Reconstruction – One Week Later

** Another guest post by Meredith’s husband

It has been a little over a week since Meredith’s reconstuction surgery and all has gone very well for our cute little patient. Recovery from this procedure has been night and day from the double mastectomy. Meredith is not nearly as sore and is much more mobile in the upper torso. Of course this better mobility can give a sense of confidence, so I have to remind supergirl to take it easy. She was able to wean herself off of the pain meds fairly quickly post surgery and has been very good at resting as much as possible. I think she could seriously write a book on the art of taking a nap.

Last Friday we had a follow up visit with the surgeon to remove several of the smaller dressings and to evaluate how the “new girls” looked. I am going to take it as a good thing when the doctor on initial sight says “nice boobs”.  Per the doctor, everything looked fantastic and was healing correctly.  We got the incisions cleaned up, our follow up visits booked and were out the door.

The only issue is that Meredith still has two little friends called ‘nipple guards’ that will be with her for another few weeks.  These little contraptions are definitely needed given the amount of incisions they are protecting.  The issue is that Meredith only has a few pieces of clothing that she can put on where they are not noticeable.  I sense a business opportunity here.

Gracie continues to be taking everything in stride and dealing well with all that mommy has been going through.  She is quite the little trooper.

I have a feeling I will be getting kicked off the blog here shortly but I will see if I can sneak back on when Meredith isn’t looking.

Again, we are so thankful to all are friends and family for providing meals, prayers, texts, emails, cards, and positive thoughts!

Reconstruction of the Ta Ta’s

** we again interrupt regular programming with guest posts from Meredith’s husband

Reconstruction of the Ta Ta’s is complete.  It has been a long road to this point and the journey is not over by a long shot, but hopefully we just endured the last surgery for Meredith.

There was a bit of anxiousness leading up to the surgery.  I suppose this was most apparent when Meredith’s “nesting” instincts kicked in and she decided that the entire house needed to be cleaned the day before surgery.  There was not even a peep out of me – I simply grabbed the windex and got busy.  (Take note men – this is a case of picking your battles wisely).  Honestly I think the worst part for Meredith leading up to the day was the fact that we were going to have to get up at 4:30 AM.  Saying Meredith is not a morning person is probably the greatest understatement in the history of understatements.  So, there wasn’t a ton of sleep had the night before thinking about the laundry list of procedures that Meredith was going to have to go through in the morning.

Here is a list of procedures done by the reconstructive surgeon:

  • replace existing expanders with silicon implants
  • Small lift on left non radiated breast
  • touch up scars from latissumus incisions on back
  • removal of port used for chemo/herceptin treatment
  • Liposuction of fat to smooth out left non radiated breast

Although the liposuction was a last minute addition, you can only imagine how excited Meredith was when she thought she was getting a little tummy tuck (like she needs one).  In reality he was only going to take a small amount (15 cc) from the hip area.  I did offer up some of my “baby” fat, however that was quickly dismissed by both Meredith and the surgeon.  Which is surprising since I am pretty sure I have some high quality lipids.

The only history I have for surgery was Meredith’s double mastectomy which was the longest day of my life physically and emotionally.  If you need a recap of that day you can read the live blogging post here.  So, going into this day I had no idea what to expect but was bracing for another mental roller coaster.  To both of our amazement, we were in and out and home by noon.  WTF?

Here is a brief break down of how the morning went:

5:45 – arrive at Women’s Center and check in

6:00 – Meredith goes back to get prepped for pre-op

6:30 – I get to go back and stay with Meredith

7:20 – Surgeon arrives to mark up Meredith

7:45 – she is rolled back for surgery

10:30 – Surgeon comes out and gives the awesome news that everything went great, the reconstruction looks great and she is in recovery

11:10 – I get to go back and see how she is doing

11:40 – We leave the hospital

12:00 – we pull into our place

Compared to the last surgery, this was over in a snap.  We started texting folks when we were leaving and no one could believe we were already done.  It was very surreal sitting on the couch later that afternoon and reflecting that she had just had breast reconstruction surgery in the morning and was up and walking around now.

