Saturday, November 29, 2008

Part 2-surgery

After the picture taking was finished, I was taken up to day surgery. Here we encountered the rudest, least sensitive woman on the face of the planet. She was in charge of admitting me for the surgery. She started off angry because I didn't know that my doctor had reserved a ward room for me, and got more and more bitchy as time went on. I was a little afraid that my mom was going to go over the counter and strangle her. She is pictured behind the desk here... if you ever see her, throw something at her and tell her she is a bad person.

After we checked in, I was allowed to take one person into a separate waiting area before I was called back to my own personal surgery prep. room. While we were waiting, we heard one of the nurses yell down the hall at an unseen person "Oh, you're still alive?". Ha (stomach flip). This was met with several nervous giggles and shocked faces by those of us still waiting to go under the knife.

After I was brought back to my personal prep. room, my cousin came up to find me, and eventually was able to usher my parents into my private suite. I was briefed by the surgeon, the surgeons nurse, and the anesthesiologist.

Apparently someone who was schedule to go into surgery before me had committed the cardinal sin of eating after mid-night and had to be re-scheduled. Breathe. I was next on the chopping block. Keep breathing. Nurse Mary came to get me and walked me into the operating room. After I was situated on the table, the surgical team joked with me as much as possible and I continued to remind myself to breathe.

(awaiting surgery in my private room)

The resident anesthesiologist was given the opportunity to insert the IV. The first time didn't go so well, so the doctor told her to try again. The second one failed too, and the tears started to roll down my face. This is not a comfortable procedure. Looking over and seeing blood gushing out of your hand, is equally uncomfortable. One more try on my wrist also failed. Meanwhile, nurse Mary was stroking my hair and comforting me as best she could. The anesthesiologist, seeing how upset I was, decided it was time to insert it himself, and had no problems.

I wanted to tell the girl the only reason I was crying was because I was scared, but I didn't have a chance. They had a mask on me and were starting the anaesthetic before I knew what was happening. Nurse Mary told me to think about happy things so that I would have good dreams when I was out. I thought about my cottage, and within about 15 seconds, I was out.

Straining to focus my eyes, I could have sworn the clock on the opposite wall said it was 10:50pm. A little groggy and dazed, I wondered what the heck they did to me that took almost 10 bloody hours. This was followed immediately by the worst wave of nausea I have felt in years. After about 30 minutes, I regained the ability to focus my eyes and realized that it was really only about 3:30.

After several failed attempts to lift my arm to flag down the nurse that kept walking by, I let out a rather uncouth groan to gain her attention. She came over and asked me if I was in pain. "No", I replied, "but I do believe that I am going to throw up". She handed me a plastic kidney shaped bowl and put something into my IV.

Great, I thought, if I puke into this, it will end up all over the dressing that was applied after surgery. What a nice little mess that would make. I took a breath.

After another 15 minutes, I managed to flag down another nurse to tell her that I still felt like I was going to throw up. She went to ask a fellow nurse if I had been given anything, the nurse said no. I started having a little freak out. I said, "YES, I was", but she didn't hear me. I yelled a little louder, she finally acknowledged my reply and asked another nurse who backed up my statement.
She pumped more junk into my IV anyway.

At about 4pm, they decided that I was stable enough to be moved up to my ward. Ever so slowly, I was wheeled from the 5th floor to the 16th floor. My curiosity was momentarily aroused when I saw two police officers guarding the door of the room next to mine. I still don't know why they were there.

Adam, arrived shortly after I was wheeled into my room. He was followed by my parents, and Kyle. I'm sure it was a welcoming site, watching me gag like mad as I was moved from one bed to another. However, they assured me that I looked far better than they had expected me to.

(immediately after being moved)

(Kyle and Adam, shortly after surgery)

(My parents and me)

The remainder of my day was spent drifting in and out of sleep.



(Emptying my drainage bags)

(My drainage tubes)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Part 1~Pre-surgery

I've decided instead of overwhelming everyone with an 18 page update, Imma break it down into three parts.
Part 1-pre-surgery.
Part 2-day of surgery.
Part 3-post-surgery.

