After 2 hours in the operating room and 3 hours in recovery, the surgery is all done and we’re on the road. My day started out with a small dose of radioactive juice injected near where I had the melanoma spot. The tech rubbed the area to get the juice moving. Then they slid me inside of this machine and they took a 2 minute long picture which shows the juice moving to the closest lymph node area. It could have gone to either my neck or my armpit. The radioactive juice goes to a sentinel node, which is the node responsible for draining. The two ladies who were working on me were super nice and there wasn’t any pain whatsoever in what they were doing. They put a little screen to the side of me so I could see what they were seeing. Linda was in the room with me the whole time. She was the official photographer of the events of the day. They took a total of 3 pictures and on the last one, one of the ladies reached in and marked with a marker where they thought the sentinel node was.
Here’s my scarlet letter.
We finished up with this stage and then we had to wait till 11:30 for the surgery so we had several hours to kill. A couple friends of ours (Thank you Bobbie and Nancy) had suggested that we ask the parking crew and see if they had any RV hook-ups so we could bring the rig and stay there, if need be. They have 2 hook-ups but the guy said it might be a little tight because they are in a regular parking area. He suggested that we park in Lot 6 because the one side was blocked off to have the striping done. So Friday morning, we drove the rig to Lot 6 and parked in the empty lot. Once the radioactive test was done, we went back to the rig to hang out.
At 11:15 we went back across the street to the hospital and my surgery prep started at 11:30.
Debra (as seen in this picture) was my nurse and she is also the charge nurse, responsible for all of the nurses in the day surgery area. Super nice lady ! And she gets an A++ for her putting in the IV line in the back of my hand. That is one of the things I hate the most about surgery cause it hurts when they put it in. Not when Debra does it. So slick…Debra was explaining to us that Univ. of Colorado hospital is a “magnet” hospital, which means the nurses have a big say in what goes on in the hospital. They are not slaves to the doctors, like in most hospitals. The nurses have meetings with the doctors about the care of patients and there are pretty stringent guidelines that have to be met in order to have this distinction and UOC has gotten it for the last 4 years. We’ve been really impressed with the hospital staff and their style of healthcare.
Here is their mission statement….
My surgery was scheduled for 1:30 but another surgery got put in the schedule so I didn’t go until about 2:45. As Dr. Nicole explained to us, once in the ER she would use a small Geiger counter to locate the radioactive juice. She then inserted a blue dye that would get absorbed by the sentinel node and let her know which one to take out. She actually took 2 nodes out of my armpit and then proceeded to remove any cancer cells that were around the surgical site on my shoulder. Here’s what I wound up with. The cut on my arm is 4.5” long and the one under my arm is about 3” long. All through the process, Linda could track my progress with a color coded system that showed her what stage I was in. My patient number was 142787 so she could watch the monitor in the waiting room to see what was going on.
Here’s the status board patient’s families can track their progress throughout surgery. It’s a really cool system.
My body does not do well with anesthesia. They gave me a anti-nausea patch behind my ear before the surgery and four different meds in my IV with anti-nausea medicine in it but none of them did the trick. They gave me a couple of these dandy barf bags, which I thought made for great hand puppets (they were empty at this point). Finally I was discharged around 8 p.m. and one of the nurses put me in a wheelchair and took me all the way to the rig. What awesome customer service ! We had hoped to get on the road right after surgery but I was in too much pain to tolerate any bumpy roads. we decided to spend the night in the parking lot and we got on the road at 7:30 on Saturday morning. The worst pain is under my arm, since it’s in such a tender spot. I’m surprised how low the incision is….really close to the top of my left breast.
Linda is doing all the driving because just the act of holding the wheel would be very painful to me. I’m in charge of taking naps and doing a whole lot of nothing. Since our bedroom is in the loft, we’ve been pulling out the sleeper sofa so I can get in and out of a regular bed. Much easier than trying to crawl on my hands and knees to get into the loft. Linda drove 500 miles yesterday and we stayed at a truck stop last night. We have 1200 more miles to cover to get back home, in PA. We are in a waiting game again for the pathology report on the lymph nodes they took out. Could be up to 2 weeks before we hear if they got it all or if I will need more treatments. I suspect that if the cancer is found in the lymph nodes, then I will probably have a scan to see if the cancer has gone to any other part of my body. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they got it all.
Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes that I’ve seen on Facebook and on our blog…it means a lot. I’ll keep you posted as we hear more. Enjoy the rest of your weekend ! I think I hear the couch calling my name so TTYL.