begin. Just as the radiologist was prepping the site, I heard a noise and saw a flash coming from where my mom and Jack were sitting. The nurse and I both glared at Jack and I started to say, “Oh no you don’t!”. I thought he had just snapped a photo. So did the nurse. But the flashes and noises kept repeating and that’s when we all realized it was the fire alarm going off. The nurse sighed and said the stupid alarms go off all the time and she hoped it’d be turned off soon because the strobe effect (flashing) was annoying. The radiologist agreed but continued his prep work.
As he was about to numb the area there was knock at the door as it opened and a woman’s voice telling us the alarm wasn’t a drill and the building was being evacuated. My nurse and radiologist said they had just got started. The curly-headed woman at the door said that was fine but my mom and Jack had to leave. I was like, “wait, what? There’s a fire and we’re going to stay? REALLY??” I looked at the nurse and radiologist’s faces and they only seemed annoyed, not worried so I just kept my mouth shut.
The procedure was started and I could tell they were moving quicker than normal. Fortunately I wasn’t feeling a thing so I just hoped they wouldn’t miss in their haste. I was also anxious about whatever was going on outside that room that was making the fire alarm go off and people get evacuated. The alarm continued to flash and beep, but only a few minutes later Jack and my mom came back and said it was nothing. Yay!
I relaxed. The procedure was almost over anyway. Now we were all just hoping they’d shut the alarm off. A few minutes later there was another knock on the door and the curly-headed woman’s voice returned saying “Sorry, the fire department is here and they want the building evacuated”. She escorted my mom and Jack out of the room AGAIN then came back a few minutes later saying the facility was now empty and it was just us and we needed to go.
The nurse and radiologist quickly finished and helped me back to the wheelchair. My head was spinning.
The curly-headed woman wheeled me out and as we were going down the hall I felt some intense burning then the serious need to take sandpaper to my boob where they just did the procedure. I mentioned this to her and she said the dye can cause discomfort. I said no, this is on the outside. It itches bad and it feels like I’m being burned. Then I realized they must have put tape on me. I looked down and pulled away the gauze and sure enough, there was surgical tape holding down some more gauze and a wire about 6 inches long hanging out of me. (FREAKY!) The nurse was walking with us and got an alarmed look on her face and said in their haste they forgot about my tape allergy. She apologized and took off in search of paper tape.
At this point people started trickling back into the building.. and there I am in the hall, boob exposed with a wire hanging out of it… me and the curly-headed woman ripping tape off it. To think I had the nerve to feel conspicuous in the hall earlier. Ha!
I joked about how it must have been me setting off the fire alarm because that was TWICE in a short period of time someone put tape on me that felt just like I was being set on fire. There was no fire though. Just steam from a boiler room. All that excitement for just a little steam.
I relaxed again. The burning and itching had subsided and no one was catching on fire. Jack and my mom were instructed again to wait in the waiting room while I went and had mammogram pictures taken to ensure the wire was placed properly. Everything was back to normal and even the alarm had stopped. The relief I felt was short-lived.
A nurse from pre-op arrived at the nurses station looking for me. The nurses pointed me out and she approached me gently, hands clasped behind her back, with a concerned look on her face. She bent over toward me and said my surgeon became ill and/or there was some sort of emergency with her. I asked if she was OK. My surgeon is pregnant so I was immediately concerned for her. The pre-op nurse said they had no information on what was going on with her but it did mean that all her surgery patients were canceled for the day. I stared at her.
The wire and dye nurse told the pre-op nurse that I just had the wire put in and was about to get a quick mammogram. Pre-op nurse said to put everything on hold while she made some calls. I asked what this all meant for me. Curly-head said she wasn’t sure. The wires aren’t meant to come out the way they went in because of the hook. She explained they have taken them out before but it was not something they like to do. She also said they could put a clip in it and secure it real good and I could come back tomorrow but I would be very restricted on movement of that arm.
