Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Long and the Short of It

First, the short:

On Friday morning, after a couple hours of prep, my left boob had a c-section and gave birth to a luminescent, jello-like, pinky-peach, bubbly blob about the size of my ring finger, with a disproportionately large black eyeball. 

I affectionately had called him Bob, while I was expecting (because I suspected it’d be a boy. And I’m partial to one-syllable names). Doctor Janzen gave me a good long look at my just-born lil Pokemon (he resembles Exeggcute) before whisking him off to ICU where they’ll determine which astronomical sign he is. Despite being born in July, I’m hoping he’s not a Cancer, but more of a Gemini like me.

As per usual, after C-sections (I’ve had three. My non-Pokemon boys were cut out of me too), they stitched me up, strapped a maxi pad on the incision and told me to take it easy for 4 -5 days with no heavy lifting, no exercise and no showering. And if my already “generously proportioned breast” (her descriptive words, not mine) swelled up two more cup sizes, I was to go to the hospital immediately.  

(I JUST recently completed a similar set of guidelines re: 4 – 5 days of no showering, no make up, no scratching, no wearing a bra, after I had a brown woman burn the 3000 moles and marks off my back with a white hot pointy buzzy thing in her garage/salon.) (They are still healing.)

(I could insert a photo of my back here, but it might make you throw up.)

The boob freezing came out Friday evening, about 8 hours after the procedure, and my mid-left chest region caught on fire while I was in a sold-out Imax theatre, sitting in the top section, in the centre of the middle row, watching The Lion King inbetween 8 people I love.

Hakuna Matata

I’ve since taken my sorry ass to the lake for 4 days where I’ll be by myself, obeying doctor’s orders of not exercising, not showering, not bothering people with my moaning, reading books during the day and watching shooting stars at night while my boob knits itself back together. 


If you're curious about the process of having a full surgical biopsy, here's the long of it. This is what you can expect the journey to be like... BUT HONEST, FEEL FREE TO SKIP THIS PART and scroll to the bottom to read The Three Things I'm Thankful For if you don't need to see the details. (Drew. I'm thinking of you.)

In Spring 2017, during an annual mammogram, a cluster of suspicious cells was detected. In June 2017 I had a needle biopsy (undertaken while I was lying on my side, while my left boob was squished in a mammogram machine.) The cells were removed and a titanium pin was inserted. The results came back benign.

In December 2018, during my annual mammogram, a cluster of suspicious cells were detected again; this time the recommendation was to test again in 6 months.

In May 2019, I felt a lump and made an appointment for another mammogram. Which detected the suspicious cell cluster again (I named her Betty) and the gumball sized bump (I named Bob). I met with my doc who made an appointment for me with Valley Imaging for a screening. Where they took better pictures of Betty and Bob, and immediately sent me over to their other imaging area for an ultrasound.

They recommended a biopsy. So I met again with my doctor who filled out the paperwork, (which I drove over to J P Surgical Centre and left with their administration desk) and we (well, mostly I) waited.

A few days after I got back from Palm Springs (June 2019) I had a(nother) needle biopsy, this time an ultrasound biopsy; which was much more comfortable that the June 2017 mammogram biopsy. The radiologist who performed the procedure biopsied both Betty and Bob but felt certain both were innocent. Betty was a cluster of water-filled cysts and Bob was a ball of old blood (which he drained with a syringe.)

(A few days after this process, my boob was black and blue with bruising. SO. Very. Colourful. I have pics, but that might be too much information.)

I was surprised then, when the day I was getting the moles/bumps from my back removed, (for fun and vanity. No medical reason) I received a call asking me to come in to the surgical centre to talk about my biopsy results. I met with Dr. Janzen, (who coincidentally saved my mom's life in 2007 when her bowel blew) and found out that one of the biopsied samples came back with the recommendation that it needed to be removed. So we made an appointment for the following Friday (June 19) to have a full surgical biopsy. I was to prepare to be there for 3 hours.

One of my concerns was my back. It was a scabby, spotted mess of healing dots. I looked like the worst case of chicken pox had broken out - not one inch of skin was spared. Truly. A mess. Ask my mom. She was the one who applied the ancient, smelly, magical Indian healing cream, then wrapped me in Saran cling film each night.

ANYWAYS. The worst of my back was somewhat healed (except the ones along my bra strap line, two of those are infected I think and the rest were still scabbed over) so on Friday morning I drove over to the surgical centre.

Ten minutes to fill out the paperwork. Five minutes in the waiting room. Then into an ultrasound lab, with Elizabeth, to figure out if it was Bob or Betty who was the problem. (Interestingly, she and every doctor during the day, referred to both masses as Bob and Betty as well.) For half an hour she rubbed her wand over my lubricated flesh and I coulda just had a nap. But she talked the whole time, telling me what she was seeing, stopping now and then to make a mark on my skin.

She found Bob easily. Despite being drained of old blood a few weeks ago, he'd grown again. Meanwhile Betty was hiding. After all the photos were taken, a very friendly, confident male Doc came in and explained what he'd be doing. He moved the screen around so I could watch.

First he froze the area ("Freezing needle going in. Going to pinch for a sec...") then he showed me a special syringe. "I'm going to insert this syringe right into Bob, and once it's in place, I'll feed this wire through. See the little hook on the end? It's going to attach to the wall of the tumor. If I've done a good job of freezing you, you won't feel a thing. Once the wire is in place, I'll remove the syringe. We'll dress the wound, you'll sit back out in the waiting area for a few minutes, then we'll take some more pics with the ultrasound machine."