In the week leading up to my surgery, just about everything that could happen to me did. From being stuck on Queen street in Toronto with a broken rental car, to delayed flights, to cancelled, rescheduled and then uncancelled surgery, it was an interesting week, to say the least.

The weekend before my surgery, I convinced Kyle, Peter and Melanie to come to an Attack in Black show with me. Although Peter had an emergency and wasn't able to attend, I had a pleasant surprise when Ryan Miller showed up to say hello. I haven't had a chance to see Ryan since I left St. Catharines, so it was nice to catch up. The show itself was really good. It was exactly what I needed to help me forget about the upcoming week.

Adam arrived on Wednesday afternoon. Stashed away in his carry-on luggage was a wonderful surprise sent to me by his parents. A fancy box containing bright pink boxing gloves signed by everyone that was praying for me in their neck of the woods (and about a zillion Hershey's hugs and kisses). Thanks again Mr. And Mrs. Warner!!!

Shortly after arriving at our house, I put him to work helping me set up our Christmas tree.

As you can see, he was way psyched to help. As revenge for making him work, he decided to take pictures instead of helping to get the tree off me after it toppled over.

Due to disagreeable weather, we were forced to start our journey to Toronto much earlier than anticipated. After everything else I had been through, I wasn't about to let bad weather stop my surgery. So, at about 10am, my parents, Adam and I all lumbered into the van and set off.
We arrived in Toronto at about 1:30 and spent the rest of the day shopping, eating at a lovely little vegetarian restaurant that Kyle had shown me, and hanging out at a bar across the street.

We returned to the hotel to settle in for the night at about 10pm. This was probably one of the worst sleeps I've ever had. It was like when I was little and couldn't fall asleep on Christmas eve, only not as pleasurable, as presents are a lot more fun than a mastectomy.

We decided to walk to the hospital Friday morning, as it was only about 4 city blocks away from the hotel. We arrived at a little before 9:00am and checked in at nuclear medicine.

When we were lead to the back, the tech explained everything to us. In order for the doctor to find the sentinel node during the operation, they had to inject me with a radioactive substance and then take some pictures. Sounds easy enough.
The whole process would take about an hour and then I would be taken up to day surgery.

I changed and was taken into a back room that kind of resembled a closet.
The injection would sting, I was told, but would stop right after the needle was removed. Then I was to massage the sight and pump my arm for 20 minutes to get the lymphatic system working.

So, in comes the doctor and a resident. He informs me, again, that it will sting but will be over soon. In goes the needle and I brace myself. Oh, and as a side note, they don't give any anaesthetic for this. I want you to imagine a bee sting. Now, multiply that pain by about 15 and make it about 5 times longer... that is pretty close to what this needle felt like. The injection goes right under the skin, so there is a huge welt that you need to massage into the breast. fun.

This is the machine that they stuck me in. The pictures took about 5 minutes each and there were three in total. Seeing them after they were all put together was pretty cool, sadly, I don't have any photos of them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Hi guys!!
I just wanted to write a quick thanks to everyone for the well wishes and prayers over the last week or so! I came home yesterday and have been recovering/relaxing with my family and Adam since. Things are a little rough still, but I am feeling about 100X better than I did yesterday.

I will try to update the blog in the next day or so with some more detailed info. Just wanted to tell you that the surgery went well and I am still alive and kickin!

Love you guys so much!!!

P.s. Special thanks to Kyle and Robin for coming to check on me in the hospital ;)
Seeing your smiling faces right after surgery really made me feel so much better.

P.s. Adam wrote the last entry for me while I was all jammed up in the hospital.

Friday, November 21, 2008


The mastectomy went as planned but during the surgery the doctor found cancerous cells in the first lymph node. Because of this he had to remove all of them in my left armpit. I am supposed to hear back about the in-depth analysis of all the nodes on my check up appointment in two weeks. thats all for now, Im feeling ok, just really sleepy.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Decisions- The act of reaching a conclusion or making up one's mind

After anxiously waiting the full 10 days for my biopsy results to come back, I called the hospital to find out what the deal is.
In an effort to recreate the suspense that I had to endure... I'm going to wait to tell you what they said until closer to the end of this post.

