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Hyperactivity January 13, 2015

Posted by Judy in Musings.
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3 comments

I had an appointment with a plastic surgeon last week, and she told me two things:  “You’re so cute!”  and “You’re my hero!”  I had to laugh because I see myself as neither cute nor heroic, but hey, I’ll take it!  Now some of you are still hung up on the words “plastic surgeon”, wondering why in the world I would need to have an appointment if reconstruction was off the table.  it’s still off the table . . . .the options haven’t changed and I still think they are all terrible.  Although, I CAN change my mind at any point in time:  today, 2 years from now or even 25 years from now, for the moment, still no reconstruction.  The purpose of the visit was to deal with my port scar, which is behaving badly.

The original scar, from when the port was placed, was a nice, thin line that didn’t really bother me.  The new scar, from when the port was removed is a whole other story.  About a month after the surgery, I noticed that the scar was painful, it looked quite pink and big, and I felt like there was something inside poking me.  Here’s what it looks like:

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I went to see the breast surgeon and the verdict was that the scar was behaving badly, it had hypertrophied.  This means that for whatever reason, the collagen in that spot went bonkers and laid down waayyy too many fibers, which made the scar expand.  The location of the scar is tricky because it’s in a place (probably the only place) where I have zero body fat, so it’s easy for scars in that area to have issues.  His initial recommendation was to use a steroid cream, but after further thought, he decided that it would be better for me to see a plastic surgeon.

And so, 3 weeks later, I found myself sitting in the plastic surgeon’s office, peeling off my shirt to show her the scar. Her reaction was hilarious:  “Oh!  You didn’t do reconstruction?”

“Nope.  I think my chest is ugly, but not enough to do anything about it”

“Well if you think it’s ugly, let me make it beautiful.  You’ve come to the wrong place for no reconstruction.”

I thought to myself, “You’re barking up the wrong tree, lady.  No way, no how are you going to change my mind!”  But I humored her and we talked about why I didn’t do it (more surgeries = more fights for no intubation, potential complications, no good options that don’t affect singing).  She eventually said, “Okay, so you really DON’T care.”  Righto!

Lest you think she was an ogre trying to bully me, she wasn’t.  She made it very clear that she would respect my decision, and that she would be available at any time to discuss options if I ever changed my mind.  If I do, she’d be the surgeon I would use as I liked her as a person, and based on her explanations, she’s is equally as thorough and careful as the breast surgeon.  So I’ll just tuck that into my back pocket. (As a little side note, she is the third medical professional to tell me that the mastectomy scars and radiated skin look “really good.”  It’s a scar, so I think it’s unattractive, but since three people have told me otherwise

, maybe, in the grand scheme of mastectomy scar and radiated skin, mine is in good shape.  And for that, I am grateful.)

But, back to the scar.  She also recommended steroids, but she preferred injection rather than a topical application. I don’t fully understand the mechanism, but I can already see and feel a difference:  the scar is no longer pink, and I haven’t gotten the stabbing pains in a few days, so that is good.  I’ll have to do at least one more injection, possibly two.  if the scar doesn’t get it’s act together after that, then the next option is to have a revision surgery which would involve cutting out the old scar and sealing it up again.  “But what’s going to keep it from going all hypertrophic again?” you ask.  Good question!  She would inject steroids into the area immediately after the surgery to help keep the collagen at bay.  I’m hoping it won’t come to that, though.  To that end, I’m supposed to massage the scar 3 times a day for about 15 minutes.  I can tell you right now, that doesn’t happen.  It gets about 2-3 minutes in the shower, and a few quick massages here and there during the day, but it’s definitely not 45 minutes worth.  Besides, about 98% of the time, the scar is covered up with a silicone patch that is supposed to help the collagen fibers lay down nice and smoothly.  This is what is looks like:

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See that price tag in the corner?  Yep, it’s ridiculously expensive!  Fortunately, it is reusable and my scar isn’t huge, so it should last me a long time.  Anyway, massaging with the silicone patch on is tricky, so I don’t do it.  I’m banking on the fact that having the patch on constantly will be more effective than massage.  We’ll see!

