Since my last post I have come along in leaps and bounds, improving every day.
I finally saw my surgeon again for my follow up appointment. He went through all of my pathology results explaining exactly how lucky I have been. Not only were my lymph nodes clear but there are a couple of other indicators that were also clear. This means he does not recommend that I have chemo. In his opinion the small increase in the chance that the cancer would not return is not worth the risks to my ongoing health, wellbeing and quality of life.
I was really nervous about my dressings being removed. Would I be horrified by the scars? Luckily my scars looked much better than I was expecting, just thin lines that are already almost entirely healed, They’re not really red, but more that purple colour that pale-skinned people get while healing, I will be using Bio Oil twice a day to help make the scar less visible. I’d had this recommended by various people, and my surgeon recommended it too, so I’ll give it a go.
At this stage I am still really happy with how my boobs look, even if they are a bit square and feel unnaturally hard.
While it wasn’t bothering me, my surgeon also drained the fluid from my right breast. I could feel it between the skin and muscles towards the side near my armpit. All up he took about 60-80ml out and now I’m back looking more symmetrical again. The fluid hasn’t built up again since so hopefully that’s the only time I will need it to be done.
It was also confirmed that I will be taking Tamoxifen for the next five years. I was not really keen on taking this medication, but as soon as I heard my cancer was hormonal I knew this would probably be on the cards. My cancer is more than 90% ER+ (oestrogen) and 50% PR+ (progesterone) so these hormone blockers will play a big part in keeping me cancer-free. My surgeon actually said Tamoxifen has saved more lives in recent years than any other treatment, so I suppose I can deal with it. Unfortunately the list of side effects is long, I am just hoping that none of them affect me too badly. So far I’ve been taking them for ten days and have had no effects, so fingers crossed.
Finally, I booked in my appointment for my first expander fill in a couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to this next step in the reconstruction process. I will probably only need two fills since the expanders were filled a lot when they were inserted. I am discovering that this seems to be very unusual, with most expanders being quite flat at the beginning. Having said that, most people also seem to start getting their fills done only a couple of weeks after their surgery, whereas I have to wait six weeks, so I guess that makes it about the same.
In terms of recovery I am feeling great. I am doing pretty much everything now except things that require me to lift my arms above my head. I have started driving again, but so far have only done short trips.
I’ve got to a point now where I have healed enough that there is little pain and I can easily feel if I stretch the pectoral muscles more than I should. It’s these muscles that I am now protecting and waiting for them to heal. It has been really interesting learning which little things that we do each day require us to use the pectoral muscles. Things that require pushing are hard – like putting the whistle back in our kettle or pushing the mop down into the bucket thingy (for want of a better word lol) to squeeze it out. I can’t pick up heavy-ish things when my arms are fully extended. Like I can’t reach across the table and pick up a wine bottle, but I can easily pick it up if it’s close to me. By “can’t” here I mean that I can, but I can feel the pull in my pecs so really I shouldn’t be doing this yet.
I have had one small possible issue. Earlier this week I noticed a slightly pink mark on my right breast above my scar. My immediate thought was that I was getting an infection. I watched it for a few days but nothing changed. I haven’t had any other signs of infection though. It’s not bright red, hot or painful, and I don’t feel unwell or have a temperature. I decided after three days to go and get some antibiotics even though I am not even sure if it’s an infection. I couldn’t see my usual doctor, so saw someone completely different. He also wasn’t convinced, but did give me the antibiotics. I’ve been taking them for a day and a half now and still nothing has changed.
It’s all kind of weird. The only thing I can think of is that perhaps it’s some sort of bruise as it is right over where the valve of the expander is. I am seeing my own GP tomorrow so I will get her to check it, and if it doesn’t settle down I will go back to my surgeon next week. I am probably being paranoid, but I do not want any complications from infection.
Now that everything seems to be settling down I have been able to think about whether or not I feel up to doing some travel in February. I am back to working and since my work is travel related, it is always good for me to travel. I have found the perfect trip, now I just have to learn about the implications of Tamoxifen (it can cause blood clots and therefore is not great for long haul flights) and how to handle them, and also get clearance from my surgeon to travel. Fingers crossed he gives it.