It's been about 24 hours since my excisional biopsy, and so far things aren't too terrible. Yesterday went surprisingly smoothly. My friend Jill picked me up around 9:30, we checked in at Swedish at 9:45 and things were well underway by around 10:15. After the obligatory urine sample/height/weight check, I was whisked off in a wheelchair (they don't let you walk!) to the True Family Cancer Center where they placed a wire in my breast. Eww, I know, but it's necessary to do this when the area they are later biopsying is really small. Basically, they compress your breast (not as tightly as with a mammogram, but still, not super fun), do some imaging, numb your breast with some lidocaine and insert the wire in order to mark the atypical area, so that the surgeon knows what to remove. The wire actually sticks out of your breast, but they tape it down so you don't have a weird chest antenna.
The placement of the wire was definitely the most emotional part of the day. Up until then, Jill and I had been laughing and joking and it sort of felt like we were just hanging out at a hospital. But when the radiologists began the imaging, it started to set in that this was really happening. I cried a lot (even with the Ativan that my MD had prescribed for this very occasion) and felt the need to explain myself: "My mom had breast cancer and I was in the hospital with her a lot and this brings things up for me." "Was it early stage?" the radiologist asked. I nodded no and she said, kindly "Well, this is totally different. Even if they find cancer, this is going to be a quick fix. You'll worry for years, but you are going to be fine." We continued with the imaging and the nurse patted my arm and reminded me "This is the hardest thing you'll have to do all day. For the rest of it you are going to be asleep!"
Once the wire was placed, I got wheeled back through the maze of Swedish to the surgery waiting area. More blood pressure checks, more questions about the last time I ate or drank or pooped. I met my anesthesiologist who explained that I wouldn't be under general anesthesia but I would be heavily sedated. He took a look in my mouth "...just in case I need to place a breathing tube. Which is unlikely!" When I asked about risk associated with this procedure he made a confusing analogy to drunk drivers. Jill and I exchanged perplexed glances and he explained that he meant the chance of anything bad happening under sedation was less than us being killed by a drunk driver. So that's good, I guess? I know he meant well, but the things that come out of doctors' mouths are sometimes really hilariously inappropriate.
My surgeon came by too. I really like her. For one thing, it feels good to be working with a woman. And this has nothing to do with her competency, but she's so glamourous and funny and I am kind of dazzled by her. She asked how I was doing and when I said "Nervous," she said "That's okay, you'll be getting some really drugs soon." She initialed my body (kind of weird, but I guess this is related to safety as it indicates that she has spoken with me and cleared me for surgery) and left to go prepare.
Entering the OR was frightening because I had never been in one before and they look just like they do on TV, which brings all kinds of catastrophic soap opera scenarios to mind. Very sterile (thankfully!) with a table in the middle and big lights overhead. It was quite cold. I got situated on the table and they started positioning me and covering me with blankets. They even restrained my arms a bit, explaining that sometimes when people are sedated, their arms flop around, which is obviously not a great thing for the surgeon! Then the anesthesiologist put an oxygen mask on me and told me he would be starting the sedation. And also just like on TV, that is the last thing I remember until I woke up about an hour later. My surgeon told me that they only had to take out a small area and that, aside from the slight scar, I shouldn't notice any cosmetic changes to my breast. They put me in a really glamorous (read: horrendous) post surgical bra and wheeled me out to the recovery room were I was thrilled to accept a pitcher of water and plate of crackers (at that point it was around 3 PM and I hadn't eaten since 9 PM the night before, and hadn't had water since 7 AM that morning). I slathered my mouth with my precious lip gloss (also a pre-surgery no-no), and changed back into my clothes. Jill went to go pick up my Vicodin and we were out of there!
I was surprised at how little pain there was, but now I think that was probably because the local anesthesia was still at work through most of yesterday. Today I definitely woke up with some...sensation. It's no where near excruciating, but it is hard to use my left arm for certain tasks (opening doors, slicing, writing) because that seems to cause little pain flare ups. Still, I can't imagine that I'll need a whole week off of work, as my surgeon had recommended. I am aiming for a Monday return, but I guess we'll see. I've barely used the Vicodin because I HATE that stuff (makes you so groggy!) and have been mostly icing the area instead. I can't shower or take off this bra for another 24 hours so I am also looking really ravishing. I am also getting pretty bored: after over 2 weeks of running around Japan it's hard to just sit still in my studio apartment and watch trashy television. But I guess I should appreciate the rare downtime while I can!