I have to note one humorous event.  You could tell that the nurse with Meredith in the recovery room was either new or not used to working recovery.  When Meredith was in recovery and felt good enough to leave, she needed to get dressed.  The nursed placed the bag with Meredith’s clothes in it on her bed and said “here you go”.  Keep in mind that at this point Meredith is still hooked up to about 6 monitors and the blood pressure cuff is still around her arm.  After pointing out said restrictions, the nurse helped remove the leads and then promptly stood there looking at us.  It became apparent that the nurse was not sure about helping Meredith get dressed even though she had just had somewhat major surgery.  So, I stepped in to help get Meredith clothed.  Imagine playing a game of 3-D Twister with someone who can’t move very well – if such a game exists we win.

She is very glad to be home and done with this part of the journey.  She is a little sore and very tired but looks fantastic.  She is a true inspiration and Rock Star.

We have said this many times, but it bears repeating – We could not have gotten through any of this with out the love and support of our family and friends both near and far.  We are truly blessed to be is such great company.  Thank you again to everyone.  I will keep everyone posted on her recovery until she kicks me off the blog and takes over.

Good News

This past week I have had a couple of key tests:  an echo cardiogram and a CT scan.

(1) They have been monitoring my heart every 3 months while on Herceptin.  My echo appointment was on Monday and the results were good.  Everything looks fine.  Not that I expected anything different, but in this crazy cancer world, anything could happen.

(2) Then on Thursday, I had a CT scan.  I have a small nodule on my lung we are monitoring.  The appointment was at 9:00 a.m. and I was in the car leaving the oncology office by 9:20 a.m.  It was a rather quick appointment.  I feel like I am quite the pro at scans.  Sad but true.  I wasn’t expecting the results until Monday, but was happy to receive a call this afternoon from my oncologist.  The nodule has remained stable.  That’s good news!  I feel relieved!  It is something we will continue to monitor with CT scans.  I’m not exactly sure how often yet, but I hope it is often!

After that last appointment I was recapping with Ed:  I’ve had an MRI, 3 CT scans, 1 bone scan, 5-6 echo cardiograms, and multiple ultrasounds.  Wow.  I am one scanned chick.  For the record, the worst one is the MRI.  If and when I ever have to do that again, I may have to be sedated!

So, now with those behind me, I am focused on surgery.

A couple of random thoughts to pass along:

  • I am not excited about being cut back open.  My incisions have finally healed and here we go again.
  • I am not excited about the 2 -3 week recovery period.  I am thinking the first week will be the worst.  But, we’ll see how things go.
  • I am really not excited about having to be at the hospital at 5:45 a.m. on Monday. That’s really early for the Gaile’s!

My surgery is set for 7:45 a.m.  It’s outpatient surgery so I will be home that afternoon.  I have been told by a friend that recently went through it, she felt like she was in recovery coming out of the anesthesia and the nurses were pushing her out the door.  Nice.  Who knows maybe I will be home for lunch!?

Thanks to everyone for their ongoing support of me, Ed, and Gracie.  We seriously couldn’t do this without you!  Ed will be posting an update on Monday post-surgery.  Or who knows, knowing him, he may be reporting live from the hospital waiting room.

Wish me luck!

Done with Treatment

Monday was a big day although it felt quite surreal.  I had my last Herceptin treatment and what I hope to be my last experience in a chemo or infusion room.  I started Herceptin a year ago with my very first chemo treatment and have been doing it every 3 weeks since.  For those just joining, Herceptin is an antibody that has proven to help minimize recurrence in HER2 Nu (a protein) positive breast cancer patients – which I was or am.  So we hope the research is accurate and that it works!

Monday morning before my treatment, I met with my Oncologist to check-in and to talk about the “game plan” from here.  To start, I have an echo cardiogram on Monday.  They still want to watch my heart post-Herceptin.  I might have to do one more in 3 to 6 months.  I also have a CT scan scheduled for Thursday.  You may recall that they found a small nodule on my lung that we are watching.  So they are doing another CT scan (this will be my 3rd one in a year) and hopefully we learn nothing has changed.  After those couple of tests, assuming all is well, we move on to “follow-up care”.

