Well, it has been almost three months since my last post on the topic of my breasts, Me, My Breasts, and I: Results. At that point, I had my ultrasound biopsy results, and a referral to Dr. Janet Ihde, a breast specialist.
Several women I spoke to were very high in their praise of Dr. Ihde. One did warn me that I shouldn’t expect my appointment to run on time, though. Well, that was true enough. At my first consultation, after about a 45 minute wait, I did not even speak to the doctor. Instead my appointment was with a Nurse Practitioner, a kind of pre-consultation, before I did this all over again in a week or so with Dr. Ihde. The NP was quite professional and informative, though, and spent a lot of time with me and answered my questions to my satisfaction.
At my next appointment, after I had waited nearly an hour, I was informed that the doctor had a personal situation and would not be able to see me that day. While I understand that shit happens in everyone’s personal life that is beyond their control, I was not happy. I had to take time off work again the following day for a rescheduled appointment.
I went into my third appointment with kind of a bad attitude. I felt a bit angry and negative about it, because of the waiting and the rescheduling, and hey, these are my breasts we’re talking about here! A little respect please.
And then I met Dr. Ihde, and everything was fine again. She was warm and competent, and she listened. She even explained her “personal issue” from the day before. She explained everything thoroughly, and answered all my questions, including my main one: Why? If it is so small and benign, and not bothering me, why does it have to be removed? (Answer: Although the needle biopsy showed the intraductal papilloma as benign, and it usually is, it needs to be removed and the whole thing biopsied to be certain.)
She wanted to schedule an MRI, just to get a better look at the tumor, but my insurance company, in their ever-wise control of my health, turned it down. We were straight on to the surgery. (The doctor’s office told me that they frequently turn it down when there is no cancer diagnosis, so I guess, in a way that was a good thing.)
Originally scheduled for January 31, then moved back to the 30th, I went in for pre-op last Friday. There I registered, sign a lot of waivers, paid my deducible, gave blood, had an EKG, gave urine, and, finally, had a chest x ray. I got my pre-op instructions, no blood thinners, no food or water after midnight on Sunday since I would be having general anesthesia. I was having my surgery at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, which is not convenient to La Quinta at all, but a good choice apparently because they are better with OR scheduling (and all the people, every one that I dealt with, were very nice). But still, a long drive (about an hour in the middle of the day).
The term for my procedure is needle localized wide excision left breast lesion. A description from the Mayo Clinic website:
Surgical biopsy. During a surgical biopsy, a portion of the breast mass is removed for examination (incisional biopsy), or the entire breast mass may be removed (excisional biopsy, wide local excision or lumpectomy). A surgical biopsy is usually done in an operating room, with sedation and a local anesthetic. If the breast mass can’t be felt, your radiologist may use a technique called wire localization to map the route to the mass for the surgeon. During wire localization, the tip of a thin wire is positioned within the breast mass or just through it. This is usually done right before surgery. (I did the highlighting – this is what I had done. And although “breast mass” sounds huge, they just cut out a little tiny piece.)
About this wire localization. I had to arrive at the El Mirador Imaging Center, which is on the Medical Center campus, at 7:45 to have the procedure done. Alan drove me, of course, and waited until I was called in. Although I had had the procedure explained to me, seeing it in action was a whole other story. First, I was seated in a “Princess Chair,” a high, rolling chair that would be used to keep me comfortable (and still). Then, three questions, which I would hear over and over through the day, “What is your name,” “What is your birthday,” “Which breast are we working on?” I got all the answers right. Although after this first part, answer number three would be very obvious.
As the procedure was explained to me, although a tag had been left in my breast during the original biopsy, they needed to pinpoint the location exactly for the doctor. To do this, first the area would be locally anesthetized, then a needle would be inserted. Using digital mammography, the radiologist would make sure that the needle was in the exact spot. This could take several attempts. Then a blue dye would be injected into the area. Finally, a wire would be inserted through the needle and would “hook” the tag/tumor, to insure that the doctor would have no trouble finding the right location.
For women who have had one, imagine having your mammogram last 45 minutes. On one breast. If you haven’t had one, just imagine (men or women) your breast in a vise for that amount of time. Oh, yeah, while someone is sticking a very long needle in you.
