A month has passed already

So its been a whole month since I had my first surgery. I had my stitches out today. I had to go in and see the doctor as I was leaking from my drain so I freaked out thinking I may have pulled it out and went to see him.   He wasn’t all that pleased but luckily it didn’t actually come out and now I have to leave it in till Thursday. My results still weren’t in however as mentioned previously I get them tomorrow and so far they look promising.

I’ve decided that I will use interferon if offered to me.  Side effects means you get to feel a bit crap but at least I’ll be alive to feel crap eh!

My son has started to warm up to me again and give me cuddles! He has been really good with Bob (drain) and hasn’t tried to pull it or lift it or even look at it. Clever little boy I gave birth to! hehe

Hubby has been excellent as usual, cooking and cleaning and ironing whilst I sit and do nothing!  I feel like a princess, till my son farts on me and the dream is over! lol  Too many men in the house.. I’ll definately have to try for a baby girl next time! Even things out a little.

I am completely up to date with Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Lost, 90210 and Eastenders ombnibuses! Talk about square eyes.  Can’t really do much else as my arm still isn’t strong enough and I am shattered all the time. Apparently having an axillary clearance is quite a major operation. I didn’t realise this till recently. So even though I may look ok, I feel like shit. lol

I cant wait till I can roll over in bed and not worry about ripping Bob out, being in pain and what happens next.  My mind was in over drive this morning after our darling son woke us up playing his noisy toy in bed at 345am.. which indicates he wants a bottle before he will go back to sleep.  I tossed and turned and tried to get comfy and I couldn’t so I asked my husband to give me a hug, which at the present time involves hand holding!  Poor chap. I think its cause I’m nervous again about the whole thing.

So apart from spending a lot of time thinking about life, friends and whats happened to me, I haven’t really been doing much with myself.

I guess life will never quite been normal for me as I will always have this cause Malignant Melanoma is the kind that can come back over and over again. However, in some cases it doesn’t. As it already has for me I guess I am not one of those cases.   I hope this time its gone and it wont come back.  I would very much like to not have to worry about such an awful disease.

So my advise to you is, always where sunscreen, do not use sunbeds, do not sunbathe if really hot.  Because things like this can happen to anyone. At any age.  I was a huge sun worshiper, I remember the days when I’d lie on coral bay, sunbathing with little or no sunscreen on because I have darker skin.  I don’t have to worry about sunburn I used to say.   Stupid me.  I’ve learned my lesson now.  Now I have a sunhat and I will always wear sunscreen every day, even when I am just going to the shops.  Now I don’t really have a choice anymore.

However its not all bad, I’m alive, I am treatable,  I have a lovely supportive family, and real friends that have been there for me during my most difficult time and have visited me in hospital and have made me smile. I will keep saying this but life is so much better when you smile. (ok so I’m a lot cheesy!)

Cant wait till I get my results tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Friday Rambles

So, I went to get my dressings changed this morning.   Getting quite used to the whole process.  I’ve not worn a bra for a week now and I’m sure my boobs are facing the floor with each passing day..

Dr Lucas said I am recovering well but I can’t have my stitches out or my drain out yet.   On Tuesday when I get my results hopefully I can have my stitches out, but the drain has to stay in for as long as I have fluid coming out.   I wonder how long that is then? I wonder if I can do something to hasten it like pee?  Probably not.   I had to go to the shop on the way back, so I tucked BOB (aka drain) under my long skirt and in I trotted with my sunhat on and looking like there was nothing wrong with me.   Cause no one asked what was wrong with me for a change! lol

I just wanted to say, that during this blog, you may find I may recommend a book or an article but this is just something that worked for me so don’t feel upset or any differently because it doesnt work for you.  Do what ever you feel is right for you and follow your own instincts.  As long as you are also following some of your doctors too! lol

My arm is still very sore and stiff to use.  I still tire easily but its been less than a week really so what on earth am I worried about.   My sister’s birthday is coming up and she wants to go clubbing.  So do I but there’s not much chance of that happening as long as I’ve got Bob with me.   Although I could take Bob to dinner..

