You’d think that once they’ve cut your boobs off, dosed you up with chemo for 3 months and then marinated you with Herceptin for a year you’d be good and DONE and they’d let you MOVE the fuck ON. But no. That’s not how it works. I WAS WRONG. This is how it works:
6 months = magic number
It appears that if something were to change in your body, it would take 6 months, because that’s how often they want to see you. Not 7 months or 8. Nope. 6 months.
I went to see my surgeon last week (the cute one who once demonstrated a sense of humour when he said I could get a tattoo of a camel on my sand dune chest). It’s been 1 1/2 years since bilateral mastectomy surgery, so I’ve had a few check ups with him since then. OBVIOUSLY my chest is totally healed up so I was going to cancel (it was SO BLOODY NICE AT THE COTTAGE), but I came home for the appointment because I’m a model patient. (insert grace face emoji)
The check up followed the same procedure as the last ones:
- he called me out of the waiting room
- led me to an exam room and asked me to gown up, how are you doing, blah blah blah
- when he came into the exam room he had me lay down on the exam table & draped me to my waist with a sheet
- I had to put my left hand under my head while he ever so respectfully moved the left side of my gown to the side and palpated my chest / scars, etc all while chatting in a distracted way
(Ok, I found that to be SO freaking funny!! I MEAN, I HAVE NO BOOBS!! Does he REALLY need to do the draping and respectful lifting thing? Does he do that with a dude?? I dunno. I just seemed WEIRD that he’d go to all of the effort.) The other reason was so funny was because I’m SO ticklish, and I’ve got my arm up and bent with my hand behind my head and he’s probing around – Jesus it was so very hard to keep from bursting into laughter when he was doing that. Ok, back to the bullets…
- he switched to the other side, he palpated and I giggled
- he asked me to de-gown and go to his office for the obligatory post exam chat
I said to him at that point “I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but what exactly is the point of these visits?”. Deadpan response “I’m looking for recurrence.” WTF ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW?
I had no idea.
Obviously recurrence is a thing
I mean, wouldn’t I go to my oncologist to check for recurrence? My family doc? I figured that the surgeon’s job was to cut out the cancer, not to identify recurrence.
But what do I know?
So we chatted about recurrence. I recalled that at my last oncologist appointment she said that the only way to know if it’s come back is if, well, it comes back. There are no tests. (I didn’t believe that… would YOU believe that?) My surgeon attested to that. He said to watch for pain where there was no pain, shortness of breath, and lumps / bumps where there were none prior. My immediate thought? What scale of shortness of breath are you talking about?? I’m not exactly fit (as evidenced by the extreme cardiovascular challenge of walking up and down approximately 200,000 steps in my recent trip to Italy).
But that’s another story. Back to the surgeon’s office …
I ventured to ask him “So … if it were to come back, would it go to my brain first?” NOPE. Turns out it’s the lungs or the liver. Good to know.
I’m heading to see a new doc – Dr. Derek in the dirty dirty Shwa (don’t worry, that’s just where he does consults). He’s a plastic surgeon who has a golden reputation for mastectomy reconstruction. I’m very interested to meet him – not only to ask him the following questions, but to see how he’s doing since he (apparently) broke both of his wrists in a cycling accident in June.
These are my questions for Dr. Derek:
- what are the options for my sand dune chest?
- which is the least invasive?
- which will heal the fastest?
- what are the timelines for each?
- what have most women with a chest that looks like mine opted for? (I can’t figure out how to word that one correctly)
- do you have any before and after pics? (before and after reconstruction, not the cycling accident… but I have been thinking about the broken wrists, I’ll be honest)
- who do you recommend for mastectomy tattoos?
So that’s where I’m at. How are you? And if you have any more questions for Dr. Derek, let me know.