Sunday, February 20, 2011

Flopsy Sleeps, and A Wizard Who Will Serve

I am five weeks out from completing radiation treatment, and understand now why most plastic surgeons want you to wait at least six months prior to reconstructing a radiated breast.

The growing difference between Flopsy and Mopsy in both appearance and architecture is substantial.

Mopsy is getting more and more relaxed, and the scar underneath her is smoothing out.  Flopsy is as lumpy, thick and swollen as ever, and the numbness on that side of my chest and under my arm is pronounced.  It is a strange feeling, the numbness.  It's like having something attached to your body that feels foreign and as if you could remove it.  It does not feel like a part of the whole, it feels completely other.

Sometimes when I have my left arm up against my side, it's so freaky weird, the numbness under my upper inner arm, meeting the numbness on my outer rib cage.  It's gotten worse, like it was after surgery.  It's strange to have such a large area of your body feel dead.  This is with only seven lymph nodes removed; two during my initial biopsy, and five more during my BLM.   I can't imagine what kind of problems I'd be having right now if my surgeon had taken more lymph nodes.  I know Sisters who have had twenty or more taken out under one armpit.

You may have read an article recently from the NY Times, that was widely circulated, on all of the re-thinking regarding lymph node removal as part of breast cancer treatment.  Click here in case you missed it.

I am extremely thankful that my surgeon, The Wizard, was conservative in his removal of my lymph nodes, only doing what is called a partial axillary dissection.  He could have removed many more, given my left sentinel nodes were positive for cancer and I had a large 5cm tumor in my breast.  He explained before my surgery that he did not feel the gains of removing too many nodes was worth the quality of life issues that I could be faced with as a result.  Namely, lymphedema, or swelling of the arm and even chest area because of the buildup of lymph fluid.

There are even greater risks for lymphedema for women who have had several nodes removed and then been radiated.  In some cases, it is not uncommon for the damage to reveal itself years after the completion of treatment.  I am still at risk for this.

I am grateful, especially given this new thinking on lymph node removal, that my surgeon felt he did not need to be too zealous removing too many, and that radiating them would take care of any remaining cancer cells.

I am resuming lymphedema therapy this week, although I have not been diagnosed with it.  The area under my arm and in my rib cage is really tightening up, all of which can be expected, but is uncomfortable and could lead to lymphedema.  At some point, I will need to get a compression sleeve and glove for my left arm and hand.  It is recommended that from here on out I do not fly without them.

I am so grateful I had a progressive surgeon who did what he thought was best for me, not just in removing my cancer, but doing his best to preserve my quality of life after cancer treatment.

This is the stuff nobody ever really explains to you when you are first diagnosed, and as you make decisions regarding treatment along the way.

It's not just about surviving your cancer.

It's also about surviving treatment and constantly weighing benefits to risks, in an environment that is constantly changing and highly debated.

Along with looking over my shoulder praying I don't have a recurrence, I live each day now with the reality of this body after treatment.  Some days I look at my left hand, checking that my wedding ring and thumb ring are still there.  Yup.  Still me.  Check.

Sometimes I'm not so sure.

2 comments:

Mimi said...

Your honesty is so moving to me. a year out from a single mastectomy my mom is just getting used to one breast, but doesn't think she's going to put herself through reconstruction.

Hugs, love & positive thoughts to you,
Mimi

writergirldreams said...

Hey Mimi Girl, yes, I understand this, more than you know. You should read what I posted tonight, and it's something I'm going to continue talking about. I never understood why some women choose not to reconstruct. I get it now. Thanks for coming here, and hugs to Mama. wgd

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