Shauna Wears Pink

I will never forget the day my doctor uttered those horrifying words “I am sorry to tell you, but that is a cancer tumor that you have in your left breast”. I was 33 years old, and my life changed forever. I invite you to read my story, learn from it and hopefully be inspired to reach out to other young women living with and beyond breast cancer.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

My breast surgeries:

As I have alluded to in previous entries, I opted to simply have my tumor removed instead of my entire breast tissue. This procedure is called a lumpectomy. It is not an option for all breast cancer tumors and requires radiation to the effected area. However, the survival rates are the same as a full mastectomy. Approximately two weeks after my initial diagnosis I was wheeled into surgery for this procedure. At the time of the lumpectomy the surgeon also removed my sentinel lymph node. The sentinel lymph node is the one to which the cancer would move first if it had spread. It is determined by injecting radioactive dye around the cancer tumor prior to surgery. In my case the pathology report indicated that yes, my cancer had spread into that lymph node. It was still microscopic, but it was there. The report also indicated that my surgeon had not gotten a clean margin around my tumor. This meant that I had to have another surgery. My surgeon advised that he would go back into my incision and remove more skin and breast tissue in an attempt to get the rest of the cancer around my tumor. In this same surgery he would remove the remaining lymph nodes under my left arm so they could also be checked for cancer. Finally, he would insert something called a port-a-cath in my chest. The purpose of the port was to provide a safe place to inject the chemotherapy. A port is a permanent IV site under the skin which connects directly to one of the major veins running through my chest. It provides easy and safe access for the chemotherapy infusions which are too toxic and damaging to be injected into a small vein in the arm. So one week after my initial surgery I went back to the hospital for another surgery. Unlike my first surgery, this one really hurt. When I awoke I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck. I was told that I now had two 5 inch incisions, one across my breast and one under my arm. In addition, I had a drain under my arm for the excess lymphatic fluid that would continue to drain from my body for the next week. My doctor advised me to stay in the hospital over night, but I insisted on going home. I wanted so badly to see my son and be reassured that life would go on and that I would survive this. His smile always seemed to provide the reassurance that I needed. At home my husband carefully cared for me, and within just days I was up and about and in fact insisted on going shopping with one of my friends just 4 days post surgery (tucking my drain up under the big blouse I had to wear to cover all my bandages). Also, we received very good news from the surgeon after this second surgery. My margins were now clean and none of my other lymph nodes contained cancer. Finally, the first piece of good news we had received since this ordeal began.


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