In the meantime I have become a couch potato.  Once my stitches are out, and Bob has gone I will start to do some exercise.  A healthy body and all that is good to fight off anything really.  And I’ve never really been one for exercise.  Sure I can dance all night and I never sit down when I’m out having a few drinks.  But ask me to go jogging, or do some exercises dvd at home?  I just cant do it.    Problem is I cant afford the gym and thats the only thing that will get me exercising.    So instead I will go walking with a friend of mine with the prams.  I plan on using my sons big pram for weight pushing! haha

I contacted a cancer support group yesterday.  It was really hard not getting emotional on the phone to a total stranger whilst trying to explain my situation. You see I can keep a brave face to those who know me, but I feel differently towards strangers.   Do you? Anyway, one of the nurses will come and see me soon.  They will help teach me more about how to deal with lymphedema and it be nice to talk to someone too.  Once I find out the coffee mornings I may go along with Bob and have a chat.   Perhaps you could try and do the same. Its hard keeping up appearances and remaining strong for the ones you love, so perhaps letting it all out will do you good!

Well have a wonderful weekend.  Try not to be to down on yourself!

Alethea & Bob.  lol 🙂

How to avoid fat arm syndrome aka lymphoedema

Hey

I found this great article that helps prevention of lymphedema in your arms which is one of the side effects that can happen after having your lymph nodes removed!  The internet is a great place to find out a whole world of information so don’t be afraid to read up on everything and anything that applies too you.  Sometimes what you read are just statistics that say you are going to die! Don’t believe that. Don’t listen to anyone who gives you a sell by date cause you have the power to live if you believe in life and believe in a long future. Many have survived worse. Do not give up no matter what. 🙂

Prevention is the best tool against arm lymphedema. Learn the warning signs and the precautions to take. Make these guidelines and a heightened awareness a regular part of your life.

Skin care is your first line of defense. Since the skin acts as a barrier to infection, any disruption of the skin can spell trouble. Burns, chafing, dryness, cuticle injury (such as hangnails), cracks, cuts, splinters, and insect bites are immediate risks for infection.

Learn to recognize the signs of infection:

  • fever
  • redness
  • swelling, warmth, or tenderness in the at-risk arm

Infection and inflammation can escalate quickly. Redness, tenderness, and warmth can spread from the injury up your arm. Call your doctor as soon as you suspect infection. You may need to start antibiotics immediately with any early sign of trouble. If you already have swelling, or if you have diabetes (whether or not you have swelling) you may need antibiotics after just the smallest of injuries—even without any sign of trouble.

If you already have significant arm edema, sometimes a dental procedure may trigger an arm infection. This is because the work a dentist does on the tissues in your mouth may increase the number of bacteria circulating in your bloodstream. Vulnerable areas in the body, like the compromised drainage of a swollen arm, may become hangouts for the bacteria. If you’ve already had an arm infection following dental work, talk to your doctor about whether you should take prophylactic (preventive) antibiotics before future dental procedures. (People with heart valve disease take prophylactic antibiotics before or right after a dental procedure for the same reason.)

Dos and Don’ts: Preventing Lymphedema

Dos

  • Do moisturize your skin frequently and regularly. Use lotions such as Moisturel, Eucerin, Vaseline Intensive Care, or your own favorite brand to make your skin supple and prevent it from cracking.
  • Do keep your hand and arm extra-clean, but don’t use harsh soaps such as Ivory (despite Ivory’s advertised image as a gentle soap) or Dial. Use Dove instead.
  • Do use rubber gloves when you wash dishes or hand-wash clothes.
  • Do wear protective gloves when you garden or do outside chores.
  • Do take more frequent rest breaks when scrubbing, mopping, cleaning, or while doing other vigorous or repetitive activities, especially if your arm feels tired, heavy, or achy.
  • Do wear oven mitts when handling hot foods.
  • Do use an electric razor instead of a safety razor.
  • Do use insect repellents that won’t dry out the skin, such as Avon’s Skin-So-Soft, which actually moisturizes the skin. Avoid brands that contain a significant amount of alcohol. (Any ingredient that ends in “ol” is a type of alcohol.)
  • Do apply antibiotic ointment (like Bactroban) to any insect bites or torn cuticles (as long as you are not allergic to its contents).
  • Do protect your arm from sunburn with sunscreen. Use a product with a minimum SPF of 15, although SPF 30 is much better.
  • Do use a thimble when you sew.
  • Do REST your arm in an elevated position. But don’t hold up your arm without support for a long time because your muscles will tire.
  • Do control your blood sugars very carefully if you have diabetes, to minimize the danger of damage to the small blood vessels and infection.
  • Do wear compression bandages or a compression sleeve and glove on the affected arm when flying in airplanes (if you already have arm swelling).