Tonight I am heading up to Kitchener to visit Melanie and Andrew. I'm pretty psyched, although apparently I will be put to work making Pierogi (singular pieróg) as soon as I arrive.

Tomorrow, we will probably head up to Toronto mid to late afternoon and walk around for a bit. Then we will probably grab some (vegan) dinner and coffee and head to the show. It will be a welcome change from being in Petrolia for the last three weeks. Not that I don't love hanging with my parents all the time, but the town is... well, not exactly my idea of a good time. We have some unresolved issues, Petrolia and I. I'm sure with time, we will work it out.
I will have a cell phone, so if you want to see me send me a message on facebook and I will give you the number ;)

OK... on to what you have all been wanting to know.
I will give you the good news first.

Good news- The results from the biopsy of the lymph nodes in my armpit (there is really no way to make that sound nice) came back promising. So far, there has been no cancer detected in the lymph node, so it likely hasn't spread beyond the breast.
We are still going to remove the sentinel node during the surgery, just to be sure though.

The not so good news- The results for the second lump came back as non-cancerous. Now, I'm sure you are saying "Well Meghan, how can that possibly be not so good??" Well, my dear friends, because although it is not cancerous, it apparently has precancerous changes. Basically this means that in the next year or so, it could turn into cancer. That is the not so good part.

I am left with a life altering decision to make-
Choice 1- Remove the original mass and pray to God that the new mass doesn't turn cancerous. Be left with uneven breast that reconstructive surgery may or may not be able to correct. Also be constantly concerned with the cancer coming back and claiming the whole breast, and possibly my life.

Choice 2- Have two lumpectomies (one on each mass) and be left (ALIVE!) with a completely mangled breast. After chemo and radiation, try to have reconstructive surgery at my own expense. However, be faced with the constant worry that the cancer may come back again.

Choice 3- Go through with a full on mastectomy for the right breast, and then have reconstructive surgery as part of the package a year down the road. Of course, logically this seems like the best choice as far as survival and reducing the risk of re-occurrence. However, the reconstructive surgery wouldn't take place for at least a year. I would have to complete my radiation before I can have it rebuilt (as radiation has been know to damage the reconstruction).
Saying that living for a full year with only one breast would be difficult is a bold understatement. I know this all seems trivial, when my life is at stake here. However, just try to put yourself in my position for a second. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and try to envision yourself waking up from surgery (at age 27) with one half of you looking like a prepubescent girl, sans nipple. Guys... I don't really know what a good substitute for a breast would be... but I'm sure you can sort that out on your own.

Ultimately, I believe that my mind is already made up about what kind of surgery to have. My surgeon will be calling me on Tuesday morning to discuss the matter further.
I just have to try to keep it together.

I still don't know the stage/grade of the cancer. I don't think I will know this until after the surgery next Friday.

(In case you were wondering, I have also decided that I will try to incorporate at least one polish word into my blog, So my little polish friend in Korea doesn't feel left out.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Biopsies, Bruises, Brothers, and Best Buds

My mother and I decided to get a head start on our Christmas shopping this year, so we headed to Sarnia on Friday to start looking for the perfect gifts. I figured that I probably won't feel up to going for awhile after my surgery is finished and my treatments start.

Our first stop was The Running Room, so I could pick up some new running shoes.
My goal (albeit a little lofty) is to complete a half-marathon in the next year and a half. I had originally settled on 1 year, but I'm cutting myself a little slack. They are starting a new running clinic in January, so I am really hoping to make it out to that. It is two or three months long, and the woman who manages it said that they could have me running the half in six months. We will have to see.
Regardless, I am really excited to start the clinic and to start running.