Curly-head stayed with me while we waited for the pre-op nurse to come back. I have no idea who curly-head was. She seemed to be some sort of head of the department. She was very friendly and comforting and I was grateful she stayed with me so I didn’t have to go back to sitting in the hallway alone. Pre-op nurse came back and said they found a backup surgeon. I asked if I would get to meet him at least before the surgery. They said yes and that I would really like him. He was supposedly a kind and gentle older man close to retirement, and has been a surgeon for many many years. They all seemed to adore him so I was OK with it… Mostly. The biggest hitch was he wasn’t going to be available until three hours after my original surgery was scheduled.
The mammogram was quick and painless and soon as I was back in pre-op. Pre-op is just a big room with a bunch of beds lined up with curtains separating the beds. It’s noisy and the space around each bed is very small. Technically only one relative / friend is allowed at a time to sit with the patients. My mom and Jack followed me back to pre-op and no one said they had to leave. At that point it seemed the staff were bending over backwards to make sure I was comfortable and happy after the crazy morning I had.
My mom had to leave to take care of some obligations. I had a long wait ahead of me and there was no reason for all of us to sit there in that tiny space bored out of our minds. I sat on the bed flipping through a magazine and the care package Jack had put together for me in a bright pink mini backpack. (The care package contained the magazine, new pink Breast Cancer Research Foundation coffee cup and water bottle, a new brush with new hair ties, a words earch puzzle book, chocolates for later, a beanie Panda Bear named Ming, some mints, and some lip balm. Isn’t Jack a sweetie?) Unfortunately the package only side-tracked me for about 20 minutes. I ended up fretting over the whole ordeal, and managed to work myself up into tears. Jack got a nurse and we asked if we could leave. There was no way I wanted us to sit there for several hours. The nurses said they normally never let anyone leave pre-op once admitted but in my case, after all I’d been through, they’d allow it as long as they could reach us on our cell phones, I stayed in my wheelchair, and didn’t move the arm on the side the wire was. We agreed. FREEDOM.
From there Jack wheeled me around the hospital for a while. We went outside for a bit. It was too cold so we went and got Jack some lunch. I drooled. No food or water for me since the night before. (Can you say, “Caffiene Headache”??) Just the IV fluids… Eventually we went back up to pre-op to see if there was any new news. There wasn’t so we went down into the lobby at the Firstenburg Tower and set up ‘camp’ near the gas fireplace and near a good view of the fountain to watch a movie on Jack’s laptop. Just as he was loading up the list of our movie choices, I got a call from pre-op. The backup surgeon was called into a trauma… GRRRRR! But then she said another surgeon was going to do my surgery on his lunch break, RIGHT NOW.
We hurried back to pre-op to find two nurses and the anesthesiologist waiting for me at my bed. The surgeon had gone to eat a half a bowl of soup real quick. I wasn’t thrilled about the surgeon I was getting because it was the same one my sister had for her masectomies and she didn’t like him. I wasn’t sure why though. He seemed OK when I met him, he’s just a no-nonsense type of person. Not that we had a whole lot of time to get to know each other. Everyone seemed in a hurry and he was mostly concerned with confirming the details of the surgery, why I was there, etc. The haste in which all this happened did not do much to easy my anxiety about the whole day, but at least things were going so fast at that point I didn’t really have time to fret much.
They rolled me into the operating room and asked me a few questions. I answered and was waiting for an opportunity to let the anesthesiologist know that I prefer to be told I’m being put under rather than just have them knock me out without warning. (I wake up less disoriented that way.) Unfortunately the next thing I remember is being woke up, feeling pain in my breast, fading back out, waking up, feeling pain, fading out, then waking up again. If there is a next time, I will be sure to ignore any questions until I get a chance to tell them to let me know before they just knock me out.
I recovered pretty quick and headed home about an hour or so after the surgery. They did NOT use tape thankfully. Just some gauze over the incision and this tube top looking thing around my whole chest that velcros closed in the front.
I have a 1.5 inch incision above the nipple. They removed a cluster of clogged ducts along with whatever the lump was. The incision is bigger than I expected and the doc says I may lose some feeling in the area. I have already discovered that there’s definitely a loss of sensation in two places and I really hope it’s temporary. There’s been some pain but the painkillers take care of that for the most part. Unfortunately they also completely wipe me out and make me stupid.
I’m just taking it easy for now until Wednesday when I have my follow up appointment.