Clean Margins

When my surgeon called to say that the surgical margins were clean she sounded so relieved. She admitted that she had been holding her breath. Same girl.

I have started and re-started this sentence many times because it is hard to make anything in this cancery odyssey finite, but I should be done with cancer removal surgery. Ciao for now Cousin Greg!!! I will likely want reconstructive surgery in a year when this is all over to address any damage from radiation and of course these surgeries, but that is a story for another time.

My pathology report looks good although the margins seem a little on the close side for my taste, “DCIS is less than 0.1cm from the medial margin” but I am not a doctor so what do I know? (Greg… I’m talking to you. Quit replicating in my damn tissue!) The pathology shows that this is still Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with a smattering of DCIS all over the place. DCIS is like pre-cancer, stage 0. The presence of DCIS seems to be an important factor in this diagnosis. I don’t know why, but it’s existence is thrown around a lot in general discussions about how to treat me.

The doctors will be discussing my case again on Monday at Tumor Board now that they have all the pathological information. Though I have been asking in a very direct manner about chemo, the docs are all skirting around the topic like professional speed skaters. My guess is that it is about 50/50 and no matter which route we go, there may always be regret about not going the other way. If they decide to send out the oncotype, I hope it yields definitive data.

Now in terms of surgical recovery, the past 3 days have been hard. This recovery has been significantly worse than the previous surgery 2 weeks ago. It started with me having a complete panic attack in the pre-op room. I lost it. I made my surgeon hold my hand while we waited for anesthesia to come in and basically sedate me early. I was continuously on the verge of passing out and I am sure every provider in that room hoped I would cause I was a mess. My surgeon casually says, ‘Hey Grace, do you have a psychiatrist?’ Cool cool cool.

Whatever they gave me calmed me enough to get to the OR. Strangely I remember in almost a photographic way, everything about the OR. The names of each provider and where they were standing, being scootched over from the rolly bed to the table. And then, blank-

I woke up calm and in my own recovery room. I had asked the doctor to push anti-anxiety drugs as they finished surgery so I would wake up chill and without the racing heart like last time. Whatever they did worked. No racing heart rate thank goodness. They did however hand me back my phone way too soon after anesthesia. I should not have had access to the interwebs in that level of consciousness.

The pain has been, interesting. I have no nerve endings that function anywhere on my chest from mastectomy so it isn’t incision pain, it is like a deep, achy, burn. Perhaps my muscles? It definitely hurts the most when I am standing or walking around. Gravity is not on my side.

A friend who is a nurse was kind enough to come over 24 hours after getting home to change my bandages as they were, let’s say, not clean. Thank god for her. I took off my top and allowed my friend to teach Joe how to care for the wound. This disease forces you to be vulnerable and free of inhibition whether you like it or not. It was everyone’s first look at my breast without a nipple. Well not everyone, I couldn’t bear to look.

Joe looks either like a total creeper or a very sweet baby lamb. You choose.

I have spent most of the last 3 days either binge watching Euphoria or sleeping. If you are under the age of 25 and reading this, please report from the field if this show is anywhere near accurate so I can sign my kids up for military school now. I spend 99% of my time inside this Chewbacca U pillow. It protects me from rolling over onto my wound and keeps the spirit of Han Solo near.

My Spider-Man eye mask is never far away.

Today, 3 days after surgery I left the house for the first time to drive myself to the Cancer Center for my monthly ovarian suppression shot. Something has happened to my anxiety in the last few weeks. I used to be cool with anything medical. Now seeing a commercial about a pharmaceutical or even the sensation of my own pain cause my anxiety to spike. It is so unpleasant and upsetting. For a long time I owned my anxiety and now I feel it owns me.

I have taken a daily SSRI for probably about 15 years and have no shame in this game. I have had generalized anxiety for as long as I can remember. The drugs help immensely, but recently it has not been enough. I have needed rescue anti-anxiety drugs a lot over the last month. I think the trauma of not just having cancer again, but having it the first time has caught up to me. This level of medication dependence is frightening, but I am in an acute time of need.

It looks like I will have a few weeks of reprieve from cancer treatment as we wait to see if I need chemo or can go straight to radiation. I look forward to going back to work and acting as normal as possible (thankfully I have set that bar pretty low for myself). I can’t wait to exercise again and feel more in control of my body and devices.

May the force be with me.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. linda r hitmar says:

    The force IS with you…..


  2. doris bergman says:

    You are the force! xoxo


  3. Gerren says:

    My volcano!!!


  4. Laurie Overton says:

    I get that anxiety thing Grace. One would think it gets easier but I too was surprised that I felt more and not less anxiety over time. It’s a PTSD response I think.
    They took more nipple two weeks after the mastectomy as the tumor board determined there could be cancer in my nipple and didn’t want to take the chance they had missed something. Unfortunately, the pathology showed zero cancer after they had already cut it off. It was worse than the actual mastectomy. I had nipple reconstruction (so weird), and ultimately had David Allen ink over the whole mess of scars.
    I’m with you sister. Sending so many positive and healing bursts of energy your way.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the update. I have panic attacks also, but not because of cancer. It is the worst. Once it comes on I can’t stop it. So happy to see you blogging again. Love you, Shelley Malato


  6. Ines says:

    I choose …sweet baby lamb


  7. Anonymous says:

    Again Grace you are full of Grace and your writing is superb! S
    ending love from the whole Patience / Levy gang!


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