Surgery.

The morning of the surgery has arrived, and after checking in downstairs, my husband and I are ushered upstairs to wait some more. I've got my armband on, and the pictures of Big Sur are helping my nerves. I'd never had surgery before, so I had no idea what to expect. The most nerve racking part to me was the idea of being put under. 

After sitting in the waiting room for about ten minutes, I get called back for prep, wipe myself down with the cleaning pads (which they've warmed up to make it more comfortable) and get into the gown, socks and shower cap. It's a good look, for sure! 

Once I'm ready and in bed, they bring my husband back, and I can feel my nerves calming down a lot. I'm ready to get this thing (tumor) out of me, so we can get on with it. The anesthesiologist comes in and she goes through all the steps she will take to make sure I'm comfortable. Some nurses and residents come by and then my surgeon comes in and I'm instantly calm and ready. She has such a great energy that puts me at ease, instantly.

The anesthesiologist returns and gives me my "margarita" (her words) and then we start rolling down the hallway. My husband kisses me, we say, "I love you," to each other and then off I go. I remember being rolled into the OR, I remember everyone moving around like a well choreographed machine, then a mask over my face and... off I go... 

I wake up and there is a nurse right at the end of my bed who says, "Hello Lori!" 

"How are you feeling Lori!?"

I look down and see a wrap around my chest that is like a very big, and tight, Ace Bandage. Then I look up at her and say, "I'm so happy!"

I think I shocked her a bit. There's a pause. Then she says, "Oh, good! Do you need anything?"

I let her know I need some water. She brings a cup of ice chips, and it feels like this is the best meal I've ever had. I get very excited about the ice chips, and the next thing I know, my husband is there and starts helping me with the ice chips. We are all laughing. 

Then, I feel very nauseous, and the nurse puts something into my IV which makes everything better, instantly. She takes away the ice chips and tells me I've over indulged. No more ice chips for me.

The nurse then lets me know that she got me a single room, and that I will be taken to it shortly. Getting my own room is like getting the best Christmas gift ever! 

A couple nurses roll my bed up to the room, ask if I think I can transfer myself and in one attempt to move my core, it's a NO. GO. They move me over and I get comfortable and realize my range of motion is very limited, and I'm not able to put any pressure on my arms at all. I need to get used to not lifting anything over a pound and not using my arms to help me move around. Definitely no reaching for things!

Watching HGTV and ordering some food!

Watching HGTV and ordering some food!

All of the nurses are so amazing and nice and make me feel like this is going to be okay. They help me get up out of bed and I realize I can do it and walk to the bathroom and back to the bed on my own. This is a huge deal only a few hours out of surgery! By that night, I'm on pain meds, and am already feeling better. I watch A LOT of HGTV. Best tip from a friend who had been through surgery a few months before me... HGTV is easy to watch while coming off anesthesia and taking pain meds. 

The next morning, the residents come by to check on me and look at the scars and say that everything is healing nicely. They announce that they are releasing me! I take my first real walk with my husband (who spent the night on a nice bed they provided for him) around the floor I'm on, and it feels okay. I sit in a real chair for the remainder of the day as I wait for the discharge papers.

My surgeon visits around mid-day, checks everything out and is pleased. I tell her how thankful I am, and I cry, and tell her how awesome she is. She looks at the scar one more time and tells me that this scar is going to look amazing with the tattoo I plan to get. She remembered that I had told her I was seriously considering a cool tattoo across my chest since I was going with no reconstruction. This made me so happy!

I change into the comfy clothes I brought for post surgery (i.e. I am able to put them on with my limited range of motion), get discharged, and then we drive to our AirBnB in Brentwood where we will stay for the next two weeks as I recover and go to follow-up appointments. The ride home is only a couple miles, but every bump, and stop, and go... feels like torture. I have drains that are stitched into the surgical area, and they pull every time the car, well, moves. I am praising our smart decision to stay in LA after the surgery. A drive back to SLO at this moment would have been the worst idea ever. 

We park, I walk up some stairs and then plant myself on the couch, where I will be for awhile. Thank god for Netflix!

 

Memory Foam Wedge and lots of pillows were my jam!

Memory Foam Wedge and lots of pillows were my jam!

The Dream Team - Part 2.

The first meeting is with the surgeon and she sets a perfect tone. She sits down and looks at me and my husband. She says, "we all know why we're here... and we'll get to that, but first, how are you doing?"

She looks me in the eye and gives a light touch to my arm. I instantly know I've made the right decision with this team. I tell her I'm doing well and that the shock is wearing off. I tell her I'm ready to get this thing out of me and get started with treatment, whatever that will be. 