Actually, while it was uncomfortable, it wasn’t painful (thank you lidocaine). I was fortunate that they found the correct spot on the first attempt. After it was complete, I was rolled away from the machine, complete with a three inch dart sticking out of my left breast. In order to protect it, they used an advanced technique: They taped a Styrofoam cup over it. Yep. Fortunately, they wrapped a sheet over my shoulders for the wheelchair ride to the hospital, so I didn’t have to show off my third breast to the public. For public it was, no hallway or back entrance, we rode down the elevator, through the parking garage, across the driveway to the main entrance. Whee!
Once there, I was delivered to Pre-Op. Brenda, my very nice nurse, told me that there was another surgery scheduled before mine, and that Dr. Ihde wasn’t there yet. Surprise, late again! She dug up a couple magazines and I settled in to wait. What else can you do? Reading made me sleepy, so I even dosed off for a while.
Shortly before it was time, Dr. Ihde came by to check on me. She also put a little X on my left breast (just in case that dart sticking out wasn’t enough). The anesthesiologist also came by and told me what to expect. A little relaxation, a little pain medication, a little anti-nausea drug, then sleep.
Finally, I was rolled into the operating room. I noted the time on the clock at 11:20, meaning I’d been waiting over two hours. I also noted a very cool bulletin board labeled “Our Pets” which was full of pictures of dogs and cats. Great idea! I think they had one of their (human) kids too, but I didn’t take as much notice of that.
Once in the OR, I was slid onto the operating table. I had time to notice the large lights and to see that this wasn’t an operating theater (no Kramer dropping junior mints into me!), but a low ceilinged operating room. Then a drowsy, cloudy feeling, then nothing.
When I woke up in the Recovery room, it was a little before 1:00. As I opened my eyes, my post-op nurse, Roy, was right there to see how I felt, get me some ice chips and juice, and call Alan to let him know he could come to pick come to pick me up. I was a little sore, had a huge headache, but other than that felt okay and happy to have it over with. I had a huge bandage on my left breast (I’d bump into things with it!). My post operative instructions were simple. Eat lightly at first, preferably soup or something like it, keep my bra on, don’t shower until Wednesday, and call the doctor’s office to make an appointment for Friday. Oh, and I was given a prescription for Vicodin, which I did fill, because you never know, but only needed one.
What I really needed was my migraine medicine, because my headache was getting worse as the day went on. We picked up some soup at Von’s where my pharmacy is (Amy’s vegan Lentil Soup), then finally headed home. That drive from Palm Springs seems especially long post-op!
When we got home, I heated up the soup while Alan went back to pick up a sandwich for his lunch (I really needed to get home!). The first few bites of the soup were great. I was so hungry. But then, the nausea started. Either from the anesthesia, or the headache or a combination, I had to head quickly to the bathroom. Afterward, I felt a little better, so I finished the soup, drank a couple glasses of water, took a vicodin (I’d already taken the migraine pill and was hoping it would start working soon), and climbed into bed.
Although I managed to get some sleep, I spent the day and night up and down. My headache did not go away. I took another pill, but it was time that finally got rid of it. After finishing the soup, I soon vomited it back up. I tried a banana a little later in the day, but couldn’t keep that down either. I kept trying to drink water to battle dehydration, and I guessed that worked because when I finally stopped vomiting, I had to pee every hour or so. Oh, and my breast ached.
I finally woke up about 5:00 am, headache gone, craving coffee (I’m sure the lack of it helped kick off my headache). I felt surprisingly good. Amazingly good after the coffee. My neck is sore today, probably because of some weird sleeping positions I assumed through the long night. Other than that, I’m feeling fine. And my breakfast of toast and cereal stayed down just fine. I did spend the day taking it easy. I took a nap, lazed around for a few hours, then started up the computer to write this post.
Now, I am writing this on Tuesday, the day after my operation. My appointment with the doctor, where I will find out the results of the biopsy is on Friday. I hesitated as to whether to post this now, or wait until the results, but I really do feel confident that they will be benign. If they are, I’ll edit this post with the results. If they are not…well, we’ll see.
In the meantime, please think positive thoughts for me.
UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE!!!
Results are back and they are benign! WooHoo! I was feeling very positive, but still, what a relief to hear those words. I do have a hematoma, which explains some extensive bruising (sorry, no pics. While I do bare most of my life, I do have my limits, but believe me, EXTENSIVE bruising). Oh, and yes, my doctor kept me waiting for an hour, but she walked through the door, her first words were, “It’s benign.” Okay, forgiven.
Thank you all for your support!