After a brief stop at Future shop, Christmas shopping kind of went out the window. I was hoping to find presents for my brother and father, but I will likely have to leave Lambton county to find what I am looking for. The remainder of the afternoon was spent shopping for me, and not so much for other people. Apparently finding protein bars that don't contain soy is pretty tricky.
We were given some good suggestions for immune boosters by a lady at GNC whose grandmother had survived breast cancer. I have always wanted to try Greens+ but sadly it contains soy (much like everything else).

I find it rather disconcerting how everyone I talk to has a relative/close friend that has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Literally, every person I talked to that day had a story about a grandmother, mother-in-law or friend that had breast cancer.

***(please feel free to skip this paragraph if you don't want a mini-lecture.)***
Here is a little bit of information for you... "About 1 out of every 7 women will get breast cancer over a 90-year life span." (taken directly from the web site), along with several other website have invaluable information on breast cancer.

Most generally include information on how to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer (

These include -
*Stop smoking
*Get more exercise
*Maintain a healthy weight
*Reduce your exposure to estrogen (hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and DHEA)
*Learn about good nutrition and start eating for good health
*Eat your fruits and vegetables

Of course, this isn't always enough.
There are many factors that are beyond our control, and this is why self breast exams are so dang important! This is how I found my lump.
Seriously ladies, I don't want to hear anyone say "I'm too young" or "I'm not at risk because... " If you believe that, then I've got a bridge I want to sell you. You are never too young to start.

The last time I spoke with my surgeon, we asked how many people my age he sees with breast cancer. He said, although it isn't common, it does happen. The same day I was in, there was another woman that was 29 diagnosed as well. The youngest he has treated for breast cancer is 18.

OK, lecture over... now on to the pictures!!!

Be warned, you are about to see some pictures of the bruising post-biopsy. I'm trying to keep it as clean as possible on here, so they have been edited a little ;)

First set is from my first biopsy in Seoul.
They were take about 3 or 4 days post-biopsy.

This set is from the biopsies that I had last week.
They were taken approximately 6 days post-biopsy.
The first two pictures are from the biopsy on the left side or my right breast (new mass).
The second is from another biopsy on the original mass. The mark on the left is from the original hole. The mark on the right is from the razor cut.

As you can see, there is a pretty substantial difference between the two bruises.
The original biopsy hurt far worse. In Seoul, they just popped the needle right through the skin. For the second set of biopsies, the doctor actually cut the skin with a razor before inserting the needle.

Anyway on to happier subjects!
This past weekend, Melanie (my best friend from high school) came down to visit me. I've known this girl for about 14 years. Dang. We have been through thick and thin. Just seeing her face makes everything seem better. I adore her and her adventurous peppy spirit. I was also lucky enough to have my brother and another good friend from high school (Christine) come home to visit too. It was a wonderful weekend full of laughter, sharing, and a few tears. It made me remember how truly blessed I am.

More pictures -

Almost finished!!

Ok, I went to my pre-admission appointment today in Toronto. I learned nothing new at this appointment, just had some blood drawn and a chest x-ray.

Before my appointment, I was able to hang out with my friend Peter. I haven't seen this kid in about a year and a half.
It was wonderful to be able to catch up with him and hear all about his life.
I have no pictures of this, as I forgot my camera. However, I am hoping that I will remember it this weekend.
I am heading up to Toronto on Saturday night for the Attack in Black/Ladyhawk show at the Horseshoe tavern.
If anyone wants stop by and say hi, I'd be way psyched to see you!!!

OK. skończony!

Hearts and hugs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hurry up and wait

On Friday I received a phone call from St. Michaels Hospital telling me that I was booked for another biopsy that was to take place on Tuesday, November 4th.
The conversation when something like this-
Me - "A biopsy??"
Her - "Yes, a biopsy. You will have to come in at 9:30 for an ultrasound, and then they will use a needle..."
Me - (cutting her off mid-sentence) "Yes, I've had them done before, I understand what happens"
Her - "Oh, well ok. We will see you on the 4th then."
Me (almost in tears) - "Ummmm... yeah. goodbye."

I sat there for another minute or so, eyes filling up with tears, wondering why in heck I had to go back in for ANOTHER dang biopsy. I already know that I have cancer, why do I need to be poked again?? Of course, questions like that don't pop into my head when I'm on the phone. I'm terrible for being two steps behind.

