I can move my arms over my head! Not a big feat for most, but after my breast cancer surgery I was a bit limited in my range of motion. It’s been three weeks since I went in for my surgery – and my personal decision was a double lumpectomy. I went to San Francisco for surgery with Anne Peled, M.D., because of her unique combination of breast cancer surgery plus plastic surgery, a newer specialty called oncoplasty. Going this route I was able to get both my tumor areas removed and breast reconstruction (lift and reduction) all at the same time.
Surgery for me was pretty smooth, and after I woke up in the hospital I was able to make the trek back home to Sacramento. And although it took three hours with traffic, I was comfortable. I took it pretty easy for a few days and tried my best not to over extend myself, which proved quite challenging with the girls. Thankfully little by little I started regaining my range of motion so I could get my shirts and bras over my head and now I am just a little stiff under my armpit where my surgeon removed two lymph nodes. I have been able to workout my lower body with walking and cycling and I am starting physical therapy next week so I can work on my strength and motion with my upper body.
But how I feel is a little different then how my breast look. Think frankenboob! Lots of stiches and black, blue and purple. But they are slowly healing. It took a week to get my pathology back from the surgery – they test the tissue from what they removed looking to see if it tests with tumors or active cancer cells. Dr. Peled said during surgery all she saw was dead tumor tissue so I was hoping the pathology would return with no cancer – unfortunately that wasn’t the case and I probably didn’t have a realistic expectation. Pathology showed a mix of random cancer cells, which she said was common and didn’t require another surgery because I was going onto radiation. She was encouraging that the surgery was effective and that I was healing well. But as it sunk in that I still had random cancer cells in my body I began to feel a little down. I don’t want ANY cancer cells in my body. Over the next few days I rationalized it in my mind that I had such a good response to chemotherapy that all the cancer tumors were gone and that surgery can’t see which cells have cancer. And that this is why I am going onto radiation – to kill those microscopic cells.
And onto radiation. I had my consult with my radiation oncologist Dr. Janice Ryu with Sutter in Sacramento. She is a little spitfire – moves and talks really fast. She echoed what Dr. Peled said about my pathology but also congratulated me for having an excellent response to treatment so far and said the random cancer cells left behind are common in my type of cancer. Because of the large area of treatment needed on me (both breasts, lymph nodes and chest wall) we are going to spread out my treatment over six weeks (33 treatments) so that she can reduce the radiation amount per treatment and hopefully less burning. The most common side effects are burns to the treated area (similar to sunburns) and fatigue. I had a goal to be done with this cancer treatment stuff by my birthday (November 4) but because we have to wait for the swelling in my left breast to go down quite a bit more my new goal is to be done by Thanksgiving.
In light of having encouragement from both my surgeon and radiation oncologist, I find myself mentally rationalizing did I take the right approach to surgery? I choose lumpectomy vs mastectomy for a few reasons – and the most important one was the outcomes show that lumpectomy plus radiation has a very similar effectiveness compared to mastectomy. I also didn’t want to go the mastectomy route at this time because I wasn’t too keen on breast implants and the sometimes long process it takes to get there. Also with my girls being so young, it’s a major surgery with a pretty good amount of support needed post surgery. I think either way I would have these thoughts and I am sticking by my choice as I know it was best for my body at this time. And even with mastectomy there is no guarantee that you get all tissue.