And then he did all those things and I watched.

I went back out into the waiting area, filled with dressed people, and I was wearing two blue gowns and had a little wire poking through my skin.

The ultrasound tech took some pics of me, from various angles then ushered me back to the (now packed) waiting room.

A very short wait later, Belle called me into the operating room.

She took off my gowns, (I still had my capri's on) and tucked me in with a heated blanket on the operating gurney. She raised the platform up, chatting with me the whole time, as she took my blood pressure and heart rate. Dr. Janzen arrived, asked me how I was feeling, then asked if my boob still felt frozen. I said yes. "I'll add more freezing as we go. You shouldn't feel a thing except for some tugging. If you feel anything sharp, let me know and I'll add more freezing. OK?" And with that, the surgical lights came on, the heated blanket was pulled away from my left side, a surgical sheet was spread across my chest (I'm assuming with a strategic hole cut out) and draped over my head. I was asked to lift my arm and put it behind my head, which was a bit tricky because back in May I did something to my rotator cuff (remember? I dropped and broke my camera that day) and movement was challenging. But I did it. Then I turned my head to the right, sighed and closed my eyes.

She kept me informed as to what she was doing, asking often if I could feel anything sharp. When I said yes, she'd top up the freezing. But really, a sharp prick to a mostly frozen sack of flesh IS NOTHING COMPARED TO HAVING A WHITE HOT POKEY THING BURN YOUR BACK FOR 2.5 HOURS. I'd rather have 16 biopsies that go through that mole thing again. Hahaha.

Belle came and sat beside me on the right side and held my hand whenever something big was happening to my boob. She whispered, "are you ok?" (Much tugging an poking and tugging and wiggling is going on.)
"Yeah! I'm totally fine." I answered.
"Do you have a happy place? Is that it? Are you there now?"
"You know it," I replied.

I was very relaxed. Totally at peace. And thinking my upcoming evening plans (dinner and Lion King with my kids and Dani's family) and then my weekend plans of spending a couple days at the lake. The forecast was for sunshine and I have a few new books to read. Nothing but good times ahead.

Dr. J then asked Belle to get Elizabeth, so she could take a look at something. E came in a took a peak inside my boob. Then she asked E to get that other doc to come in and have a look inside the opening she'd made in my skin. He took a peak. They all agreed. Another ultrasound after we were done was not necessary. (I guess they do that to ensure the surgeon got it all out.)

"This is very contained, " said Dr J. "Would you like to see it?"
"SEE WHAT?" I asked.
"Uh. I'm OK."
"You sure? I think you might be interested."
"Yeah. The other's have had a look and it's apparent I have got it all. Here..."

I look over to the screen, thinking I'll see a black and white image show up.
But she reaches her hand around the sheet so I can see what's between her fingers.
It's Bob.
She's kinda rolling and squeezing him so I get a good look at all angles.
She's in awe of what's she's just removed from my body.
I'm not sure how I feel.

But Bob looks like a blush-coloured, bubbly-bodied, see-through sea horse with a black eye. Or like an embryo, in the early stages. With a little wire sticking out of him. Crazy. I didn't throw up. Or gag. I am getting so good at this.

She left the room and told me she'd be back to sew me up. With the sheet off my face, I could see my distorted reflection in the surgical lights just above my body. There was my boob. With a gaping gash in it and bloody gauze all around. And sharp shiny instruments laying on my chest. SO much peace. Not a second of panic or fear. Just total chill. (If you were praying, thank you.)

A few minutes later she was back. She sewed me up then left without saying a word. Her work was done and she was on to her next patient. Belle applied the dressings, taped me up, helped me get my top on then gave me the low down. (Don't do anything for 4 - 5 days. If something happens, get help. Good luck.)

I hopped off the table, drove over to the Indian restaurant to pick up some samosa's for lunch, stopped in at Pharmasave to get some extra strength Tylenol, got to my mom's house where I lay down in the dark, cool basement for a nap.

I met everyone for dinner, feeling fine and then halfway through the movie the freezing wore off and holy hell, a fire the size of British Columbia erupted on my chest. After the movie ended, I started driving east, stopping to get gas at Whatcom Rd and catching some Pokemon in Yarrow. By the time I got to Cultus it was midnight and my left side was needing some love. After 14 trips up n down those stairs to get my stuff up into the cabin from my truck (only able to carry 3 pounds at a time = many trips back and forth) I popped a few Tylenol, had a quick bath, and got into bed wondering if sleep was going to be a problem.

I woke up at noon on Saturday.
So no. Sleeping was not an issue.

The burning has stopped. And the deep throbbing has as well. I'm just very tender and waiting for the egg-shaped bump to appear which should not concern me.


I've blogged about this so that if you, or someone you love, has found a lump, this is what you can expect. So far? This part of the journey is not scary or painful. If you're over 40, make sure you're getting regular mammograms. In BC they're free. No excuses. Just do it.


Three Things I'm Thankful For:

1. Smart doctors
2. Compassionate, experienced, wise care workers/nurses/medical staff
3. Free health care
4. Praying friends
5. Movies
6. Family
7. Sunny days
8. Good books
9. Messages and emails and texts and love
10. Tylenol
11. Peace-filled soul
12. Summer evenings.


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