From the monthly archives:

August 2009

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My surgery is expected to take two and half to three hours. Dr. Guru promises that he himself will do the whole procedure. “Won’t even let a second year student help,” he says. He will make a slit in the twelve o’clock position on my right breast,  a slit under my right arm, and a slit on the left side of my left breast (where the titanium chip is implanted.)

Everything, Dr. Guru scoops out will be sent to  pathology although both my breasts have been biopsied already.  This time the pathologist will have bigger samples to work with and it will be easier to make sure that earlier biopsy results are correct.

Surgeon at Work

The windowless operating room is surprisingly small, and seems crowded and noisy. Several people in scrubs sit by a table at the far end of the room facing  monitors lined up  in front of them. I am surprised at how many persons seem to be here. What are they all going to do? Then a voice announces that a lumpectomy is about to take place on a post-menopausal female. That has to be me! (Although I never think of myself in those terms.) All of a sudden, I realize how young everyone looks behind their masks down there by the monitors.  Medical students!

Dr. Guru II, my anesthesiologist, guides me up on the table which is shaped like a cross. Electrodes are placed on my back and my chest.  A pair of foam boots without feet are put on my legs. (They will massage my calves so I don’t get blood clots.) I lie on my back, arms stretched out.  My head is covered with a shower cap, the rest of my body, except for my breasts, is covered up with sheets.

All around me: a steady hum of activity:  instruments rattle, machinery blinks, people talk. Despite the busy  atmosphere, everything  seems under control, relaxed and congenial.

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“Here is your glass of vine for today,”  says Dr. Guru II, a syringe in one hand, as she grabs the tube I am attached to with the other.

“Oh, you really read that crap people put in your pre-op questionnaires?” I remember thinking, but I suspect I am out before I give her my flippant response.

When I wake up I am back in a chair in the same area of pre-op area where my gurney used to be.  I have no idea how I got here. Did they really lift me off the table and put me in this chair?

I don’t feel the slightest pain, nor drowsiness or grogginess. Last time I had anesthesia I was told over and over again that I had a boy and a girl. Still I kept asking: What did I have?  I remember not being able to lift my limbs. Even my eye lids were too heavy to open as if they had been glued shut.  Back then my whole body felt as if it had been filled with lead. Not this time.

“We have different drugs now,” the nurse tells me. “They are much better than before.”

I feel completely free from nausea and clear headed. Actually, I feel light as a feather, perhaps my imagined weightlessness is from the idea that my tumor is now out. I am cancer free.

Then I remember the blue ink that was supposed to stain my lymph nodes (sentinel node biopsy.)  Did Dr. Guru find cancer cells in any of them or what?

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Suddenly, a flurry of activity, like when trees and leaves are set in motion by an approaching storm. The curtains, surrounding my gurney, open and flap, close and flap, as doctors, nurses, and technicians come and go. Doctor Guru’s wife, my anesthesiologist, arrives along with her second in command (or perhaps a resident in training)  a  young female doctor of Asian ancestry.

Dr. Guru II looks to be in her early 40s, blond, energetic,confident. I startle as I notice a thick gold chain, just above the neckline of her scrub top. The other anesthesiologist  has a pair of stunning, artsy ear rings dangling from her lobes while most of the rest of her is covered by a shower cap,face mask and scrubs. A quick introduction, a couple of questions about the state of my health this morning. My health, of course, is excellent, except for that pesky cancerous tumor. The curtains quickly close behind the two anesthesiologists.

I realize the memo about “absolutely no  jewelry of any kind,”  refers to me, not my doctors. They may wear any “bling” they want as long, I suppose,  as the “bling” does not interfere with their job.

A nurse checks my vitals again, checks the needle in my hand and adjust the bag on the pole. She gently shakes the the tube a bit before she, too, sails away.

Finally Dr Guru breezes onto the scene, just out from an earlier surgery procedure. His  ill fitting scrubs, the kerchief tied around his head does not in the least detract from his a super star quality.  Dr. Guru does not give off  airs or act like a prima donna. For that, he is way too busy and focused.  But it is the staff’s response to him that lends Dr. Guru his super star image. People grow quieter and recede into the background as Dr. Guru’s presence fills the small space.

He sinks down at the edge of my gurney and I move over to make room for him.

“Now, this is what we’re are going to do.”  Dr. Guru sounds upbeat, looks cheerful. Pen in in hand, he sketches on a piece of paper while explaining the steps ahead.

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“I will take out a slice of a lympnode, wait for pathology to freeze it and disect it. This usually takes 45 minutes. While I wait , I will work on other things. But keep in mind, although the frozen section may not contain cancer cells, we may still find cancer when the entire node is examined by the pathologist later. If I find one single, little cell in the lymph node, it means chemo,” says Dr. Guru and looks me straight in the eye.

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The Mysterious Wire Procedure

August 21, 2009

Ever since my surgeon and his assistant started to babble about a “procedure with a wire” I assumed my tumor would be removed with a wire, as opposed to carved out by a razor blade or an exacto knife.  As silly as it sounds, I have been mentally stuck on the image  of a wire […]

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Uncertain Destinies in the Waiting Room

August 20, 2009

In the waiting area, before receiving my mysterious “wire,”  I immediately set eyes on a young woman, at the most 25 years old, too young to be wearing a hideous hospital gown and a plastic ID bracelet at the Magnolia Cancer Center. The middle-aged woman next to her is fully dressed. I feel emotional as […]

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Surgery Day Hurray

August 15, 2009

The day I have worried about, fought for, and pushed for, is finally here. Last time I had surgery, 26 years ago,  two healthy full-term babies, a boy and a girl, were removed from my body. This time the surgeon will remove a specimen of malignant neoplastic tissue, surrounded, I suppose, by normal grizzle and […]

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Not Too Soon: Pre Op

August 14, 2009

Pre-op at 2.30 P.M. I  wait for 50 minutes although the enormous waiting room is practically empty. Finally,  I walk up to the desk to find out how much longer before they can see me. The attendant  flies up from her chair, returns right away, and assures me “only a few more minutes.”  She comforts […]

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Little Pink Bows Everywhere

August 13, 2009

Before my diagnosis, I paid no attention to pink bows, the symbol for breast cancer awareness.  But now that I have been initiated into the pink bow sisterhood, I see pink constantly and everywhere. It is obviously a powerful marketing tool. Water bottles,  T-shirts, hats,  and slippers are decorated with pink bows. There are pink […]

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Full Circle In One Month

August 12, 2009

In the morning, as soon as Dr. Guru’s office opens,  I call to nail down my surgery date. “We can not plan anything until we have your MRI results,” his assistant sounds tired. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with yet. Yes, you can have a lumpectomy next Tuesday.  Anything more involved, requiring more time, […]

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Dr. Guru, I Am Mad. Where Are You?

August 7, 2009

Thursday, I only have one thing on my mind, one thought circling my brain like a  hungry wolf.  I want to go under Dr. Guru’s scalpel, I need for him to get rid of my nasty, ugly tumor. Now. Not a word from Dr. Guru’s office.  Not a word about the MRI results.  Not a […]

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Hypochondria Galore

August 6, 2009

No MRI results. No pathology report on the calcification in my left breast. No surgery date  – yet – to remove the cancerous hazelnut in my right breast. Five weeks have passed since I received my diagnosis. Five weeks since I was told I may have lived with breast cancer for a whole decade. And […]

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