Don’t s

  • Don’t take unusually hot baths or showers.
  • Don’t go from extreme hot to cold water temperatures when you bathe or wash dishes.
  • Don’t go into high-heat hot tubs, saunas, or steam baths.
  • Don’t apply heating pads or hot compresses to the arm, neck, shoulder, or back on the affected side. Also, be cautious of other heat-producing treatments provided by physical, occupational, or massage therapists, such as ultrasound, whirlpool, fluidotherapy, or deep tissue massage. Heat and vigorous massage encourage the body to send extra fluid into the compromised area.
  • Don’t carry heavy objects with your at-risk arm, especially with the arm hanging downward.
  • Don’t wear heavy shoulder bags on the affected side.
  • Don’t wear clothing that has tight sleeves or that restrains movement.
  • Don’t wear your watch or other jewelry on your affected hand or arm.
  • Don’t use a heavy breast prosthesis after mastectomy. It may put excessive pressure on alternative routes of lymphatic drainage that are already doing double duty. Find a lightweight model or make one yourself.
  • Don’t drink much alcohol. Alcohol causes blood vessels to expand and leak extra fluid into the tissues.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking narrows the small blood vessels, lessening the flow of fluids in the arm.
  • Don’t get manicures that cut or overstress the skin around the nails.
  • Don’t permit blood pressure testing on your at-risk arm. If you’ve had breast cancer in both breasts, ask that your blood pressure be tested on your thigh. If this is not possible, ask that the person measuring your blood pressure inflate the cuff only slightly above your normal systolic pressure (the first, higher number of your blood pressure).
  • Don’t permit the skin of your at-risk arm to be pierced for any reason: injections, drawing blood, or vaccinations. (Don’t trust anyone, not even your personal physician, to remember which is your at-risk arm.) If you’ve had breast cancer in both breasts along with underarm lymph node dissections, blood should be drawn from another part of your body. If blood must be drawn from your arm, use your non-dominant arm (your left arm, if you are right-handed; your right arm, if you are left-handed). If one side had no lymph node dissection, use the arm on that side, regardless of whether it’s your dominant arm.

http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/lymphedema/avoid.jsp

Post Op

So as mentioned previously, I wasn’t too bad this time after surgery.  I had a drip in my left wrist and my drain coming out of my right side! I have to say maneuvering around the bed to get to the loo was quite a challenge! Lucky for me I am a woman and I can multitask!:)

This is what the drain looks like by the way.. sorry if its a little too gross for you..its actually attached to my right side by my rib cage.

Day 1 was more of a blur really!  Slept on and off!  My parents came to visit me with my son and my sister too and my hubby was there till quite late! visiting hours don’t really exist at the clinic!

Day 2 left me wondering how I didn’t fart on the operating table! I am sure during surgery they inserted a trumpet in my belly because I had some serious wind issues.  I think this is my reaction to my anesthetic or the drip that they put in.  I had the same problem last time.  So don’t worry if you get wind.  A lady I once knew used to fart when she bent over due to her age and she said “where ever you may be, let your wind go free” Of course I did not do this, I checked if the coast was clear first, I just hope the patient next door couldn’t hear me. 🙂

They wake you up quite early there, 7am!  They take my temperature, my heart rate and my blood pressure which was always low..  needless to say I’d always beat them to it and tell them first! lol  Everyone loves a smart arse.. not!  They said I need to drink more water.

I spent a lot of time reading, watching TV and looking forward to the next visitor to help pass the day.   I don’t think some people realize that after having this kind of surgery, you need all the support you can get and being awake from 7am till 10pm, in the same room on your own can be rather dull and you spend far too much time thinking!  Sure I wasn’t on my own the whole day, however I was very surprised to realise who my friends are and who aren’t!  Cause lets face it, if you cant find the time to visit a friend in hospital, then you must have a really really really good excuse! Busy isn’t it! Or you aren’t their friend in the first place.   Thats my opinion. These days people do have busy lives and families and what not, but sometimes you should stop and visit a friend in hospital because they need you to, because its the right thing to do & because you care. Even if its just passing by and not staying. Its the thought that counts. A 5 minute visit feels much longer to a person lying in a hospital bed and they always feel loved and supported when you do.
However don’t spend too much time worrying about those that don’t visit, and those that don’t call.  You cant change things and it will only upset you and thus not help you get well quick.  Focus on the ones that came, on the messages you did receive instead.  So thank you to those that came to see me, it meant more to me than you can imagine and thank you to those who have supported me on facebook from far away too! You are fab! 🙂

I made a new friend. The one I told about my cancer in the shop.  She was there from day two and has texted me every day since to check on my progress. She really cheered me up!And shes funny too.  You need people that are optimistic and fun to be around at this time!

