What to Expect During a Lumpectomy…
If you have never been through surgery but are facing a Breast Lumpectomy, I’m hoping that my experience will be of help and comfort to you. First thing I must say – a breast lumpectomy not as scary as you think. So do NOT be afraid of it. Yes there is pain during the 24 hours after surgery and there are needles involved but the pain is VERRRY bearable. And with the availability of painkillers, it’s easy to deal with. Hoping my narrative will give you courage and an idea of What To Expect During A Lumpectomy…
And in case you’re wondering, the two lumps turned out to be benign according to the Biopsy results which I got a week after the Double Lumpectomy. But I didn’t know that they were benign at the time I wrote this. So, here goes my story:
One of the scariest things that can happen to a woman (or man) is to find a lump in her breast. When it happened to me just last week as of posting time, my whole world turned upside down. But RESEARCH, VIGILANCE and FAITH were my best friends:
RESEARCH told me something very comforting – that most breast lumps turn out to be benign.
VIGILANCE told me to see the doctor anyway, as soon as possible.
And FAITH held me together through all the anxiety and waiting.
DOCTOR’S DIAGNOSIS CONFIRMED PRESENCE OF TWO LUMPS:
The following day after the discovery, I saw my OB Gyne who confirmed that it felt like a big cystic lump which most likely needed excision. He referred me to a Surgeon who found a second lump in my other breast and agreed that we needed to take them out.
So, what’s it like to go through a Lumpectomy? A DOUBLE Lumpectomy, even! Here’s what to expect during a Lumpectomy:
NOTE: Try to purchase a Sports Bra, not a tight one, before the surgery. If you can find a Sports Bra that has hooks on the back, it’ll be easier to put on. Or look for a comfy bra with no underwire. You will be needing some boob support after surgery. You can buy a couple more Sports Bras after the surgery – by that time you’ll know what fits you comfortably.
MEDICAL TESTS BEFORE SURGERY:
My surgeon requested several tests aside from the Ultrasound, in preparation for the Lumpectomy. I had to have the following:
1) A Chest X-Ray
2) an ECG (to check the condition of my heart since I will be put under general anesthetics)
3) a Urinalysis
4) and a Blood Test to find out my Fasting Blood Sugar, BUN, Creatine, and Cholesterol (HDL and LDL).
I made sure to do all the exams a couple days before Lumpectomy day because these exams usually have a waiting period before you can get the results. Thankfully, when I did finally get my results, they were all normal.
CHECKING IN THE DAY BEFORE SURGERY:
My surgeon and I agreed that it would be best to check in the day before the Double Lumpectomy so that I could settle in and relax.
My advice – Make sure to bring things that will remind you to be strong and brave because you’ll be needing inspiration to fight the fear! I brought with me two things: a framed Bible verse (that God has plans to prosper me and not harm me) that my cousin Dorothy gave to me and a photo of my Dad who had survived so many scary health problems, including cancer, and lived to be 94.
WHAT TO EXPECT BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER THE LUMPECTOMY SURGERY:
Since I had a history of asthma, my Surgeon was concerned. We didn’t want to have an attack in the middle of wheeling me into the Operating Room! Even if my last attack was over 9 years ago, they Nebulized me three times – once the night before the surgery, once after midnight and once before they brought me into the OR.
Nebulizing is basically breathing in, for a few minutes, a medication that will loosen up your lungs and prevent an asthma attack. It’s like smoking a hookah pipe 🙂
REMEMBER: If you have heart problems, cholesterol issues, ashthma, anemia, blood pressure concerns, any HEALTH CONCERN that might affect the success of the surgery, make sure to inform your doctors so they can deal with it before surgery.
1) Attaching the Intravenous Drip:
I discovered that the needle they use for surgery patients is bigger than the usual one used on patients who don’t need surgery. So it was little bit more painful going in. And, when it was finally in, it felt like an ant biting me over and over again. It’s not incredibly painful but it is irritating.
The nurse told me that a bigger needle is needed so that if the Surgeon needed to pump medicine into me, it’ll get in faster. I was also told to strip naked and wear only a hospital gown. Not comfortable with it but what could I do?
Soon after, the Anesthesiologist popped in to check my IV Drip and he asked me if I wanted to have the anaesthetic injected into the IV Drip while in the room or when get to the Operating Room. I am GLAD he gave me a choice. I decided that I wanted to see the room where I’d be cut up so I opted for anesthetics to be given in the OR. He smiled and said, something like – don’t worry the OR is nice and has music.
2) Wheeling off to the Operation Room:
After sidling onto a gurney, they wheeled me off. When we got to the OR, I saw overhead, the big shiny round light that you always see in movie hospital scenes. Then I noticed that the room was painted in bright green. I think they wanted to cheer people up with the color but it just made me think of algae.
Next thing I noticed was THE MUSIC! My anaesthesiologist was right, they had good music in the OR. I was hearing an instrumental version of the Eraserheads’ “With a Smile”! and it certainly made me smile because they are my friends (my name is in the credits of their 2nd and 3rd albums) so I made a mental note to tell Raymund Marasigan, their guitarist about it!
The next series of events was a blur but I clearly remember the Anaesthesiologist injecting something into my IV Drip that would ‘relax’ me. Then I thought I saw my Surgeon and I thought that I asked him to make sure there were minimal scars. Then after maybe a few minutes of darkness, I suddenly I woke up in the…
3) Recovery Room
And it felt like I had two toothaches on my chest. A nurse told me that the surgery was done and that I was in the Recovery Room. And I thought – wow this is amazing, I did not feel or see a thing during surgery. Did it even REALLY happen? Now I have proof that anaesthetics REALLY work!
