Sidestepping Side Effects – Notes Post Surgery

So a lot of this is kind of unnecessary information, but if you are going to go through the same thing, it is worth sharing with you! My surgery was a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy. The surgeon only had to remove one lymph node.

Immediately following surgery, I was not able to hold That Baby for quite some time. I had not realized it would be so long! I had to wait until my post-op appointment, just shy of two weeks post surgery. Carrying more than a couple pounds was not possible. Reaching was another difficulty, because of the incision in my armpit. My surgeon does the incision up and down as opposed to side to side, which even makes reaching easier. My range of motion has been pretty good! After radiation, I am able to start some physical therapy exercises to keep and improve my range of motion.

For a couple weeks following surgery, including during my post-op appointment, my breast was swollen. My surgeon had joked that my affected breast may look better than the other post surgery for shape and size so that was true for a while! Then all of a sudden it was not, and it was back to normal.

The incision on my breast is actually hardly noticeable, which is remarkable for it’s size. It did hurt quite a bit at first and was not pretty at all. I am feeling pretty good with how it appears now. The other incision however has sort of a sinking area at the bottom. Makes since, things came out of there, and yes in the scheme of things not a big deal, but not exactly something I would choose to have happen.

As my breast healed, about three weeks post surgery I developed a very large hematoma in my breast. It was after the shape had started to get a bit more normal and less swollen. Then all of a sudden one morning I woke up and found it was filled with blood which I knew, because it was discolored with a blueish, purple, red color. It also happened to be the day I was having my radiation set up scan, so the radiation oncologist was able to confirm when they did the CT scan. I was able to see the surgeon while I was at the cancer center. There was not a concern, and not a reason to drain the hematoma at that point, and I was asked that I wear tight bras. Warm compresses were another suggestion.

It took quite a while for the hematoma to start to resolve. At four weeks after it first appeared, it was still there somewhat and started to “drain”. After a day of ridiculously bad appointments, I went to radiation to find that my bra had blood in it. My breast did not have any blood on it. So it was a bit alarming and a mystery. The nurse in the radiation department gave me a gauze pad to place in my bra. That day it seemed that it was coming from my incision. I called the surgeon and she was not able to see me until the end of the week. In the meantime, I was able to see the radiation oncologist, and she could confirm that the hemotoma was draining and showed me the scans of how that was happening. At that point, it seemed to be coming from my nipple. The surgeon confirmed at the end of the week both were likely happening and that it could continue for anywhere from two days to two weeks. Super, right? Physical therapy offered to massage it out, but that seemed unnecessary as it was happening on it’s own.

My efforts to avoid lymphedema continue. A sweet friend actually sent us a diaper bag that she was no longer using. While I still haven’t had the courage to carry it cross-body as I am still healing as of this writing, That Guy and my mom have enjoyed that feature. I have been using the handles to carry it on the non-cancer side. Not having my blood taken on that side has caused a bit of drama at my herceptin infusions. It literally took 90 minutes to find a vein and a nurse scolding me for having my port out despite the circumstances. Super day that was! And I have been trying to avoid injury to the arm with some success. As I was telling someone in the office about that effort I actually got a paper cut. And a few days later I grabbed a hot out of the oven muffin pan off the sneaky granite countertop and burnt my fingers. Does anyone else have this issue with granite countertops? I forget things are hot since they are sitting right there and after many years of traditional counters my brain assumes they are safe to the touch if they can be on the counter is all I can assume.

Aesthetically, post surgery, I’m not going to lie, it isn’t all pretty. As a dear friend pointed out, that should not be my concern at this point, but I’m not going to lie in case you are going through this and others are telling you it will look perfect. Another surgery is fairly likely in some capacity depending how things settle out. The surgeon pointed out that at this point everything is still settling in there and radiation changes the tissue as well. As the hematoma has drained, there have been some strange dough like appearances that happened for short periods of time. Just like my port, though, I’m sure over time this new normal will be no big deal and just part of who I am.

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