I also spent a lot of time eating.  Chocolate, biscuits, McDonalds thick shakes, more chocolate.. and the clinic food was fantastic! I had trifle, and custard and apple, and watermelon and fruit salad!  Fish and chips, cottage pie, roast pork with roast tatties! Not all in one day! lol  I think I need to go on a diet now.  Hospitals are bad for your clothes.. lol

Day 3 I had my dressings changed. I was quite nervous cause the plaster that covers the gauze was quite large and my surgeon is always quick to remove that.  Not pleasant one bit.  He didn’t appear to mind. I also had my drain emptied.  They all made jokes and I lied there covering my one exposed boob with my hand whilst they did the spraying and the cleaning and the re patching.  Its quick and if you focus on the TV or on something else its soon over! Its why they teach you breathing exercises during labour! As you are so busy focusing on something different you forget about the pain.. (well not entirely but it works)

Sleeping wasn’t too difficult, mainly flat on my back but with a pillow you can actually lie on your side with it under your arm so your armpit isn’t touching your body.   That and making sure you don’t rip out your drain.    I dropped mine the first day and I crapped myself. Luckily I didn’t rip it out but the pain tought me not to do that again!

Days 4 & 5 went by quickly and then today I was allowed home.  Me and my drain that is.   I have stepped on it, my husband has tripped on it and I am thinking perhaps I was safer in the clinic! lol

I am in pain. I am not superwoman and it hurts to do nearly everything. I cant pick up my son, I cant cuddle my son, I cant do anything in fact that requires the use of my right arm’s muscles.However I can still do most things that are also important, like butter my toast, use the loo, wave at a friend and simple every day stuff 🙂

I have to keep the drain in till at least Friday when I hopefully get my results. They will decide if it comes out then. Results will state how much cancer was taken out, whether it spread to nearby tissue, whether it originated from my melanoma from 2008.

I recommend you read this book.  Its very interesting about cancer patients and survival and how you can actually speed up your recovery all by yourself.   And believe me when I say I will try anything to get better! Love, Medicine and Miracles: Lessons Learned about Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients

Here are some images of my stitches taken today. Do not click on it to enlarge it if you are not ready for gory details. Its not a pleasant picture. But don’t let this scare you!  as in a few weeks it will look like the one next to it!

Right, I’m shattered now so that’s it for now!

Stay positive, be strong. 🙂

Pre op

Me after check in!

On Saturday morning I got up took my rescue remedy (it works) and off we went to the clinic. I couldn’t help saying “bollocks” over and over again thinking I’ve just got the use of my arm back and now I have to go through the whole recovery again!  Still if it makes me better then its a small price to pay.

It wasn’t too nerve wracking really as all the familiar faces where there, my two doctors (one of which operated on my first mole years ago and the other on my appendix when I was 15) and all the kind nurses which were surprised to see me back so soon! Poor sods! Chatterbox Alethea is back!

I changed into my blue gown and by 10:30 I was lying on the operating table. This time my room was so close by I walked into it!  Everyone was walking around me getting stuff ready and I was happily chatting away to the surgeon and the anesthetist telling them “I’m not going to cry this time” and whilst they put heart monitor patches under my boobs and got my arm ready to be strapped up the anesthetist did his job and the last thing I remember saying was ohhh I can feel it and as he pinched my cheeks as off I went into dreamland. Although saying that you don’t dream much when you are under the drugs..

Two hours later I was awake and apparently asking the theater nurse whether I wet myself or farted on the operating table! haha I do not remember any of this, my husband told me after, and he also said that the nurse said I was a model patient!  lol  Thank god for that!

Compared to last time I woke up I was in very little pain and very little distress.  I think its because this time I was not afraid, I was more optimistic and I knew that what they did could potentially save my life! That and of course all the drugs they pumped in me!  I had a nice bruise on my butt cheek from the injection which was administered before I woke up!

