Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Erin: 1 Cancer: 1 - The Dirty Stupid Jerk

Well, I made it through my surgery on October 11, 2011.  (I almost stopped here since I can't think of anything great to say; but I will trudge along).

I went into my surgery very relaxed and calm.  The talent level of physicians in GR is absolutely amazing.  My surgeon, Dr. Jane Pettinga, started the Breast Program at Beaumont Hospital before moving over to Grand Rapids to start the same program through the Betty Ford Breast Center at Spectrum Health. My plastic surgeon, Dr. Ewa Timek, practiced plastics many years in California before she and her world renowned cardiologist husband were recruited to GR.  I felt very confident in their hands and was anxious to get start the procedure and check it off my list.  This was my McDreamy and McSteamy team.

I really wanted my mom at the hospital with me, but she was also the best one to take care of Evan.  Nana Moni know his sleep routine and eating routine (when he chooses to adhere to it) the best.  So, I was fortunate that Brian, Meghan and Dado were up there with me.  (Technically, Meghan was at the Helipad but if you don't have Facebook, you won't understand that joke).  When they wheeled me away at 11:45 am, I said, "See you at 5:00."

What that actually should have sounded like is 9:00 pm.  I came through the mastectomy part of the procedure pretty well.  I didn't have an unusual amount of blood loss, which was a concern, because I went into the procedure anemic due to the chemo.  My surgeon finished her part of the procedure in about 2.5 hours.  She removed both breasts and all 19 lymph nodes on the left side (where the cancer was originally found).  Then Dr. Timek came in and began the first stage of reconstruction. She started by inserting tissue expanders, under my pectoral muscle and using what remaining skin was left to pull across my chest.  On the left side, Dr. Timek completed a new procedure - and I mean new - I was the second patient she completed it on!  In a nutshell, taking out the lymph nodes leaves no place for the lymph system to take its liquids from your hands and arms to.  This causes a painful issue caused lymphedema.  Instead of tying off the veins, Dr. Timek dyed my lymph system blue and tied six veins back into the lymph system in my chest.  Hopefully, this means I will avoid lymphedema since 25-50% of women have to deal with this painful issue.  On a positive side, I mentioned that Dr. Timek dyed my lymph system blue in order to be able to re-attach the veins. That means, I have a gnarly blue spot on the inside of my left arm.  For me, this is outstanding, since I am the type of person that can be hit with a baseball bat and not get a bruise.  When I get hurt the general attitude is, "Suck it up, you don't even have a bruise."  Well, now, real or fake, I have a bruise.  And it's big and nasty and I will be showing it off. I digress. 

So, Dr. Timek's tedious work took longer than expected, but I am so pleased with it.  Dr. Timek built a shelf from cadaver skin (the same way they use collagen in lips) that eventually my implant will sit on. I have two lateral scars on both sides and am quite swollen under my left arm. The pain subsides a little bit more everyday but it has been particularly hard to lay down and sit up.  Who knew that you used your pectoral muscle for EVERYTHING.

Brian was quite concerned when they finally brought me out of recovery, as surgery had taken much longer than expected and since I was under anesthesia for a long time, I essentially looked liked a "goner" - no color in my skin or lips, extremely lethargic, not very reactive to his voice, etc.  He was very concerned about me so stayed awake most of the night to make sure I made it!  (Which I did...FYI). He stayed by my side for the next two days in the hospital and was a great advocate for me when I wasn't getting the pain management I was hoping to have. Not sure who drew the short end of the stick - Brian with me at the hospital or Nana Moni at home with Evan.  Both patients were disasters.

The next few days were pretty painful and hard to maneuver.  I was released from the hospital on Thursday and went home to relax.  I have been sleeping a lot, working on little arm exercises (like lifting my arms over my head) and still trying to get away with some housework (like making my bed). What has been hard is watching Evan go through a terrible spell. 

The Thursday I was released from the hospital, my mom took Evan to the pediatrician to inquire on his reflux and ever-developing cough.  The pediatrician changed Evan from Zantec to Prilosec and sent us on our way.  The Priolsec seemed to work for a few days but throughout the weekend, Evan's cough kept getting deeper and stronger.  My mom and I took him to the walk in clinic today and Evan was diagnosed with a virus, that if not treated, can lead to croup, or if he gets a fever, immediately needs a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia.  He has been up every two hours crying (mostly because his cough wakes him up) and my poor Mom has to get up with him every time since I can't hold him.  It's been a really long week.  I just feel so badly for my baby and want him to get better.

Meghan stayed around most of the weekend to help my mom with Evan and took care of laundry, diapers, feeding and rocking him.  On Monday, one of my mom's dearest friends came over to the rescue.  Mrs. Kruse made an incredible dinner on Monday night and has helped take Evan during his crying spells and entertain Cohen on his day off of school.  She is leaving tomorrow and my mom is already begging her to stay. 

We are so lucky; Lacey brought my favorite pesto pasta on Friday night, Meghan and Katie brought amazing soup, applesauce, bread and apple crisp.  I have also received so many flowers from people, like my Aunt Laura, Uncle Rick and Emmy, Aunt Maureen, Uncle Mark, Katy and Kristy, Katie and Bubba and Meghan and Dave, my dear friend Sheri and all of Brian's co-workers at Fifth Third. And I love my homemade note from Grandma!  It's been a really trying week with me recovering and Evan not feeling well but we are making it through.

Yesterday, I got the pathology reports back from my surgery.  Unfortunately, cancer was still detected even after all of the chemo.  In the first layer of lymph nodes removed, 1 out of 4 tested positive for cancer.  The breast tissue still showed extensive ductal carcinoma in situ.  That means it hasn't traveled from the ductal tissue but it also means the chemo didn't get rid of all of it.  It makes radiation even more important, but I was very sad and frustrated yesterday to get that news.  I would like to think I lost my hair for a reason...not minimal improvement. 

Some of you may be wondering where my wonderful mother-in-law was during all of this time.  Well, timing worked against us, big time!  Brian's sister, Tricia, was expecting her third child with a due date of October 12.  On Saturday, October 9, she started having contractions.  To make a long story short, Trish was in labor ALL week with contractions varying from 10 minutes apart to 5-6 minutes apart.  Finally, on Sunday, October 16, little Jameson Joseph Ross entered the world in a rush of a delivery (with no epidural!!)  We can't wait to meet our new little man and according to Grandma Cindy, there has never been an easy Murray baby so it will be interesting to see what Jameson throws our way!

So, signing off for now. And by the way, I know my blogs have typos.  I usually am very particular about what I put out there but by the time I finish writing a blog, I'm too tired to go back and re-edit it.  So forgive my errors...I'll be sure to let you know when I'm in tip-top shape for writing great, error free blogs :)

1 comment:

  1. I failed to mention my Dado and where he has been. He was here on Tuesday-Friday but had to leave for a trip to Japan. We miss him terrible as he is such a big help to us when he is here. He flies home this upcoming Saturday and we can't wait to see him!!