I want to thank everyone for reaching out with wishes, love and support before the surgery. I was so touched to receive cards, texts, emails and posts on this site. It helps knowing I have so many people rooting for me. I am also so grateful to all the friends and family who have visited and helped me the past few weeks. I am so lucky to have all of you in my life.
I am slowly recovering from surgery. I took about a month off work for medical leave - I start work on Monday. I stayed with Gaurav and Kimberly after I was discharged from the hospital. Sarika stayed over one night and my parents came to SF that weekend. We celebrated Mother’s Day on Sunday after surgery, and then I went back to my apartment.
Mother's Day Brunch at Sweet Maple:
I have been managing on my own with help from family and friends. I had to be careful and not reach for anything above me or bend down. I had lymph nodes removed on my right side so it is more sensitive and will take longer to heal. It took a couple weeks before I could sleep more than 2 hours at a time in the night. I usually sleep on my right side, but cannot now so I have mostly been sleeping on my back, and sometimes I sleep on the left side.
The past few weeks have gone by quickly- rest, various appointments with doctors, watching TV, sleeping in, letting my body heal, etc. I also met up with my surgery roommate Margaret a few times –we both had a similar surgery and bonded at 1 in the morning at the hospital when we could not sleep :).
Here are the two of us a week after surgery:
And here are some other pictures from the last 3 weeks:
Dr. Lee Char called with the results of the pathology report. She said that the report showed one of the best results of neoadjuvant chemotherapy that she has seen. She had mentioned to me in a previous appointment that they do not expect the chemotherapy to remove all of the cancer they just expect that it will reduce the tumor. My report showed that there was no cancer left in the original tumor, which means the chemotherapy was very effective. The report did indicate that 3 of the lymph nodes removed had a small amount of cancer.
I had mentioned earlier that I was hoping the surgeon would only need to remove about 3-4 nodes. Unfortunately, the surgeon needed to remove 9 nodes. This means I have a chance of getting lymphedema (swelling in an arm caused by a lymphatic system blockage). My doctor recommended that I work with a certified lymphedema physical therapist to learn what I will need to do to try to prevent it, and/or to build strength in case I do get it. I will share information about lymphedema as I learn more about it.
Two weeks ago, I met my radiation oncologist, Dr. Roy E. Abendroth. For some reason, I thought that since the results of the pathology report were good- that it would decrease the number of radiation treatments I would need to have. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Dr. Abendroth explained that as of now they are not able to detect cancer at a microscopic level. Chemotherapy is meant to kill as much cancer as possible in the whole body. Surgery and Radiation are targeted to the breast and lymph nodes. The hope is that radiation, using high energy X-rays, removes any cancer cells remaining in my right breast and lymph nodes. I will be receiving 33 external radiation treatments starting June 10. The treatments will be daily for about an hour (Monday to Friday).
I have had three appointments with the radiation oncology department. One was the initial consultation with Dr. Abendroth to discuss my treatment plan and answer my questions. The second was a CT simulation appointment to determine the exact area to direct the radiation. The purpose of the simulation is to position the body to get the best radiation treatment. I had to lie down on a molding that was personalized for me and that I will use at every radiation appointment. I also had a CT scan and pictures taken in order to set up the general treatment area. Finally, I received three small tattoos (dots) that will help the technician line up the treatment fields the same way. The third was an appointment with the social worker in the radiation department. I will continue to be able to speak to her as needed when I go for radiation treatments.
This coming week I will go back for a Plan Verification appointment where they will verify the set-up. I will also be meeting with a nutritionist and nurse.
There is a lot of information to soak in and learn about the different cancer treatments, side effects, etc. but I have decided that the best thing is to take this step by step and prioritize the most important things. This coming week, my priority is to prepare for radiation and start working again!
I love this card that I received from a few co-workers the day before my surgery. =)