I have to say Rescue Remedy truly is a wonderful thing.. and no I don’t have shares in their sales lol

Doctors that mess you about

My oncologist sent me to Nicosia today to see a plastic surgeon. He said that he’s the chap that knows about Melanomas.   When I spoke to my original surgeon, he said, why is he sending you to see him? They are plastic surgeons. They have nothing to do with lymph removals. He then spoke to my oncologist who said he was sending me to the plastic surgeon because surgery at the general hospital is free.

So off we went at 730am and got there for 9.  Surprise surprise when I got there no one was expecting me and when they finally saw me at 11 they told me “we dont do this kind of surgery, your doctor must have got confused when he sent you to us”  arghhhhh (I waited a WHOLE week to hear this!)  He said they can refer me to a surgeon at their hospital but I’d have to make a new appointment and there is a waiting list for surgeries.  So they suggested I come back to Paphos and see a surgeon here.   I said stuff this, and spoke to my first surgeon and agreed to have the surgery tomorrow morning in a private clinic! I just cant wait any longer as its too dangerous.

Can’t eat or drink anything from midnight onwards.  So I am having a cheeky vodka now.  I’m not going to fight the toxins in my body by putting more in so really once I’ve had this surgery I will have to be even more careful about what I eat and drink.

Then again, you can say you only live once, which is very true and you should totally live every day doing things you want, but that doesn’t mean that booze and parties are the way to do it. Not at my age anyway haha

I know that tomorrow they will take out all my lymph nodes and melanoma. The sad thing is is that you are never quite free of melanoma. It can come back again and again.    This is why I have to try to eat healthier and take care of myself more, because I only get one shot at life and I will do whatever it takes to live a long one..

So here’s to positive thinking and here’s to step two of my battle to beat this son of a b***h 🙂 oh and to giving my oncologist a big earful for sending me on a wild goose chase and wasting my very precious time.

Countdown

Time has passed already and I may very well be having the surgery on Saturday morning!  Some people will be nursing a hangover, others will be getting ready for work, others to go to the beach and we’d normally have a play in bed with our son jumping on us in turn and dribbling everywhere.

Instead I will be arriving at the clinic and having my blood pressure checked and my heart rate monitored whilst I change into something more comfortable.  I do hate hospital gowns. They are silly. They cover your whole front and never your arse.  I suppose its for easier removal.  We always laugh when we see the typical movie when the cute man is running with a hospital gown on showing his nice firm bum but I don’t quite picture the same effect if I was to run down the corridor with my bum on show.  However, there’s not much chance of that happening. I have been saving my big pants! ha That’s right, my big pants. I’m not talking granny knickers here ladies, but nice girlie boxers and non lacy knickers.  Its important to be as comfortable as possible and I just didn’t fancy my arse popping out of anywhere to anyone!! So I recommend no thongs no lacy stuff as hospitals are not the place for all that!   You can still look your best with a nice pair of pyjamas and big knickers.  I wont be needing any bra’s though. I hate floppy boobs.  But in my case I don’t have a choice.  Floppy boobs and one that will get extra viewing by a few doctors.

I’m so embarrassed about the whole thing. Sure my doctors have seen thousands of naked women and boobs but that never seems to make ME feel any better!  Last time on the operating table I made sure they kept me covered till I was asleep.  Any nice surgeon will understand if you feel the same way.

The doctors said I was the most nervous person they’d ever seen on a table.  Thats quite bad really, considering the amount of surgeries they have done.  I remember saying to them as the anaesthisia was taking over to please look after me as I was pretrified.    However, this time I’ve got my Bach flower remedy and I hope it will assist my nerves.

I think I was the same when I was being rolled down for my C section.   Those of you who have had surgeries will notice that their rooms are bloody freezing. And their tables are so small. But I suppose they need them like that so they can get as close to you as possible.  Never mind if one of your butt cheeks is hanging off the edge.  Having a C section was the most embarrassing doctor patient situation I’ve ever had to experience.. I think only a natural birth will top that for me!

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I am absolutely terrified.  However I know I’ll be ok cause I was last time too.

So don’t worry, as you are going down on the rolley polley bed or a wheel chair which ever way they transfer you to the theater,  remember before you know it you’ll be fast asleep and when you wake up it will all be over and you can focus on getting better and hope your bottom doesn’t fall off the bed instead. 🙂

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