The 2017 story: June surgery and post-op

If I’ve learned nothing else since being diagnosed with cancer, it is this: uncertainty is the name of the game. Its first cousin is focused patience, because waiting is the overarching action.

Surgery was Wednesday 28 June at UW.

I misplaced my special soap that I was to use the night and morning before surgery (I put it with my oral meds, not in the bathroom), so I had to run out to CVS Pharmacy at midnight to buy a replacement.

I misremembered the clear liquids instruction and forgot to stop drinking water when we left the house. So I drank an hour longer than I was supposed to.

Mike in OR waitingOur little home-away-from home was equipped with a blanket of hot air! That was so cool! Of course, initially I lay on top of it because it doesn’t come with instructions. That was nice but it was a lot warmer being underneath it!

Prep included inserting radioactive seeds in the left breast to identify the sentinel lymph nodes. That doctor had the gentlest lidocaine needle of any that I’ve had the past two months. But shortly after he inserted the seeds, I yelped. Loudly! It felt like I had sparklers coming out of my nipple! The doc said he must have landed directly in a duct, and apologized.

Then they wheeled me back to another building, we waited, and then I was off to OR at 11:30 am.

At 1:45 pm, Mike reported:

The surgeon says everything went as planned. Waiting for anesthesia to wear off in about an hour.

We went home, after a detour to Five Guys because I was hungry and wanted a burger. Without a bun, of course.

Pain control

There are two incisions: one on the outside of the left breast and one under the arm. Both have steri strips and bandages covered with Tegaderm. Ice is a blessing.

I let the doctor talk me into oxycodone for my pain med; I had initially asked for Tramadol. I went to bed promptly upon arrival at home. Up about 10 pm: ice, anti-nausea pill (prophylactic), and one oxycodone. I read a little, then about midnight took acetaminophen and went back to bed. (UW doesn’t prescribe Percocet any more: they said people were over dosing on Tylenol by taking it as well.)

Took it easy Thursday. Pretty uneventful, lots of sleep. And then came Friday morning.


On a scale of 1-10, an 11.

I cautiously took one Tylenol. It didn’t help. I added the narcotic. If anything, it got worse. The only thing that helped: ice.

So … it seems I’ve developed a reaction to oxycodone.

Saturday:  If yesterday’s headache was a 10, today’s seems to be a 6-7. So, progress.

I’ve not had rebound headaches (I don’t know what else to call this) before. I have had a “hangover” feeling after opioids but not after so few.

I did a little reading about migraines and narcotics. There’s a hypothesis that migraine folks have pain receptors that may respond differently to opioids.

All I know is that I need the ice pack on the back of my head more than under my arm. So yes than means mostly I’m lying down.

Sunday I discovered the caffeine helps! I nursed a coffee all day and into the early evening. And then couldn’t go to sleep!

Becoming human

On Monday, 3 July, I took a shower. Magic!

I also went to the business Costco that’s about a mile from our house.  I had not been out of the house since Wed. Opened my wallet when I got to Costco and started laughing. DL (photo ID), $20 cash, and ear plugs. Nothing else! Totally forgot that I emptied it to take to hospital….

The things you don’t think about that you do with your left arm! I was like an old woman, leaning on the shopping cart in Safeway: for corn, cilantro and limes. =:-0

My bad right thumb started cramping Monday night because I’m babying the left arm (even more than before). [I’m wearing my thumb brace now.]

I talked to the nurse at SCCA and got the OK to try ibuprofen or Excedrin Migraine for the headache. When I got back from Costo, I opted for door number two. It worked! And I got my return-to-work letter: no lifting, time as tolerated. Hoping to get an ok for some telework.

My left armpit, however, aches much more than it has until now. So does the boob.

I thought I’d go out briefly on the 4th. The amusing outing, to the business Costco and Safeway, was exhausting and convinced me to change my mind. A homebody 4th, with the Seafair fireworks on my laptop. (Thank you, DishAnywhere.)

lake union fireworks
Lake Union, Seattle, 2017


2 Replies to “The 2017 story: June surgery and post-op”

  1. Wow. I hope you are doing better now. Had not gotten to reading this – you are facing serious adversity here and your writing seems to be helping you pull through it. Hang tough!

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