Monday rolls around and I decide to call the doctor's administrative assistant to ask why I have to have yet another biopsy. She seems as puzzled as I am and informs me that she will talk to the Dr. when he is out of surgery and get back to me with an answer. About 2 hours later, she calls me back and says that they found another spot on the same breast that they want to have a look at. I thank her very much for the information. Hang up the phone and promptly have a mini melt-down.

My mother and I drive up to Toronto that afternoon and stay the night with some distant relative. Next morning, we head to the hospital, register and make ourselves comfortable for a long wait. After about 20 minutes, my cousin (who works at the hospital and got me the appointments in the first place) came up to sit with us for awhile. She asked me if I knew what was going. I explained that the assistant had told me that I have to have a biopsy on another spot. She confirmed this and informed me that they want to look at my lymph nodes too. As I'm sure you can assume, I'm thrilled. Suddenly my single biopsy has turned into two.

At this point, I basically have no idea what is going on with the test results, as no one has thought it important to talk to me about them.

After another 5-10 minutes, the polish ultrasound tech. comes to get me and we disappear into the biopsy room. She locates the original mass, the new mass and the node on my armpit. She also informs me that the MRI has picked something up on my left side too. I start to panic, just a little. Luckily, the only thing she can locate on the left side is a small cyst. I tell her that I am a little nervous, as that is what I was told the original cancer was. She assures me that that is all it is. She then explains that the Dr. will be coming in now to biopsy the new spot, as well as the old spot. My biopsies as multiplying like randy bunnies... bringing this a grand total of 3 (not 1).

A new Dr. that I've never seen before comes in, introduces himself and then stabs me with a needle to freeze the affected areas. Shortly thereafter, he busts out the big guns and shoves the core needle into the original mass, not once, not twice, but three times. A little small talk is exchanged, and he proceeds to stick the needle in my new mass twice. We say our goodbyes and he is gone.

The tech. then searches for the node in my armpit and after finding it, calls him back. This biopsy is done without any sort of freezing at all. The needle that is used is much smaller. I bite my lip and he says "OK, a little poke here". Ha. It wasn't so much the original poke, but the wiggling and shimmying of the needle when it was inside me that kinda made me want to throw up, just a little. I just kept repeating in my head "tattooing is worse, tattooing is worse" until it was over.

After this, I had dressings applied to the wounds and was told to go and get dressed.
Trying to figure out if I need more tests or not was like pulling teeth. No one seemed to know what was going on.

We went to talk to the administrative assistant, who tried to be as helpful as possible, but couldn't do much for us. I honestly felt like I did when I was in Seoul. No one was telling me anything about my past MRI or ultrasound results or future tests. At least in Seoul I could blame the lack of communication on a language barrier. Here, there is no good reason why I had no idea what was going on. When this was explained to the assistant, she arranged an appointment for me to see the Dr. at 1pm.

One o'clock rolls around and the Dr. takes us into an office and sits us down for a talk. He explains that he doesn't think that the mass on the left side of the right breast is cancerous. However, if it is, then I will have to have a mastectomy. Keep breathing, I tell myself.

He also explains that the MRI had revealed a cyst on my liver and something on the left breast. He assures me that they are nothing to worry about. Feeling like a bit of a broken record, I explain to him that I'm not really trusting of the word cyst, as that is what my cancer was originally labelled by two different doctors. He does his best to assure me that he understands and that I have nothing to worry about. Ok.

He then goes on to tell me that if the results from the lymph node biopsy come back positive, they will need to do a bone scan and a liver ultrasound to ensure that it hasn't spread any further than the node.

I will have the results of these test in about 10 days. It seems like the same story all the time. Hurry up and get these tests done and then wait. Hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait. Always the same.

The one good thing I've found out is that if I do have to have a mastectomy, the reconstructive surgery will be covered.

If you want something interesting to do, google image "mastectomy" or "mastectomy reconstruction". It's not exactly what I expected. On second though, maybe don't.
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