Today, May 16th, is 5 days post-op. It’s been a great 5 days having my friend here to help after surgery. She was the first friend to come visit me after I first moved to Washington. We spent my 45th birthday in Leavenworth. We stopped at a Sno-Park and quickly learned that we needed snowshoes to go more than about 20 feet on a snow trail. She was here last with her daughters about 5 years ago.
So how do I feel today? Not too bad. I’m not in any pain to speak of. I’m still taking the ibuprofen every 6 hours or so to help keep swelling down. My incisions itch. My armpits are numb. I’ve got some extra numbness in my ribcage on my right side. My armpit hurts a little, and also feels like it’s being chafed. The surgeon had warned me about this and that there’d likely be a numb spot on the underside of my arm. I have what’s called a Jackson-Pratt (JP) drain in my side. It’s got a suction bulb that pulls the fluid out of my breast where the tumor and lymph nodes were removed. The drain keeps that fluid from building up and causing other problems. I have to strip the tubing and empty the drain 3-4 times a day. I check it and empty it about the same time that I’m taking my Tylenol/ibuprofen doses. I’m sure there are people that would be grossed out by it, but for me, it’s better than some other things that could be going on.
The day after I got home, we made a trek to the outlet mall. I needed pajamas with buttons down the front. I had been wearing t-shirts to bed for a while and it completely slipped my mind that I wasn’t going to be able to put a shirt on over my head for a while after surgery. One of the nurses at the hospital had mentioned that Jockey had pajamas with buttons down the front. The only place I know of that has a Jockey store is the outlet mall. It’s been great weather, so a drive where I can look out the window is welcome after feeling like I’ve been trapped in the house for the last 5 months.
We found the pajamas I was looking for along with a few other things. I learned my limitations pretty quickly. Opening the doors should probably not have been on the list of things I needed to do 2 days post-op. After I got home I was pooped. We both decided that Monday would be our day to rest.
Tuesday, the weather was perfect again, so I suggested that we go out to Snoqualmie Falls and walk the trail. I needed to go for a walk anyway, so that seemed as good a place as any. We’d been here before – twice, actually. The first time was when she came to visit in 2010. The next when she was here with her daughters, but it was too late to see much that trip.
One of the reasons I suggested this is that the redevelopment of the trails wasn’t completely done when she was here last, and I needed to be getting a walk in anyway, so why not go there? Seemed a better choice than walking a couple of blocks to Starbucks. Hint: it was.
I drove my friend, the RN, to the airport for her flight home today. Driving was a weird. I can’t really reach up to the top of the steering wheel, so turning is interesting. In hindsight, I probably should have asked my neighbor to get her back to the airport. At the time I felt like I needed to do it for me more than anything else. Afterward, I knew enough to stay home for a couple of days.
After I got back home from dropping her at the airport, I noticed that the surgeon sent an email letting me know that she received the pathology report. She was able to remove enough margin around the tumor to get all the cancer, and that only 4 of the 20 lymph nodes removed still contained residual cancer. The 4th one was new, but the cancer had apparently not gotten far because it, like 2 of the other 3, had resolved itself via chemo.
I am very happy with this news! But why am I not thrilled by it? I feel like I should want to celebrate and throw a party and I don’t. Why? What’s wrong with me?
Part of it is that this diagnosis didn’t send me to my knees. Maybe it would have if it had been another type of cancer. Or probably because I actually listened to the lyrics of The Great Purple One’s song, “1999.”
I was dreamin’ when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray
But when I woke up this mornin’, could’ve sworn it was judgment day
The sky was all purple, there were people runnin’ everywhere
Tryin’ to run from the destruction, you know I didn’t even care
Say say two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine
This isn’t a dream (unfortunately). It’s not over. I’m not out of time. I’m gonna be here a while. Hopefully a long while.
The chemo did its job and the surgeon confirmed that the margin they took out was more than adequate, so I’m in the clear. I’ve still got radiation to tackle, and then 6 more months of Herceptin before I’m declared done except for keeping up with all the diagnostics.
Cancer didn’t win.