Jun 7 2014

Two days later


I feel pretty good, actually.

At this point, I only feel any actual pain when I lift my right arm, or use it for something involving carrying weight.  And I seem to have a bit of a rash on my chest  from the surgical tape, which is something that sometimes happens to me.

It’s hard right now for me to tell how much tissue was removed, because there’s  a certain amount of swelling in the general area, after the surgery.  But I can tell this: not a whole lot.   I’ll probably end up with a dent or divot of some sort, but right now the only visible sign of surgery is the great big incision.   I’ll get the official word on what was what and what it means next week, but it’s clear to see that what was removed was nowhere near as much as I expected.

Also: only one lymph node was removed, under my arm, and that’s great news.   And that’s actually where most of my pain comes from.

And the dreaded needle localization, performed via x-rays this time instead of MRI, was no problem whatsoever!  Other than the usual bizzarro Egyptian-hieroglyph postures that accompany every mammogram.  Those are always at least perplexing.

After the needle loc, they set me up for a sentinel node biopsy, which is a very clever procedure indeed.  What they do is inject a brightly-colored radioactive dye into the tumor area (that was actually pretty painful, but was over quickly), wait a bit, and take some x-rays.  The dye heads over to the lymph nodes that drain the area of the tumor, which then show up clearly on the images.  So, what the surgeon does later is remove the first lymph node in line (the “sentinel”), and quickly send that out to be tested, while-u-wait.   If there’s any cancer in that lymph node, then they know they have to remove a bunch of nodes, all along the area; but if not, then no more lymph nodes are removed.

And I clearly do remember, later, being told that the sentinel node had zero cancer.   So nice to hear.  Thus: only one lymph node removed.

They didn’t use general anesthesia, just a deep version of local, plus a sedative.  I remember them wheeling me out of the prep room, and I think I remember arriving in the operating room.  I’m pretty sure the usual words were exchanged (where they ask you to describe the procedure you’re about to undergo, so everyone’s on the same page), but I can’t clearly recall it.   And then they applied their drugs, and I slept, and it was all sentinel node biopsy, and the lumpectomy, while I was in la-la land.

I don’t recall arriving back in prep room post-op.  Sabine tells me that my first words to her when she saw me were “Piece of cake,” but I’ll have to take her word on that.   But it does sound like something I’d say.

So, right now: well, I don’t feel 100%, that’s sure.  I’m tired, I get exhausted easily and often.  What I do about it: nap.  Works for me.

I took pain pills religiously for two days, then forgot and find I don’t need them.  I might take one at bedtime, to help me sleep.   I’d heard that it’s not uncommon to not need much in the way of pain meds for this type of surgery.

So… all is well.  Now I just have to heal up so that they can start the radiation therapy.

Oh, and at some point I’ll be going back to the dreaded day job… darn it.

Oh, and Welcome to Night Vale’s live show the night before surgery?  Totally worth it!  I’ll tell you more about it later, but now I’m getting worn down.

But I do have to say that what made it possible for me to even consider going to that show was having a place to crash for a while after the train trip in to New York, before the show itself.  For that I thank Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, who kindly lent me their guest room for the afternoon.   Lovely and peaceful.  Plus: wifi!

(And by the way:  Ellen and Delia are involved in the Interstitial Arts Foundation, and are currently raising money for Interfictions, the online interstitial arts magazine.  You want to know what “interstitial” means now, don’t you?  Of course you do. Click to check it out.)

I’ll fill you in on the Night Vale details later (for those of you who are interested).  Right now: time for zz’s.