The fun never ends!  Keeps me on my toes, I guess =)

Grazing September 11, 2014

Posted by Judy in Musings.
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4 comments

My afternoon at the cancer center today could be divided into the good and the bad. The good was that the tech was right. This second part of radiation, the boost, is MUCH easier to manage! I practically skipped out of there today. They are treating two different areas as the mastectomy scar wraps around to the side of my body. One field is from above and the other is to the side. Each dose lasted roughly 16 seconds. They came in to readjust the machine in between the doses, and that was it. More time was spent getting everything set up than in delivering the dose. Four more days of this will be a piece of cake!

I also found out that I can stop using the special gel (Radiagel) once the radiation treatments are done and I can switch to using good moisturizers, and most importantly, deodorant! Yes, people around the world are now cheering!

The bad news is bad, but I’m hoping that I’m just blowing it out of proportion. Two days ago, I noticed that I had alot of junk on my vocal cords, causing me to be constantly clearing my throat. I’m not generally a throat clearer because it’s bad for the cords. The junk was too excessive, though, and at times would make my voice really gravely and creepy, so clearing was a necessity. Then, last night I noticed that swallowing was a little weird. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I had trouble swallowing, but it certainly felt like I was swallowing past a lump. I also noticed this last night:

DSC04719

Anyone see a problem with that?

It’s a little island of radiation-induced tanning . . . . right on my vocal cords. I tried not to freak out when I saw it, but decided that I’d be having a frank discussion with the radiation onc the following day, which was today. He asked how I was.

Me: Well, my throat is not good.
Doc: Sore throat, difficulty swallowing?
Me: Sort of, but mostly there’s a lot of junk on my cords and I get hoarse very quickly. This is a problem as my job is singing. And, I noticed this. (Pointing to the radiation island.)
Doc: Oh, yes, that’s from the radiation. In order to get to nodes, part of the radiation was grazing your left vocal cord.

Crickets.

In my brain, I’m thinking, “What the !@#(*!&@)(#*! Why wasn’t I told this?

Me: (trying valiantly to remain calm) So is this a permanent situation, or how long will this last?
Doc: Oh, I’d say maybe a week to 10 days.

Okay, I can handle that. But still. He absolutely should have mentioned this to me. I think the fact that my cords are very important to me must have been lost on him. I don’t really know how that happened since I have talked to all of my providers, ad nauseum, about the need to preserve the cords. I talked about it so much, I should have had t-shirts made up or something! Had I known that my cords were going to be grazed by radiation for the past 6 weeks, I certainly would have spoken up and asked for a modification in the treatment plan. Fortunately for the doctor, I like him quite well, so I kept it mostly together. I really wanted to wallup him upside the head, though.

Doc: So you sing every day?
Me: Well, I get paid to sing every Sunday, and theoretically I should be practicing daily. So, yes.
Doc: Hmmm. Well . . .

I’ll interrupt the dialogue here to say that I think my facial expression and body language must have shown my annoyance and frustration a bit, as he then mentioned that he could possibly give me a steroid to reduce the swelling.

Doc: Is that something you’d be interested in?
Me: YES!
Doc: Now, the steroid brings other side effects, like making it hard for you to sleep.
Me: Oh, I always have trouble sleeping, that’s no biggie.
Doc: Really?
Me: Uh, yeah. I have four small children, sleep is a joke around our house. The steroids will be fine!

He also gave me a recipe for a gargle to help with, well, I”m not exactly sure what it’ll help with, to be honest. But it’s water, lemon and baking soda, so it can’t hurt.

Anyway, then he tells me about vocal cord cancer patients who have to undergo high doses of radiation directly to their cords, who then have the trauma of having the quality of their voice change. I just raised an eyebrow and looked at him.

Doc: I hope the quality of your voice doesn’t change.
Me: Yeah, me, too! (And I think to myself, it had better not change!)

Again, he must have read my body language because he then said, “I’m sorry about all of this.”

So, now I’m taking Prednisone, gargling some concoction and hoping that in 2 weeks time, all will have gone back to normal. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing this vocal issue turned up on the last day of x-ray treatment. If I’d discovered it earlier, I would’ve been hard-pressed to want to continue with that portion of the treatment!

I just keep telling myself: It could be worse. It could be much worse!
For example, I could be relegated to wearing these infinitely sexy shirts forever! 😀

The fishnet version
80s shirt

My version
80s shirt my version