I’m learning quickly that there is no concrete answer to “how do we manage or lower the risk of recurrence?”  We talked about some guidelines provided by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.  (1) To start, I will meet with the Oncologist every 3 months, than eventually every 6 months, and then at some point it will move to annually.  (2) Mammograms are another test we talked about, but since I have had a double mastectomy, annual mammograms are not necessary or effective.  I don’t have any breast tissue!  Side note, kind of weird I had my first and last mammogram all in one.  (3) I am on Tamoxifen for 5 years (at least).  Tamoxifen is a pill I take everyday and supposed to help hormone positive breast cancer patients (of which I am) to minimize breast cancer recurrence.

So, here’s the scary thing to me.  (4) The way we primarily manage recurrence is by symptoms.  Most breast cancer recurrences are discovered by patients between doctor’s visits.  My Oncologist listed the symptoms for me to be watching for.  Really!?  My comment to her was that is seems so reactive vs. proactive.  She agreed.  Unfortunately, it’s the harsh reality of the situation.  I keep thinking about the fact that I didn’t have symptoms in the first place.  I hate to wonder what stage cancer I would have if  I have a symptom.

In my case, after a double mastectomy, the chance of recurrence of breast cancer in my breast is minimal.  But did you know breast cancer can recur in your bones, lungs or liver?  That’s what is scary to me.

So while I am digesting my “follow-up plan” I am gearing up for surgery on Monday, April 23rd.  By the end of that day, I will be “put back together.”  And then I recover, work my “follow-up” plan, and move on.

Ladies – Are you up-to-date with your annual exams?  If not, make those appointments now!

 

 

 

It’s Been a Year

March 15th.  It’s been exactly one year since I heard the words “You have breast cancer.”  Some days it seems like it was just yesterday, while other days it seems like it’s been forever.

It’s been a long year to say the least.  The diagnosis, testing, six rounds of chemotherapy, losing my hair, a double mastectomy with reconstruction, 28 rounds of radiation, and almost a full year (every 3 weeks) of Herceptin.  I’m tired just thinking about it.  And I wish I could say it was over.  From a treatment perspective, I have one more round of Herceptin in early April and then what I hope is my final surgery April 23rd.

Now I have a lot of work to do on managing the thoughts in my head.  Breast cancer has changed me.  It’s just reality.  So now I am trying to figure out what my new “normal” is supposed to be.  Unfortunately, I am learning rather quickly that “normal” doesn’t exist anymore.

At my one year anniversary I want to stand on a mountain top and scream “breast cancer sucks” and “f$%@” cancer!”  At the same time I want to thank everyone that has been behind me and provided great support for me, Ed, Gracie and my family.

I am still fighting and will beat this!

Back to the OB/GYN

Today was the day I went back to my OB/GYN.  One year ago he found the lump in my right breast.  While it has been a long year, I look back at that appointment the end of February 2011 and remember it vividly.  That day my OB/GYN literally saved my life.

I was back today for my annual exam.  It’s hard for me to describe exactly how I felt, but let’s just say there were a variety of emotions.  I wondered whether I would make it in and out of that appointment without shedding a tear.  I kept it together…until I got into the car.

I felt like I couldn’t go in empty-handed.  I wanted to take him something.  But what do you give to the man that saved your life?  Well, I chose a  bottle of wine that I knew he would enjoy and a handwritten note that read:

“Dr. D – Where do I begin?!  It’s been a year since my last visit and the day you found a lump in my breast.  In some ways it feels like it has flown by, and in other ways it feels like it has been years.  It has been a tough year, but I am happy to report that I am cancer free.  I want to thank you for finding the lump and for literally saving my life.  I will forever be grateful.  I sometimes think about what would have happened if you had not found it that day?  What if it had been another full year with that tumor in my breast?  There could have been a completely different ending to my story.  So, thank you!  Here’s to a healthy, cancer free 2012!  Cheers!”  Meredith Gaile

It was a weird day.  I feel like I am still processing all of it:  the appointment, the fact that it’s been a full year since this journey began, all that we have accomplished, all that I’ve been through both physically and emotionally, and all that is still left.

Ladies:  Have you scheduled your annual OB/GYN exam?  Please do.  It might just save your life.