Today I went to see the reconstructive surgeon. I’ve been going once a week as my swelling and hematoma have not improved. I thought today would be like the last few appointments where he checked me over and sent me on my way with the encouraging words ” This will take time. Try to be patient. ”
At every appointment, a resident always comes in first to examine you and review your chart. They ask a lot of questions and then they go to retrieve the surgeon. I was waiting patiently for the “routine” I’d come to expect when my surgeon burst into the room with two residents trailing. “Are you ready to be injected?” he asked, smiling widely and with great enthusiasm. The residents looked like kids who were waiting anxiously for an ice cream truck to arrive. Wide eyed and very eager!
“Um, well, um my swelling and hematoma are still the same. They haven’t improved” I said sheepishly. I hadn’t expected that any solution would be added to my tissue expanders until the swelling had improved.
“We’ve waited long enough. At this point there’s probably a lot of scar tissue that has formed and your body may not be able to break it down and absorb it, so we will have to address that during surgery when we swap out the expanders for your implants. So let’s get started!”
Shocked at what I just heard I looked at the residents that were madly digging through draws for what they’d need for today’s procedure and swallowed hard. “So you’re saying that I might have to live with all this pressure and swelling until my next surgery? It’s painful and cumbersome and horrible to look at. Is there really nothing that can be done?”
“Don’t worry, we’ll deal with it in surgery, now lie back and try to relax.”
Relax? Really? I’ve just been told that I may have to live with this softball size lump under my arm for another eight or so months and I’m about to have a turkey baster size needle shoved through my chest wall to push saline into the expanders…not once but twice. Yep, feeling really relaxed folks. NOT.
My surgeon ran a magnet over my chest to locate the area of the expander that the needle needed to penetrate in order to inject the saline solution. The port on the left side is located about three inches higher than the one on the right. “The expander may have shifted or it could have turned on itself. That can happen.” he said. “Don’t mind us, we’re just talking shop here,” he said as I stared in disbelief as he marked my skin with a pen. Each of the residents held a giant needle/syringe and approached me. “This may sting a bit” the resident said. Sting? A bug bite stings. Getting snapped with an elastic stings. A Frankenstein size needle being pushed through your chest wall does not sting. It fuc#ing hurts. The residents pushed gently on the syringe of each of their needles to force the fluid in. Then popped it off, filled it back up with saline and injected a second syringe full. As they pulled the needles out, a small fountain of blood started spurting out of my right side. My surgeon had been watching and instructing the residents through the procedure. “Quick, get some gauze on that. She’s a bleeder.” Good grief. How did I get this label? I made the mistake of wearing a white skirt to my appointment so the poor resident was trying to clean up the blood running down my chest before it hit my skirt. What a circus.
They managed to add 120cc’s of fluid on each side. They originally added 390cc’s at the time of my initial surgery so my little bumps are starting to bud. After each injection I have to wait three weeks for the skin to stretch and settle into the increased size. Then, I will be injected again and again. The process of filling the expanders will take several months. I really hope the time goes by quickly as I so want to be out of pain. I just want get on with it. But, given what I’ve already overcome, This is the “easy” part. It’s just another “bump” in the road of my recovery journey.
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.