Even if I was afraid of what I would see, I snuck a peek at my boobs and saw they were taped up, only where the cuts were, with some gauze covering the cuts. No blood. No scars it seemed. Later, I learned from the Surgeon that the stitches were inside, under my skin and then they used a special water-proof tape to seal the skin. This will hopefully minimize scarring.
Then the nurse asked – masakit ba? are you in pain? I said – yeeeeaaaaahhhh! And she injected something into my IV Drip. Later, my hubby told me that they had to knock me out again in the Recovery Room because they wanted me asleep and resting.
But it took awhile to knock me out. I kept squirming in my bed because of the pain, maybe for 20 minutes. I thought I heard a nurse say – her resistance is high. I wonder if she was referring to my resistance to the knock-out medicine. I wonder if I heard it at all. But soon enough I was back in La-La Land, far away from the pain.
4) Back in my Hospital Room
My surgery happened sometime past 7am and lasted for more than an hour. After a couple hours rest in the OR’s Recovery Room, I was wheeled back into my room, wide awake and starving. And it was good timing because it was close to 12 noon.
All through lunch I was aching – it felt like dysmenorrhea cramps but only on my boobs and ten times worse. But it was bearable. Far more bearable than a root canal or giving birth. Also, being happy that the surgery was a success helped fight the pain.
5) Dealing with Pain:
After lunch I went promptly back to sleep. I was still a bit woozy from the anaesthetics and just plain tired all over. Sleeping after a double Lumpectomy is tricky for someone who likes to sleep on her side. But I was able to sleep for a couple hours. Eventually, the pain woke me up and I asked for a painkiller – they injected something into my IV Drip and it helped.
6) Dealing with Limited Range of Motion:
One thing you’ll discover soon enough after surgery is that you can’t move your arm/s like you used to. Since I had a Double Lumpectomy, both my arms lost power. I could hardly lift my hands higher than my face. Reaching behind me to pick up things was not possible. Reaching out to get something was a challenge. Bending over to pick something up made my breasts ache more. Thankfully, this is a temporary thing. As your cut/s heal, your arms should be able to move like they used to.
Another good thing is that Breast Lumpectomies don’t affect your core muscles so sneezing, coughing and sitting up won’t be much of a problem.
WARNING: PHOTOS OF THE TWO LUMPS THAT WERE REMOVED ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POST. FOR THOSE SENSITIVE TO SUCH CONTENT PLEASE BE WARNED AND DON’T SCROLL DOWN.
TIPS ON DEALING WITH THE PAIN:
– Wear a sports bra that’s not too tight but will give support.
– Take pain-killers as needed and as prescribed by your doctor.
– Keep your mind busy when you’re awake. Your imagination can magnify the pain.
– Sleep as much as you can so the healing process is faster. Also sleep = less or no pain.
– If your Doctor is okay with it, do some mild exercise starting one or two days after surgery. Click here to see what kind of exercise is best for your breasts!
In my case, I stopped taking pain medication the day after the Surgery.
WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR OVERNIGHT BAG BEFORE A LUMPECTOMY:
– Comfy clothes good for the number of nights your doctor says you’ll stay.
– A Sport Bra (preferably with hooks on the back so it’s easy to put on) or a comfortable bra with no underwire for support AFTER surgery.
– Your favorite slippers. I brought my pink Dinosaur slippers from Thailand. They made the doctors crack up 🙂
– Bath Essentials. I love aromatherapy soaps, shampoos etc. The sweet scents are relaxing when combined with a hot bath or shower. I had a hot bath the night before and the the day after surgery.
-Mouthwash and other Dental Needs. I found that brushing my teeth in the hours after surgery was a bit difficult because of my limited arm movement and I found myself wishing that I had brought mouthwash aside from my toothbrush and toothpaste. Bring a Cover for your Toothbrush as well.
– Things that will give encouragement. I brought my Father’s photo and a framed Bible verse and put the both of them up on my hospital night stand.
– Things that will take your mind off worries. Like music, books, games, movies etc. I brought several books, my journal, a Bible Handbook and Fringe Season 3!
– Your favorite snacks for post-surgery spoiling! I had some Starbucks Coffee, Twinkies and Dingdongs to greet me when I woke up after surgery – they made me so HAPPY!
– Bring extra snacks if you’re expecting guests. It’s something they won’t expect! Being thoughtful of others in the midst of your own struggle will put your worries in perspective.
– A camera to document your experience. And bring your laptop so you can upload the photos on Facebook or your blog. When you document and share your story, you give courage to other women who are going through the same thing! But make sure to secure your gadgets because you might lose them.
– A Friend! If you can pack someone in your luggage, go ahead. You’ll be needing them by your side when the nurses come in to poke you with needles. And you’ll surely need help after surgery. I had my hubby Ron by my side – he took a week of work just to be with me! My helper Joy was very… helpful (LOL!) and my daughter Diandra stayed over one night. While she’s not really much help (hhehehe) her spunky attitude is highly entertaining and her beautiful smile always gives me strength.
If you have any suggestions or insights about What to Expect During a Lumpectomy, please drop a comment. This post is meant to encourage women (and men) who might be about to go through a Lumpectomy but don’t know what it’s like so please leave comments that will help them!
PHOTOS OF THE TWO LUMPS THEY FOUND: