I had another fill today. It’s not something I look forward to. Just in case you didn’t believe me when I referred to the size of the needles they use to inject me…here is the “turkey baster” itself…less the needle part. Yep, this is what they use. Thanksgiving will never be the same!
The cancer clinic was extremely busy today. I had to wait over an hour until I was called in. A new nurse greeted me in the examining room and questioned me on my progress; was I experiencing any pain, did I have any questions or concerns and asked if I was getting another fill up today. I told her about the nerve pain in my legs and how I am now on meds for that and that I was waiting for an MRI. She told me she hoped today’s procedure didn’t cause me too much more discomfort and said the Doctor would be in momentarily.
Waiting for a procedure, any procedure is always a little unnerving, especially when you know what’s in store. A Resident entered the room. I’ve met her before. My last two appointments she had accompanied my reconstructive surgeon and another Resident, but today it was just her. Again, I answered questions on my progress, pain levels, etc and we discussed the amount of fluid I would have injected today. I told her I thought I could manage the same amount as last time. Although painful, I really want to get the tissue “stretching” over with as soon as possible. We talked about the fact that currently the two expanders are “expanding” in different ways. The left side seems to be filling up vertically and the right horizontally. In other words, one mound is high and round and the other is wide and flat. “Oh don’t worry about that,” she said, “We are more concerned with stretching the skin and creating a pocket for the implant to go into, not about how it looks right now”. Well that’s easy for her to say as she is not the one with a chest that is uneven, misshapen and is so tender that the fabric of a shirt hurts when it touches my skin. I asked her about how much fluid the expanders can hold. She said that they can be “over inflated” as even though on paper they may recommend one amount, in actual fact they can hold much more. She didn’t know how much that was though but assured me I was no where near the top threshold. That’s good news, I thought. The last thing I need is to be walking along and have something blow like a tire or in this case a giant water balloon.
Usually when there are two Residents I get injected at the same time. Although it is awkward having two people hovering over me pushing giant needles through my chest, at least it is over and done twice as fast. Today, as there was just the one Resident I was going to have to endure a longer procedure. Again, because the expanders are situated at two different levels in my chest, one port is much higher than the other. She ran the magnets over my chest, located the two ports, marked them and started filling the first syringe. She did the right side first, which because the port is lower, it is not “as painful” when she pushes the needle in. Two full syringes were injected in that side. Immediately she prepared the needles for the other side. It is my left side that had the cancerous tumour. It’s the left side that still has a large hematoma and the lymphodema and its the left side that the port sits much higher. That means that when the syringe is pushed through my chest wall, it has to go through more flesh in order to reach the opening. It hurts a lot. And I mean A LOT!!!!! I looked at the needle aimed at the spot she’d drawn on my chest and felt my stomach clench. ” A little pinch” she said as she drove the needle through my skin. She seemed to be struggling with the syringe and was moving it around while she poked and pushed. A little pinch my ass. What the hell was she doing?
“Oh dear, I don’t think the port is where I’ve marked it. I’ll need to try again. Sorry.” I thought I was going to cry. Again? She has to puncture me again? AAAAHHHHHHH.
Out came the magnet to try to locate the port for the second time. Apparently according to the magnet, the port was where I had been stuck, but the first needle was not making contact with it. She pinched the skin on my chest in order to feel the port below the surface and ensure that it was in fact where it was supposed to be. “I’m really sorry I am hurting you but I need to make sure the syringe enters the port so the saline goes into the expander and not just into your chest.” I nodded, tried to smile and took a deep breath in anticipation of the next jab. This time, fortunately the needle punctured my skin and found the port. Another 120cc’s were pushed in and the procedure was done. I was cleaned up, bandaged and left alone to get dressed. What an ordeal. I could see the bruises already starting to form and the pain of the skin and my still tender incisions stretching was pushing me to my limit. I stood in front of the mirror in the examining room looking at my growing mounds. How much fluid is in there already? How much more will I have to inject before I have a chest that I am happy or at least comfortable with? At the time of surgery, 390cc’s were put into each expander. Since then, I have had three sessions where 120cc’s were injected on each side. That’s 390 + 360 = 750. That’s the equivalent of a bottle of wine on each side. A whole bottle. Geez, I could really use a drink right about now. Is it cocktail hour yet?!
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.