As we go through my case, she lets me know that all of the doctors in the room were shocked at how cystic my breasts were. Not only did I have a good number of them, they were all on the larger side. Right after she said this I stopped her and said, "I will only consider a full double mastectomy, I'm not interested in any other option." 

She closed her binder, looked at me, then at my husband and said to him, "I like her!" 

Then she looks at me and says that the team thought it would be a longer conversation about "the double" and that she is happy to hear I'm also wanting this course of action. With my dense, cystic breasts, a double is the most logical surgery, and I am so glad we're all on the same page right away. She then checks my breast and lymph nodes. Definite tumor in the breast, lymph nodes feel fine, but MRI had shown some activity, so we won't know for sure until after surgery, but she is feeling good about it all given the relatively clean MRI. 

As she prepares to leave, I quickly let her know that we have a trip on the books to go up to Seattle and Vancouver Island to celebrate my Aunt and Uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. I'm scheduled to leave in the next few days and will be gone for eight days. She instantly tells me to keep the trip on the books. Nothing will change, and they won't even get me on the surgical calendar for two weeks. I'm so happy I can still take the trip. I think it will be a great way to spend the time between diagnosis and surgery! 

Next up is the Medical Oncologist. She also sits, looks at us and asks how I am doing. She says, depending on what is found during surgery and in the pathology report, chemo may or may not be on the treatment plan. It's an unknown for now, but she and I will know each other for a long time, as I will definitely end up on some sort of hormone therapy, which she will manage.

After her, I meet the Radiology Oncologist. Radiation will definitely happen. She asks how I'm doing and how my husband is doing. By now, I'm feeling very good and so happy that I've found my team. I tell her how happy I am to have a plan forming with such a great team. 

After the main three, I see the plastic surgeon who goes through every option I have in regards to reconstruction, which includes, no reconstruction. He is so informative and spends about an hour with us. He shows me before and after photos of all reconstruction types, and goes through the pros and cons of each. 

Ultimately, I know I will go with no reconstruction, but am glad to have all of the information before making the final decision. Which is, no reconstruction. 

The great thing about this team is that they made me part of the decision team and there was no judgement. I've heard stories around reconstruction decisions and how many women felt more pressure to get reconstruction. I never had that, and in fact, I felt so informed that when I chose no reconstruction it was from a place of knowledge, not emotion. It was the right decision for me, and the team respected that, which was so reassuring! 

The entire process of meeting the team took almost three hours. In addition to the above, I met my nurse practitioner, surgery scheduler and a woman from the foundation at UCLA that provides many services including, nutrition, counseling, yoga, reiki, and other self care services. It is a morning full of a lot of information. My husband and I take a lot of notes! 

That night I sleep better than I have in a couple weeks. The team is in place, the plan is getting formed and I know that we are moving forward! It feels good and I actually look forward to our vacation. Nothing will change, so I may as well have a fun vacation. I know this will be the last trip we take for awhile, so I'm going to enjoy it. 

We head back home, pack, and board a plane a couple days later. The surgery is still in the process of getting scheduled, and the treatment plan is still getting formed, but it is coming together and I couldn't feel better about all of it!

 

Love when Mt. Rainier is surrounded by clouds while flying above!

Love when Mt. Rainier is surrounded by clouds while flying above!

The Dream Team - Part 1.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017. I walk into UCLA Breast Center Santa Monica and the word Oncology is on the door. Where 'other' people used to go... I now go. They tell me to bring my husband and anyone else who I think will be helpful during this intake meeting. I will meet every person who will be involved in my treatment, and having at least one other person in the room can be helpful to make sure good notes are taken and all questions are asked and answered. 

One thing I learn very quickly, Oncology waiting rooms are actually very nice. They offer water, coffee and tea, and they have peaceful videos playing and the chairs are comfortable. I appreciate it. 

Love this sign!

Love this sign!

A woman shows up to take a group of us upstairs (it's like we're all in a club and getting initiated, but none of want to be members!) and on the way up I see a comforting sign about UCLA. I snap a picture and send it to my Mom to tell her, "I'm in good hands."

My husband is the only person with me. We sit in the room and wait for the first member of my new team to arrive. 

We look around, at each other, and at the binder sitting on the counter. This is all really happening. I'm officially a breast cancer patient, and the plan is about to get put into motion. I'm strangely more excited than nervous in this moment. Mostly because I'm ready to get this show on the road! 

 

 

 

The surgeon walks in and opens with, "Let's get you healthy!"

I'm in!

The magic binder!

The magic binder!